The presentation of the manager self in selection interviews: style and conduct in ethnically diverse settings

Celia Roberts, Sarah Campbell

King's College London, UK

TP150: Organisations and Interviewing: from the interactional to the institutional

This paper draws on a large data base of video recorded selection interviews for junior management positions and ethnographic case studies of ethnically diverse organisations. While competency based interviews and equal opportunities legislation have led to tight structures for selection interviews, micro- analysis has shown that the social processes of interview talk are highly volatile and vulnerable to discursive perturbation, on the one hand, and moments of ease and connection on the other. Job/promotion interviews are as much about reinforcing the institution of which they are a part as they are about fair and effective decisions, so the stories elicited by interviewers have to be fitted into the boxes of the selection form and into the organisational ideologies of the ‘new capitalism’. So there is a complex transformation of candidate contributions (from talk to writing to decision) into categorical personal judgements that fit institutional requirements.

In junior management interviews, as in other forms of selection processes, the paradoxical demands of the job interview produce ‘hybrid discourses’ in which the candidate’s identity as a manager is assessed through a delicate blending of personal, professional and organisational discourses. Such blending requires a process of language socialisation both through previous education and training and in the workplace itself. Where these workplaces are divided along ethnic lines or where candidates have been socialised through education and employment outside the UK, the gradual apprenticeship into talking like a (British) manager is either missing or partial. So culturally different styles of presenting the self, both shopfloor cultures and ethnicised cultures are judged as not adequately management like and Black and minority ethnic candidates pay a linguistic penalty in the selection process.

Session: Themed Panel (part 1)
Organisations and Interviewing: From the interactional to the institutional
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 09:00-10:30
room: 06