What Do Consistency and Personableness in the Interview Signal to Applicants? Investigating Indirect Effects on Organizational Attractiveness Through Symbolic Organizational Attributes

Abstract

Personnel selection research has recognized the importance of providing applicants with both standardized (i.e., “consistent”) and individualized (i.e., “personable”) treatment during interviews. However, research has yet to examine the mechanisms underlying the effects of perceived consistency and personableness in the interview on applicants’ attraction to organizations. Drawing from signaling theory, we investigate how interview consistency and personableness impact organizational attractiveness. To this end, we developed a conceptual model that proposes that applicants interpret perceived interview consistency and personableness as signals about what the organization is like in terms of symbolic organizational attributes (organizational competence and benevolence, Lievens and Highhouse 2003), which in turn influence perceptions of organizational attractiveness. A longitudinal three-wave field study with 129 applicants showed that applicants’ perceptions of both consistency and personableness positively impacted organizational attractiveness. Additionally, these effects were mediated by organizational competence perceptions, but not by organizational benevolence perceptions. Furthermore, consistency and personableness perceptions differed in their relative influence on organizational competence, benevolence, and attractiveness, with personableness perceptions being a more influential predictor. This study contributes to a nuanced theoretical understanding of how applicants interpret interviews as signals about how organizations treat their members.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We would like to note that none of the authors were employed by the participating university, nor were any of the authors involved in the interviewing and selection process. In addition, none of interviewers and applicants were aware of the study topic or hypotheses.

  2. 2.

    Although meta-analyses have shown that validity of interview scores increases through structure, there seems to be a point at which additional structure does not yield incremental validity (Huffcutt and Arthur 1994; Huffcutt et al. 2014).

  3. 3.

    These personality data were not considered for data analyses in this study because the internal consistency of the short personality measure’s ratings was low.

  4. 4.

    To avoid upwardly biased estimates due to cross-sectional data, path analyses in this study focused on follow-up organizational attractiveness (measured several weeks after the interview) as the outcome variable. However, all analyses were repeated with post-interview organizational attractiveness (measured directly after the interview) as the outcome variable and the pattern of results remained the same.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Stéphanie Weissert, Isabel Wildbolz, and Lisa J. Schneider for their work in the data collection and analysis process, Michel Hunziker for his support in data analysis, and Cornelius J. König for his feedback concerning this research.

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Appendices

Appendix 1

Sample questions from the interview guide sorted by topical areas

  1. 1.

    Interest in psychology

How would you explain what psychology actually is to someone who is not familiar with psychology?

  1. 2.

    Realistic expectations regarding content and later occupation

How do you envision your future professional occupation?

  1. 3.

    Commitment

Was there a period in your life in which you were especially burdened (in the sense of having a lot to do or having to deal with many things at the same time)? How did you deal with this challenge?

  1. 4.

    Professional attitude

How do you define yourself (your role) as a psychologist in problem solving?

  1. 5.

    Social skills

How would others (e.g., good friends, peers, colleagues) describe you? Is there a difference between your own description and that of others? If so, how do you explain this difference?

  1. 6.

    Interest in interdisciplinary collaboration

Can you think of specific fields of work where an interdisciplinary team would be ideal?

Appendix 2

Table 3 Survey Items

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Wilhelmy, A., Kleinmann, M., Melchers, K.G. et al. What Do Consistency and Personableness in the Interview Signal to Applicants? Investigating Indirect Effects on Organizational Attractiveness Through Symbolic Organizational Attributes. J Bus Psychol 34, 671–684 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-018-9600-7

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Keywords

  • Interview
  • Consistency
  • Personableness
  • Applicant reactions
  • Recruitment