Technology And Discourse Essay

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Technology and Discourse: A Comparison of
Face-to-face and Telephone Employment
Joanne Silvester*

Neil Anderson

University of London

University of Amsterdam

Very little research has investigated the comparability of telephone and face-to-face employment interviews. This exploratory study investigated interviewers’ questioning strategies and applicants’ causal attributions produced during semi structured telephone and face-to-face graduate recruitment interviews (N 5 62). A total of 2044 causal attributions were extracted from verbatim transcripts of these 62 interviews. It was predicted that an absence of visual cues would lead applicants to produce, and interviewers to focus on, information that might reduce the comparative anonymity of telephone interviews. Results indicate that applicants produce more personal causal attributions in telephone interviews. Personal attributions are also associated with higher ratings in telephone, but not face-to-face interviews. In face-to-face interviews, applicants who attributed outcomes to more global causes received lower ratings. There was also a non-significant tendency for interviewers to ask more closed questions in telephone interviews. The implications of these findings for research and practice are discussed.



iven the large volume of research that exists concerning the comparability of different forms of employment interview (e.g., Janz, 1982; Pulakos and
Schmitt, 1995; Wiesner and Cronshaw, 1988) surprisingly few studies have explored the potential impact of technology. The lack of research in this area is of particular concern in light of evidence that organizations are becoming increasingly reliant upon technology-based selection processes, in order to reduce recruitment costs and to maximize the geographic size and diversity of their applicant pool (Chapman and Rowe, 2001, 2002; Kroeck and Magnussen, 1997). Although there has been interest in the use of videoconferencing for selection, in reality videointerviews are still comparatively rare (Burkitt, 1991;
Coady et al., 1996). Indeed, the most prolific use of technology to support employment interviewing has involved the telephone (Schmidt and Rader, 1999). Yet despite the popularity of telephone interviews, virtually no
*Address for correspondence: Joanne Silvester, Department of
Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London, Lewisham
Way, London, SE14 6NW, UK. Email:


studies have investigated their comparability with face-toface employment interviews. It would seem that the very
‘normality’ of the telephone as an everyday means of communication has resulted in an assumption of equivalence.
Such an assumption may well be misplaced, however.
Particularly as the only study to have directly compared telephone and face-to-face employment interviews found that applicants were rated consistently lower in the telephone condition (Silvester, Anderson, Haddleton,
Cunningham-Snell and Gibb, 2000). Furthermore, evidence from social-psychological research suggests that audio-only communication changes the way in which people interact and make judgments about one another
(Mehrabian, 1981; Rutter, 1987). Consequently, there is an important need for detailed comparison of the processes by which selection decisions are made in telephone and faceto-face interviews, in order to determine whether telephone interviews are more or less valid, fair and reliable, as those conducted face-to-face (see also Anderson, 2003). A broad aim of this investigation was therefore to explore the equivalence of competency based semi-structured interviews, that were conducted face-to-face and by telephone, in terms of their content and selection outcomes. This was

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