Research on interviews has generally shown that standardized procedures are higher in their reliability and validity than unstructured interviews. Learning how structured interviews are constructed is an important component of the selection process, as is getting a “feel” for what it’s like to give and receive an interview. This case gives you an opportunity to do both.

An additional concern in the selection process is ensuring that each new predictor is adding something new to the process. As such, you will assess what the current methods of selection measure, and determine what new information can be brought out by an interview.

Basic scenario

As you learned in the third case, Tanglewood is working to improve the quality of their selection systems. The process of assessing selection methods initiated by Marilyn Gonzalez was not limited to store associates—it also covered department managers, assistant store managers, and store managers. Although the method of using an increasing number of tests and forms was generally been seen as an adequate update to the process for hiring entry level employees, store managers agree that this is not a sufficiently rigorous method for selecting department managers.

The most important concern is that individuals who are promoted from within the organization to the department manager level are typically viewed by other employees as very qualified and integrated into the corporate culture and mission of Tanglewood. Individuals who are hired from outside the organization to be department managers, on the other hand, often have a very difficult transition into the organization and make decisions that are in conflict with the corporate culture. They are seen as outsiders who do not really “get” what it means to be part of the Tanglewood family.

The current method of selection for external managers looks very much like the method of selection for store associates. All applicants complete a brief job application form which provides information on education and years of work experience. Some pilot stores also have begun using the Marshfield Applicant Exam and Retail Knowledge test (described in the measurement case), and based on the validation evidence described earlier, this will become a regular part of the selection procedure across the chain. This information is an important determinant of who is minimally qualified, but is generally not the primary determinant of who is or is not eventually hired. The most important part of the selection process is the interview.

The current interview form provided for these positions is shown in Appendix C. This interview protocol is no different than the interview protocol for store associates, except that the Assistant Manager for Operations is expected to take into consideration the fact that the department manager position requires considerably more responsibility and intellectual work. Most store managers and assistant store managers for operations agree that the current system is simply not detailed enough to produce a good selection protocol. Even experienced managers find that there is occasionally an unpleasant surprise in store for them when a new employee actually begins work and the employee is not at all the sort of person they thought they had assessed in the interview.

Improving the Process

One of the primary problems in the process of selecting external candidates to serve as department managers is the lack of structure to the selection process. In most cases, managers request that applicants fill out the work history applicant, a brief résumé, and then interview everyone who applies. This is a time consuming process, because many candidates simply do not have the requisite skills for the job. Other managers only interview individuals who have a certain number of years of work experience, experience in specific fields, or a specific educational background, but there is not a general consensus on which method is best.

Tanglewood would like to formulate a more efficient policy for screening. This is especially important in light of the large number of potential new predictors that have been included in the system as part of Marilyn Gonzalez and Daryl Perrone’s new procedures. They ideally would like to develop a sequence like that shown in Exhibit 8.3 in Staffing Organizations that moves each applicant from the stage of being an applicant to an offer receiver.

To briefly review some financial information, the Marshfield Applicant Exam and Marshfield Customer Service Biodata Questionnaire and Essay are both copyrighted instruments that cost $10 each per applicant. Alternative computerized versions of these materials that do not carry a “per applicant” cost are available for in-store kiosks or can be completed online, but the startup costs are much higher for the electronic versions. Because the personality test and customer service tests were administered entirely in-house, they are free for Tanglewood.

Unfortunately, there are no validity coefficients for the position of Department Manager as there has been no period of testing yet. Tanglewood believes that, based on the preliminary data provided by the store associates sample, they would like to use all of these predictors. A more formal validation procedure will be initiated later in the process, but for now, Tanglewood would like a selection plan developed that will take the sequencing of all of the predictors into account.

Methods for Developing the Interview

A second major problem, besides the difficulties in creating a good sequence of staffing procedures, is the fact that the general process of interviewing is not seen as especially effective. Many managers complain that even when they adhere to the system described by the interview guidelines provided in Appendix C, they still do not feel like they can differentiate good from bad candidates. Moreover, anecdotal evidence suggests that the actual content of interviews is extremely different across locations. The possibility that candidates are receiving different interview questions is seen as a potential legal problem.

The Tanglewood response is to create a new and better interview protocol that can be used across the chain. Given the problem of low standardization, lack of guidelines, and the general knowledge of research on interviews in the staffing services department, it has been decided that a structured interview will be needed. Daryl Perrone has provided you with several directives for writing structured interview questions. He provided them to you in the form of a list as follows:

• The best interview questions have several key qualities. First, they are broad enough to actually allow variability in answers; in other words, not every applicant gives the same answers. Second, they are directly relevant to important elements of the job. Third, they do not reflect knowledge or skills that a person could realistically acquire while on the job.
• Situational interviews: the core to writing good situational interview questions is establishing a scenario that the applicant will react to. These can blend into work samples or problem solving tasks related to the job. Good situational interview questions are realistic enough that the applicant will actually experience the same emotions you are trying to represent. For example, in a situational interview designed to assess customer service skills, an applicant might be asked to confront a manager pretending to be a frustrated shopper. In a situational interview designed to assess teamwork ability, an applicant might be asked how he or she would cooperate with a group of individuals to solve a difficult problem at work.
• Behavioral interviews: these are interview questions that ask a person to explain previous experiences related to the KSAO required for the job in question. Many of these questions begin with “Tell me about a time when you had to…” For example, an individual interviewing for a customer service job might be asked, “tell me about a time that you had to interact with an angry customer.” The key function of behavioral interviews is to obtain a more detailed picture of the experiences of a candidate and determine how well they can relate their experiences to the position at hand.
• A scoring key is an extremely important part of the structured interview process. Most scoring keys are developed by describing behaviors on a graduated scale ranging from very poor to very good. A good scoring key is behaviorally specific and reflects real attributes that a person might possess and demonstrate on a job. The biggest problem with scoring keys is that they are often too easy or too hard, so actual scores end up being bunched together with no real variance.

To facilitate the completion of this task, the company also has provided you with a sample of a behavioral interview questions below in a book published in 1964 titled “The Structured Interview” by Nivram Ettennud. This is only a single question, and is much different than the job you are looking at, but Daryl Perrone believes it should give you an idea of what Tanglewood would like to see.

Job title Judge, State of Michigan
Item description This is a situational interview question requiring the applicant to formulate jury
instructions for an employment law case.
Performance dimensions • Task: Instruct juries on applicable laws, direct juries to deduce the facts from the evidence presented, and hear their verdicts.
• Knowledge: Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the political process.
• Skills: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions. Communicating effectively verbally or in writing.
• Abilities: Oral expression, information ordering.
Interview question The case before you involves a plaintiff who has been denied employment by a large corporation due to discrimination by one of the corporation’s employees in the process of hiring. The question at hand hinges on the extent to which the organization is liable for the actions of its employee. Provide instructions to a jury that will represent the
legal principle on which they are deciding the company’s liability.
Original scoring key 1 point: Instructions fail to mention critical concepts related to agency, in particular, failing to mention that the defendant’s actions lead to the agent having authority to act on behalf of the defendant OR instructions are highly leading in such a way that they could prejudice a jury against the defendant or plaintiff.
2 point: Instructions are sufficient to define specific terms, but use technical terminology while failing to define what the terms mean (e.g., use of terms like liability with no definition) OR the instructions are correct, but excessively vague with respect to the relationship features required to establish agency.
3 point: Instructions are sufficient to define terms, and define all technical terminology, but include complex sentence structure (e.g., multiple clauses or difficult vocabulary) that would make it difficult for a person with a high school education or less to understand.
4 point: Instructions fulfill all the requirements of number three, but also do so in very straightforward language that is easy to understand, with only simple sentences and no complex vocabulary.
Interviewer comments The individual who piloted this item felt that the scoring key did not do a sufficient job of defining the terms for “simple language” and “easy to understand.” In response, we have changed the four point option to read:
Instructions fulfill all the requirements of number three, but also do so with only one clause per sentence, no negations (negative wording), or words identified by two or more raters out of a panel of three as being ‘difficult’ or ‘complex.’
In addition, the person who piloted this item also suggested that the actual specific legal language related to agency be included. To rectify this, we looked at the Michigan criminal law and found the following definition:
M Civ JI 38.01 Agency Relationship: Definitions of Agent and Principal An “agent” is a person who is authorized by another to act on [his / her / its]
behalf. The [person / entity] who has given the authority and has the right to control the agent is called the “principal.”

Specific Assignment Details

Daryl Perrone has asked you to engage in the following steps to develop a selection plan and structured interview for the Department Manager position. Do not forget to refer to the job description provided in Appendix A when developing the selection plan:

  1. Develop a detailed selection plan for this position. In this case, you should determine what you want to measure by analyzing KSAOs from the job description and the information on organizational culture in the case, and fitting the selection measures into the plan format as shown in Exhibit 8.2 in the book. The current selection methods are the experience check, education check, Marshfield Applicant Exam, and the Retail Knowledge Test. Do not include the current interview as part of the selection plan.
  2. Based on the materials you have compiled as part of the selection plan, you will determine which KSAOs are not being measured adequately in the current system. Those KSAOs not being measured adequately will be prime candidates for inclusion in the new selection system.
  3. Develop initial interview questions. Staffing services believes that a half-hour interview will be appropriate, with about 3 minutes per interview question. They would like 5 behavioral interview questions and 5 situational interview questions. Each interview question should have a very specific KSAO target as shown in the example.
  4. Develop a scoring key for each interview question. This means you will have ten different scoring keys.
  5. Engage in a pilot trial of the interview questions. Each person in your group should run through the interview with someone not in your group (other individuals in the class can be used, friends, family members, co-workers, etc.). Half of the members of your group will act as interviewers to determine how well your pilot group can understand and answer the questions, half of the group will act as interviewees to determine how well your pilot group can understand and follow your scoring keys. Make sure that you adhere strictly to the structured interview format. You may ask applicants follow up questions for clarification, but otherwise work to suppress idiosyncratic behavior or deviations from the script. Take notes during the interview to supplement your scoring key, noting areas where your initial questions or scoring methods may not have worked well.
  6. Debrief pilot group members. After finishing the sample interview process, ask your “applicants” or “interviewers” to describe how they felt during the process. In particular, ask them how they would react to your questions. Also ask them, for each question, what they were thinking about during the process of answering or scoring.
  7. Revise interview content. Provide information on how interview items and/or scoring keys will be modified based on your feedback from the pilot group.

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