Computer-Aided Interviewing Helps to Overcome First Impressions

Personnel Journal, March 1995 | Go to article overview

Computer-Aided Interviewing Helps to Overcome First Impressions


Despite the development of several employee selection tools, including psychological profiles, honesty tests and handwriting analysis, most organizations continue to rely on the traditional employment interview for actual hiring decisions.

Using a computer to administer a structured employment interview represents a breakthrough in this area of human resource management, which has not seen significant innovation in years.

Although a personal interview is a critical element of the selection process, it often fails to provide enough information to make the best decision. Several factors significantly affect the quality of an interview:

* First impressions.

Remember the saying: "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression." In a job interview, first impressions can, and often do, weight the entire process. In fact, in many cases inter viewers take less than five minutes to determine an applicant's suitability for the job.

These few minutes usually comprise only first impressions: appearance, handshake, eye contact, firmness of voice, diction, clothes and posture. Rarely in that limited time can an interviewer determine other such vital elements of a good employee as work attitudes, motivation, skills and knowledge.

It's important to note that a person's race and gender frequently have a major impact on an interviewer's first impression. Consequently, when hiring decisions are made largely on first impressions, the risk of race and sex discrimination greatly increases.

* Time limits.

An ideal job interview is unhurried, with each person taking time to evaluate the match among the applicant, the job and the company. In reality, however, job interviews frequently are rushed, often sandwiched between other appointments.

Furthermore, most managers don't know how to make he best use of their limited interview time. As one manager said, "I probably miss a lot of questions, but I'm unsure what to ask."

Reluctance to ask sensitive questions. * Most interviewers are uncomfortable asking sensitive questions of job applicants, and as a result often fail to obtain valuable information. Which questions are deemed sensitive varies for each interviewer, but these areas typically include questions about use of alcohol or drugs, history of illness or criminal convictions.

* Forgetting to ask questions.

Even highly trained interviewers sometimes forget to ask every question they know they should ask during the interview.

This is virtually unavoidable when an interviewer doesn't work from a written interview guide listing specific questions. Additionally, forgetting to ask questions is compounded by time limits.

* Interviewers talking too much.

Ideally, an interviewer spends most of the time listening, and little talking. Too often just the opposite is true. is situation can crop from the first impression syndrome: After making a decision, the interviewer focuses on convincing the applicant about the merits of the job and the company.

Likewise, if the interviewer's gut reaction indicates the candidate is unsuitable for the job, the interviewer details negative aspects of the job to discourage the applicant.

* Ineffective use of interview data.

Each of the above factors can greatly affect the quality of the information gathered during a personal interview. In addition, adding to the difficulty of making an informed decision is the tendency for interview data to not conform to any standard format suitable for evaluation and comparison of applicant qualifications.

A major step forward in the area of interviewing was the development by industrial psychologists of structured interviewing, also referred to as patterned interviewing. This method attempts to correct for the weaknesses inherent in a personal interview by providing the interviewer with a list of interview questions to ask each applicant. …

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