Eleven Minute Class Presentation

The Employment Interview

Art Madsen, M.Ed.

I. Opening Statement

A. This evening I would like to present valuable information concerning the sub-surface, inner dynamics of the employment interview.

B. We are all aware of the requirements of an interview from an elementary standpoint: grooming, politeness, preparation, friendly interaction, interest in the company.

C. But what really decides whether we land that job in business and industry is controlling what goes on in the interviewer’s head. How the interviewer perceives the candidate’s messages determines the outcome.

D. This presentation will explain some of the principles of cognitive interaction and should provide you with some pointers and directions to take in your interviews later on.

You may refer to the terminology and data on the sheet I gave you as I proceed with my presentation


Let’s examine now some general parameters or qualities of the employment interview.

II. The content of an interview is complex. Information flowing to the interviewer is processed in three ways, along:

1. A Central Route

2. A Peripheral Route

3. A Parallel Route

I will explain these concepts as my presentation progresses.

A. The candidate can send strong messages to the interviewer or weak messages, from a content standpoint.

B. The interviewer can be either:

(1) Fully Accountable for the results and recommendations emerging from the Interview to his/her company, and for hiring, or

(2) only Partially Accountable for hiring or rejecting

the candidate.

Content of the interview must be adjusted, as we will see, to match what level of responsibility the interviewer has for hiring you.

C. Content of the interview is also affected by other variables among which can be:

1. The degree of persuasiveness or assertiveness on the part of either the candidate or the interviewer. Studies have measured persuasiveness as ranging from weak to strong, depending on specific indicators of mood, word-choice, gestures, and tone.

2. The perceived or "felt" impact of the interviewer on the applicant also partially determines the content of the exchange between them.

3. The expectations of either party influence interview content and sometimes determine the direction and outcome of the entire meeting.

4. There are also attribute factors that influence the content and direction of the interview.

Among these attributes are: level of articulation, impressions, attractiveness, and positive or negative feelings.

Now that we’ve seen many of the variables that affect content of the interview and determine to some degree its outcome, let’s briefly examine what -- in fact -- an interview really is, in basic terms.

D. The definition of an interview, according to Stewart and Cash in their 1991 book entitled Interviewing Principles and Practices, is best expressed as: "A process of dyadic, relational communication with a predetermined and serious purpose designed to interchange behavior and involving the asking and answering of questions."

1. The term "dyadic" means a two-way interactive conversation.

2. The Stewart and Cash definition covers all of the primary functions of the interview and stresses the interchange and interaction which takes place between both parties.

3. It also points out the specific nature of an interview which is to impart information in a carefully structured "give and take" comprised of questions and answers.

Now let’s turn to the aspect of interviews that I want to really impress upon you. This information, which I’ve summarized and adapted, has been researched and recorded, in large part, by K.V. Rusinyak in her 1993 Master’s thesis here at NMSU, called "Cognitive Processing of Persuasive Communication by Interviewers in the Employment Interview".


The input from every candidate being interviewed is processed mentally,

or cognitively, by the interviewer. Cognition is the mental process related to an individual’s need to understand, to make sense of something, to evaluate it. In this case, the interviewer desires to process information flowing from the candidate for the purpose of evaluation.

Turn On the Overhead Projector. Display the Diagram with Arrows

ARROW--->A. There is, as I mentioned earlier, Central Route Processing, which is the preferred route. It involves projecting to the recruiter the idea of I CAN and I WILL, that is to say projecting the applicant’s ABILITY and MOTIVATION. If done properly,

1. The interviewer notices these qualities immediately.

2. The interviewer sees the persistence of the candidate.

Interestingly, the degree of accountability of the interviewer to the company can have an effect on the interviewer’s perception of motivation via the central route mode of processing. If the interviewer is fully accountable for hiring, motivation is highly perceived. If not, the interviewer is (1) less likely to process via the central route and (2) if he or she does so, the abilities and motivation of the candidate are not likely to be noticed as carefully.

ARROW--->B. If the applicant demonstrates, through poor self-expression, limited abilities and is not projecting motivation, the interviewer then processes what remaining information there is in the interview via the peripheral route. This is not a preferable way of processing information and it is considerably less predictive of the employee’s future behavior. If there is no active thinking taking place on the part of the applicant, the interviewer turns to other ways of evaluating the candidate: speech rate, gestures, mannerisms, attractiveness. Sometimes the applicant offers third-party source information which is processed and evaluated via the peripheral route by the interviewer. The evaluation takes place AROUND the main purposes of the interview and the candidate usually suffers the consequences.

ARROW--->C. Personal messages being directly communicated (via the central route) and source-related information (processed by the peripheral route), according to Rusinyak (p. 22), result in a dual-processing of the interview information by what has been called the parallel route. Information flows to the interviewer in two ways simultaneously, and he or she processes it, in parallel, by the two methods discussed.

D. It is extremely useful for the interviewee to recognize that the recruiter or interviewer is actually using one of these methods to evaluate the content of the interview. If the applicant is aware of these dynamics, then he or she can adjust the approaches used in the interview and favorably influence the outcome.

VI. This brings us to the CONCLUSION of my presentation. The sub-surface dynamics of the employment interview have been studied and analyzed by many specialists in the fields of Human Resources and Industrial Management. These dynamics, if understood by the job candidate, can be used to his or her advantage and can definitely lead to securing employment with the firm most preferred by the candidate.


Gilmore, D.C., Beehr, T.A. and Love, K.G. "Effects of Applicant Sex, Applicant Physical Attractiveness, Type of Rater and Type of Job on Interview Decisions", Journal of Occupational Psychology, 1986, 59:103-109.

Popovich, __ and Wanous, __ "_____________", ______________, _______, 1982.

Rusinyak, K.V. "Cognitive Processing of Persuasive Communication by Interviewers in the Employment Interview", NMSU Communications Studies Thesis, Las Cruces, July 1993.

Stewart, C.J. and Cash, Jr., W.B. Interviewing Principles, Sixth Edition, William C. Brown Publishers, Dubuque, Iowa, 1991.