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Students Learn the Psychology of Interviewing

Lasson feature

“The psychology of interviewing is important because we all have to interview for jobs,” Elliot D. Lasson, Ph.D., expressed to nearly 50 students, faculty and staff who participated in his lecture titled “The Psychology of Interviewing.” Students learned valuable information about the psychology of the employment interview process as well as how to conduct a successful interview. Psychology majors received interviewing-specific insights about stereotypes, biases, perception and nonverbal communication. Associate Professor of Psychology Robert P. Keefer, Ph.D. invited Lasson to speak to psychology majors and provide resources for employment options or graduate school.

“An employment interview is a communication process between two parties with a predetermined purpose to exchange behavior, which involves the asking and answering of questions,” explained Lasson, professor of the practice and graduate director for the Master’s of Industrial/Organizational Psychology Program at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He used the metaphor of a stimulus-response reaction to illustrate how interviewers and interviewees share the interplay of personality, cognition, and experience.

Students learned how to avoid costly stereotypes and biases by seeking to better understand the science behind first impressions, race, gender, disability, similarity and physical attraction. Professor Keefer’s Introduction to Psychology students were pleased to hear terms they have been studying this semester. Lasson defined the halo effect as the formulation of generalized impressions that influence our behavior and are artificially consistent, and a senior psychology major noted the positive and negative effects. Lasson also referenced implicit personality theory, cautioning individuals against becoming amateur psychologists and forming quick impressions based on incomplete inferences.

He taught students that interviewers should avoid asking unlawful questions such as marital status, mental health, age, disability and a host of other illegal inquiries. These questions should neither be asked nor answered. His general advice was to stick to job-related questions in order to avoid potentially costly and damaging legal and ethical woes.

How do you conduct a better interview? Lasson asked the group to think of some commonly asked questions during an employment interview. Questions such as ‘What do you know about our company?’ and ‘Why did you decide to seek a position with this company?’ are recommended. In turn, candidates should research the organization and job situation so that they are better prepared if and when those inquiries are made.

Often, at the close of an interview, interviewers will offer to answer a candidate’s questions. What is a good question an interviewee can ask at that point? His example of a great question: “If we fast-forward nine months, what are three accomplishments you'd like to see me achieve?” Such a question is goal oriented and shows a candidate is interested in the metrics of success and wants to understand the employer’s expectations. Lasson offered students tips for understanding the difference between behavioral questions and situational questions. “And always send a thank you note within one business day,” he instructed. “Make it meaningful by customizing the message to points learned about the situation during the interview.”