Recruiters trained as interviewers may hire better workers

By Shannon Vicic

Corporations that provide their recruiters with interview training may end
up hiring more-qualified employees than companies that don't provide such
training, a UI professor says.

Gerald Ferris, the director of the Center for Human Resource Management at
the UI, and Western Illinois University management professor Jack Howard
recently published a study suggesting that interviewers who have had formal
interview training may be less susceptible to applicants' attempts to
influence interviewers' judgments during an interview.

 "Most people tend to assume that interviewers are able to cut through
applicants' attempts to manipulate them and single out the best candidate,"
Ferris said. "But by isolating some of the strategies that applicants use,
we found out that most interviewers aren't very good at doing that at all.
They get fooled just like everybody else."

The researchers' study, which appeared in the Journal of Applied Social
Psychology, was based on surveys of 116 corporate recruiters. The
recruiters completed the surveys after watching videotapes of mock
interviews, which were created by the researchers using student actors.

"We spent a lot of time pilot-testing the videotapes to make sure we were
presenting exactly the kind of stimulus we wanted," Ferris said. "We tried
to hold things like physical appearance constant by using the same actor to
play the applicant."

Specifically, the researchers isolated the non-verbal cues and
self-promotional behaviors displayed during interviews. They controlled the
applicants' use of eye contact and body language - non-verbal cues that
often signal "positive" personality traits such as self-confidence and
decisiveness, Ferris said. The researchers also controlled the amount of
self-promotion used by applicants. Applicants typically promote themselves
to appear qualified for the position; in the case of an underqualified
candidate, self-promotion may mean embellishing or exaggerating previous
work experience.

The interviewers were asked to rate the applicants and judge how suitable
each applicant was for the position. The recruiters also were asked to
report any previous training they had received in conducting employment

The authors found that interviewers who reported receiving formal training
rated applicants who displayed high levels of self-promotion as less
competent for the job than interviewers who had not received formal
training. In other words, interviewers who had undergone training were more
likely to spot exaggerations or misrepresentations by underqualified

Only a minority of the interviewers surveyed had been provided with
interview training, which may help explain why applicants who are the most
qualified for a job are sometimes overlooked in favor of less-qualified

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