Interviewing Staff

Although this outine follows sequentially from the previous ones on selecting staff, it tries to cover all aspects of staff interviews - for selection, discipline, assessment, counselling. The principles are much the same.




Discussion with one or more people conducted by one or more people, formally or informally

Purpose of interview defines


Open Ended


Rights of All Involved

Interviewer has right

Interviewee should always be






Public Relations


Outside Agencies



Greetings and introductions

Format of interview

Role of non-verbal language

I am not a great believer in the interpretations of body language. I think interviews are stressful for all parties, and managers should do their best to make everyone feel relaxed, even in disciplinary interviews [especially if you agree that the purpose of discipline is to be educational]. Some interviewers like playing games which go beyond analysing why an interviewee crosses his/her arms: I recall people who used to offer a cigarette [in the days when everyone smoked!] but no light and/or no ashtray, just to see what happened. One of my mature age students told me he had been to his child's primary school to see the principal - the latter sat on a raised dais behind a big desk - my student swore the legs of his chair had been cut so that he was looking up at the principal.

I have always suggested that a manager's office should be laid out so that the desk does not form a barrier between manager and staff member. However, one student told me that he had tried this by moving the spare chair to the side of his desk - but many of his staff picked it up and moved it back to the other side of the desk barrier! They obviously felt more comforatble with the principal role as above. I suggested he move his desk so that it was parallel to and up against the wall, not at right angles - then his staff would have no option other than to accept the less formal approach.



The diagram on the left is the traditional office set-up, whereas the one on the right not only allows for a more informal approach, but also makes better use of the available space. When studying for my librarianship qulaification, I came across an article, whose source escapes me now, about Street Level Bureaucrats - those people in a large organisation who confront the public on a daily basis - banks, post offices, libraries, government agencies, insurance companies ..... Because they do not know how the public will react when they enter the building, they always have a large barrier between them. Do managers have the same fear when their staff or new applicants enter their offices, are they so insecure?

[As a sideline, the author also suggested that many of the people staffing the barriers were the least experienced, because as soon as you had done your time, you retreated from the stress to the back offices - whereas most companies need the more experienced staff at the front desk. I would suggest that many senior managers are at the back or top of the building, whereas if they were at the front downstairs, they would find out more about how their business was really conducted?]



Poor preparation

Lack of flexibility

Poor communication




Legal and other requirements

Format and wording