Skip to main content

Storytelling in the Selection Interview? How Applicants Respond to Past Behavior Questions

Abstract

Purpose

Increased use of past behavior questions makes it important to understand applicants’ responses. Past behavior questions are designed to elicit stories from applicants. Four research questions were addressed: How do applicants respond to past behavior questions, in particular, how frequent are stories? When applicants produce stories, what narrative elements do they contain? Is story production related to applicants’ characteristics? Do responses affect interview outcomes?

Design/Methodology/Approach

Using a database of 62 real job interviews, the prevalence of five types of applicants’ response to past behavior questions were analyzed: story, pseudo-story, exemplification, value/opinion, and self-description. We also coded the narrative content of stories, distinguishing between situations, tasks/actions, and results. We analyzed relations between applicant characteristics (gender, age, personality, self-reported communication and persuasion skills, general mental ability) and response type. We used hierarchical multiple regression to predict hiring recommendations from response type.

Findings

Stories were only produced 23 % of the time. Stories featured more narrative elements related to situations than tasks, actions, or results. General mental ability and conscientiousness affected response types, and men produced more stories than women. There were differences in the storytelling rate according to the type of competency. Stories and pseudo-stories increased hiring recommendations, and self-descriptions decreased them.

Originality/Value

Behavioral interviews may not be conducive to storytelling. Recruiters respond positively to narrative responses. More research is needed on storytelling in the selection interview, and recruiters and applicants might need training on how to encourage and tell accurate and representative stories.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Bangerter, A., & Clark, H. H. (2003). Navigating joint projects with dialogue. Cognitive Science, 27, 195–225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bangerter, A., Clark, H. H., & Katz, A. R. (2004). Navigating joint projects in telephone conversations. Discourse Processes, 37, 1–23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bangerter, A., Mayor, E., & Pekarek Doehler, S. (2011). Reported speech in conversational narratives during nursing shift handover meetings. Discourse Processes, 48, 183–213.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bangerter, A., Roulin, N., & König, C. J. (2012). Personnel selection as a signaling game. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97, 719–738.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bavelas, J. B., Coates, L., & Johnson, T. (2000). Listeners as co-narrators. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 941–952.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Boje, D. M. (2008). Storytelling organizations. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Button, G., & Casey, N. (1984). Generating topic: the use of topic initial elicitors. In M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (Eds.), Structures of social action (pp. 167–190). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Campion, M. A., Palmer, D. K., & Campion, J. E. (1997). A review of structure in the selection interview. Personnel Psychology, 50, 655–702.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Clark, H. H. (1996). Using language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  11. Clark, H. H., & Schober, M. F. (1991). Asking questions and influencing answers. In J. M. Tanur (Ed.), Questions about questions: Inquiries into the cognitive bases of surveys (pp. 15–48). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Conrad, F. G., & Schober, M. F. (2005). Promoting uniform question understanding in today’s and tomorrow’s surveys. Journal of Official Statistics, 21, 215–231.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Normal personality assessment in clinical practice: The NEO Personality Inventory. Psychological Assessment, 4, 5–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Denning, S. (2004). Telling tales. Harvard Business Review, 82, 122–129.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Edwards, D., & Potter, J. (1993). Language and causation: A discursive action model of description and attribution. Psychological Review, 100, 23–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Ellis, A. P. J., West, B. J., Ryan, A. M., & DeShon, R. P. (2002). The use of impression management tactics in structured interviews: A function of question type. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 1200–1208.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Field, A. (2009). Discovering statistics using SPSS. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Frauendorfer, D., Schmid Mast, M., Nguyen, L., & Gatica-Perez, D. (2013a). Predicting hiring decision via automatic social sensing of job applicant nonverbal interview behavior (Manuscript submitted for publication).

  19. Frauendorfer, D., Schmid Mast, M., Nguyen, L., & Gatica-Perez, D. (2013b). A step towards automatic applicant selection: Predicting job performance based on applicant nonverbal interview behavior (Manuscript submitted for publication).

  20. Funder, D. C. (1995). On the accuracy of personality judgment: A realistic approach. Psychological Review, 102, 652–670.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Goodwin, C. (1984). Notes on story structure and the organization of participation. In M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (Eds.), Structures of social action (pp. 225–246). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Goodwin, C. (1987). Forgetfulness as an interactive resource. Social Psychology Quarterly, 50, 115–130.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole & J. L. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and semantics (pp. 41–58). New York: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Habermas, T., & Bluck, S. (2000). Getting a life: The emergence of the life story in adolescence. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 748–769.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Holt, E. (1996). Reporting on talk: The use of direct reported speech in conversation. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 29, 219–245.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Huffcutt, A. I., & Arthur, W., Jr. (1994). Hunter and Hunter (1984) revisited: Interview validity for entry-level jobs. Journal of Applied Psychology, 79, 184–190.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. James, L. R., McIntyre, M. D., Glisson, C. A., Green, P. D., Patton, T. W., LeBreton, J. M., et al. (2005). A conditional reasoning measure for aggression. Organizational Research Methods, 8, 69–99.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Jetter, W. (2008). Effiziente Personalauswahl: Die richtigen Mitarbeiter mit strukturierten Einstellungsinterviews finden. Stuttgart: Schäffer-Poeschel.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Kemper, S. (1984). The development of narrative skills: Explanations and entertainments. In S. A. Kuczaj (Ed.), Discourse development (pp. 99–124). New York: Academic Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  30. Kessler, R. (2006). Competency-based interviews. Pompton Plains, NJ: Career Press.

    Google Scholar 

  31. König, C. J., Hafsteinsson, L. G., Jansen, A., & Stadelmann, E. H. (2011). Applicants’ self-presentational behavior across cultures: Less self-presentation in Switzerland and Iceland than in the US. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 19, 331–339.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Labov, W., & Waletzky, J. (1967). Narrative analysis: Oral versions of personal experience. In J. Helms (Ed.), Essays on the verbal and visual arts (pp. 12–44). Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Larson, W. W. (2001). Ten-minute guide to conducting a job interview. Indianapolis, IN: Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Levashina, J., & Campion, M. A. (2006). A model of faking likelihood in the employment interview. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 14, 299–316.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Lievens, F., & De Paepe, A. (2004). An empirical investigation of interviewer-related factors that discourage the use of high structure interviews. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25, 29–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Maurer, T., Solamon, J., & Lippstreu, M. (2008). How does coaching interviewees affect the validity of a structured interview? Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29, 355–371.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. McDaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., Schmidt, F. L., & Maurer, S. D. (1994). The validity of employment interviews: A comprehensive review and meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 79, 599–616.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Morgeson, F. P., Campion, M. A., Dipboye, R. L., Hollenbeck, J. R., Murphy, K. R., & Schmitt, N. (2007). Reconsidering the use of personality tests in personnel selection contexts. Personnel Psychology, 60, 683–729.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Norrick, N. (2000). Conversational narrative: Storytelling in everyday talk. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  40. Orr, J. (1996). Talking about machines: An ethnography of a modern job. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Posthuma, R., Morgeson, F., & Campion, M. (2002). Beyond employment interview validity: A comprehensive narrative review of recent research and trends over time. Personnel Psychology, 55, 1–81.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Prabakar Kamath, S. (2009). Competency-based interviewing. New Delhi: Excel Books.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Pratt, M. W., & Robins, S. L. (1991). That’s the way it was: Age difference in the structure and quality of adults’ personal narratives. Discourse Processes, 14, 73–85.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Ralston, S. M., Kirkwood, W. G., & Burant, P. A. (2003). Helping interviewees tell their stories. Business Communication Quarterly, 66, 8–22.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Riggio, R. E. (1986). Assessment of basic social skills. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 649–660.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Roulin, N., & Bangerter, A. (2012). Understanding the academic-practitioner gap for structured interviews: “Behavioral” interviews diffuse, “structured” interviews do not. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 20, 149–158.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Roulin, N., Bangerter, A., & Wüthrich, U. (2012). Réussir l’entretien d’embauche comportemental: La méthode pour identifier et sélectionner les futurs employés performants. [Succeeding at the behavioral interview: The method for identifying and selecting future high performers.]. Bruxelles: De Boeck Professionals.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Sacks, H., Schegloff, E. A., & Jefferson, G. (1974). A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation. Language, 50, 696–735.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Schegloff, E. A. (2007). Sequence organization in interaction: A primer in conversation analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  50. Schegloff, E. A., & Sacks, H. (1973). Opening up closings. Semiotica, 8, 289–327.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Schlenker, B. R. (1980). Impression management: The self-concept, social identity, and interpersonal relations. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Schmid Mast, M. (2002). Dominance as expressed and inferred through speaking time: A meta-analysis. Human Communication Research, 28, 420–450.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 262–274.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Schuler, H. (1992). Das multimodale einstellungsinterview. Diagnostica, 38(4), 281–300.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Sidnell, J. (2006). Coordinating gesture, talk, and gaze in re-enactments. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 39, 377–409.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Silvester, J. (1997). Spoken attributions and candidate success in graduate recruitment interviews. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 70, 61–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Sperber, D., & Wilson, D. (1986). Relevance: Communication and cognition. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Stevens, C. K., & Kristof, A. L. (1995). Making the right impression: A field study of applicant impression management during job interviews. Journal of Applied Psychology, 80, 587–606.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Suchman, L., & Jordan, L. (1990). Interactional troubles in face-to-face survey interviews. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 85, 232–253.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Van der Zee, K. I., Bakker, A. B., & Bakker, P. (2002). Why are structured interviews so rarely used in personnel selection? Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 176–184.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Wonderlic, E. G. (Ed.). (2001). Wonderlic personnel test manual. Northfield, IL: E.F. Wonderlic & Assoc.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

Research was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Sinergia project Interactional Competences in Institutional Practices: Young People between School and the Workplace, CRSII1_136291). The data were obtained from another Swiss National Science Foundation Sinergia project, SONVB, FNCRSII2-127542/1. We thank Dr. Daniel Gatica-Perez, IDIAP; Dr. Marianne Schmid Mast, University of Neuchatel; and Dr. Tanzeem Choudhury, Cornell University, for granting us access to their data. We thank Franciska Krings and Franziska Tschan for advice on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Adrian Bangerter.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bangerter, A., Corvalan, P. & Cavin, C. Storytelling in the Selection Interview? How Applicants Respond to Past Behavior Questions. J Bus Psychol 29, 593–604 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-014-9350-0

Download citation

Keywords

  • Selection interview
  • Storytelling
  • Communication
  • Narrative
  • Behavioral questions