For Interviewing: Speaking, Listening, and Learning for Professional Life Second Edition Rob Anderson, Saint Louis University and

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Bill Moyers’s “World of Ideas” series is a treasure trove of interviews with an array of noted philosophers, scientists, writers, historians, and artists. You can find a complete or partial set in the audio-video collections at many university libraries. Another option is the archived interviews of Charlie Rose, available through Google video or

Sample exam questions: multiple choice, true-false/explain, identification, essay
Multiple Choice
1. In their professional preparation and education, journalists primarily learn interviewing:

A. on the job, through trial and error (*)

B. through extensive in-house workshops and seminars

C. by classroom study of the research and theory of interviewing

D. from mentors

E. from editors and coaches in the newsroom

2. A reporter would typically use a background interview to:

A. dig up dirt on, or investigate a political or public figure

B. conduct a “background” check on newsmakers

C. acquire a basic understanding of a subject as an aid in reporting on an unfamiliar topic (*)

D. decide whether a prospective interviewee would perform effectively when questioned on live television or radio

E. gather details for a personality profile

3. According to the textbook definition, “off the record” means the:

A. interviewee won’t be identified by name in the story

B. interviewer won’t record or take notes of the conversation

C. interviewee’s comments won’t be published or broadcast in any form (*)

D. interviewee will discuss only unofficial details

E. interviewer will not directly quote the interviewee, but may attribute a thought or attitude indirectly to him or her

4. Janet Malcolm helped the journalism profession focus on its interviewing behavior when she:

A. suggested in an article that many reporters take advantage of the people they interview (*)

B. blamed television and Hollywood for stereotyping reporters as rude and insensitive

C. accused politicians and public figures of creating an adversarial relationship in dealing with reporters

D. asked a presidential candidate what he would do if someone raped and murdered his wife

E. published a popular book in which celebrity interviewees attacked the methods of reporters

5. A movement in American journalism that has helped stress the importance of communication between reporters and the people they cover is called:

A. immersion reporting

B. in-depth reporting

C. people-to-people journalism

D. public journalism (*)

E. compassionate journalism

6. An interviewer’s use of hidden recorders is ethical practice in journalism. T___ F___ Why?
7. Reporters and those they interview cannot escape an adversarial relationship. T___ F___ Why?
8. Reporters ought to give interviewees an opportunity to prepare by revealing some key questions they intend to ask. T___ F___ Why?
9. A news story belongs to the interviewer, not to the interviewee. T___ F___ Why?
10. Reviewing a story with interviewees prior to publication or broadcast is forbidden by current ethical standards in journalism. T___ F___ Why?
11. Sound bite
12. Not for attribution
13. Janet Malcolm
14. Delayed note taking
15. Personality profile
16. What do you think James Fallows means when he says journalists should allow “themselves to be surprised by new evidence”?
17. Take a position on this observation: “Journalism is largely a by-product of communication by and between people.”
18. From an interviewee’s perspective, discuss what you think constitutes ethical interview behavior on a reporter’s part.

CHAPTER 7: Interviews in Social Science and Humanistic Research
The nitty-gritty
Chapter 7 highlights the learning function of interviewing in a very specific way. Social science and humanistic researchers want to know more about the human condition so they can better adapt political solutions to social problems and better enable people to understand their own living conditions. With this understanding, we all become better equipped as decision makers. Research, no matter how specific or unrelated to a given student’s (or a given teacher’s!) interests, adds to our store of cultural knowledge and helps us act more responsibly with each other. This chapter surveys basic issues in quantitative and qualitative research and considers four basic types of interview research — surveys, focus groups, oral histories, and ethnographies. We suggest that you use this opportunity to encourage students to:

— understand that research is not something done only by ivory tower intellectuals or elitists;

— understand that as responsible organizational specialists, they will be expected to advise others on communication research; and

— understand that no matter how trivial a single study might appear when taken out of context, it can make a valuable contribution to social awareness when combined with other studies.

Suggestions for “Trying Out Your Skills” and “Making Your Decision” boxes
— The first TOYS box is a simple exercise probing students’ ability to phrase a focused, specific, and clear question. Without this ability, survey respondents will answer a researcher’s questions with widely varying referents in mind. Remind students that researchers can never control respondents’ reactions directly (some imprecision is built into language itself), but they can attempt to minimize misinterpretation through careful language choices. Recognizing possible ambiguity, and how it invites divergent responses, is a crucial questioning skill first introduced in Chapter 4.
— The second TOYS box presents a hypothetical excerpt from a student’s oral history interview. Probe students’ abilities to discern how it is different from, and similar to, how journalists interview. At the very least, they should be able to see that, while there are many similarities (such as thoroughness, preparation, and probe questioning), the oral history interviewer grants and encourages far wider latitude of memory and narrative to the interviewee. Audrey helps Leon to open or close topics, so that his story emerges relatively slowly over time, and ideally without external pressures or demands.
— The third TOYS box is an actual experience in oral history. You may want to incorporate this activity as a formal assignment in your syllabus.
— The MYD box illustrates the pragmatics and ethics of communicating with those whose attitudes and behaviors are researched. The first case expands upon an example mentioned earlier in the chapter, and it asks students to test their understandings of the ethics of informed and implied consent. The next two cases simply allow students to personalize research topics to their own interests and career goals, helping them sharpen their understanding of the chapter. Finally, we present another scenario in which a student can interview an interviewer — one in which a strong opinion is asserted and the reader must determine how or whether to respond.
Additional activities and discussion questions
— Survey research. Have teams of two students each decide on a topic about which they’re curious (for example: class attitudes about a proposed tuition hike; evaluation of this year’s football or basketball team; or any current campus controversy). Then, each team should review Gallup’s quintamensional question sequence for surveys, and write their own schedule in which they adapt the quintamensional sequence into precisely worded questions. This could be a graded written activity, or it could simply be designed to set up a class discussion about the rigors of survey research. Another alternative would be to have the team follow through on five to 10 actual interviews based upon the schedule they construct.
— Focus group research. Have students interview marketing or advertising professors who have done focus group research; these specialists could be asked about the advantages and disadvantages of such studies, as well as the potential abuses and misunderstandings associated with focus group research. An alternative would be to have students or teams of students read and evaluate critically one or more focus group studies; for example, what procedures guided the ways moderators asked questions, generated new topics, created transitions between topics, probed for more specific responses, and so forth.
— Oral history research. See the sample syllabus for a description of one such assignment, involving a sequence of student interviews with a single person from the community (not a campus faculty, staff, or administration representative).
— Ethnographic research. Because these studies typically involve intense participation if not immersion in a different cultural setting, it is difficult to structure ethnography directly into a limited class activity or assignment. Teachers have several options: Guest speakers can stimulate excellent discussions about the methodological choices of ethnographers; students can interview a campus’s famous anthropologist or sociologist who specializes in this research; the teacher can lead the class in a hypothetical planning session in which a design for an ethnographic study is devised. (One example: “None of us is familiar with the culture of a Florida retirement community. If our class were given a grant of $50,000 to study the communication patterns of one such residential complex, how would we go about it? What decisions would have to be made about the researchers’ role[s] in the study? What pitfalls should we be sure to avoid? What kinds of interviews should we be doing?”)
Additional resources
Arendell, T. (1997). Reflections on the researcher-researched relationship: A woman interviewing men. Qualitative Sociology, 20, 341–368.
Burgess, B. (1988). Conversations with a purpose: The ethnographic interview in educational research. Studies in Qualitative Methodology, 1, 137–155.
Conrad, F. G., & Schober, M. F. (Eds.). (2008). Envisioning the survey interview of the future. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Conrad, M. F., & Coiner, T. (2007). Bringing features of human dialogue to web surveys. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 21, 165–188.
Devault, M. (1990). Talking and listening from women’s standpoint: Feminist strategies for interviewing and analysis. Social Problems, 37(1), 96–116.
Hansen, A. A. (1994). A riot of voices: Racial and ethnic variables in interactive oral history interviewing. In E. M. McMahan & K. L. Rogers (Eds.), Interactive oral history interviewing (pp. 107–137). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Krysan, M., & Couper, M. P. (2003). Race in the live and virtual interview: Racial deference, social desirability, and activation effects in attitude surveys. Social Psychology Quarterly, 66, 364–383.

Lederman, L. C. (1990). Assessing educational effectiveness: The focus group interview as a technique for data collection. Communication Education, 39, 117–127.

Varallo, S. M., Ray, E. B., & Ellis, B. H. (1998). Speaking of incest: The research interview as social justice. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 26, 254–271.
Williams, A. (1997). Young people’s beliefs about intergenerational communication: An initial cross-cultural comparison. Communication Research, 24, 370–393.
Yow, V. R. (1994). Recording oral history: A practical guide for social scientists. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Oral History Society, This Web site features a Q&A about oral history and provides ethical guidelines for those doing oral histories, among other resource materials.

Sample exam questions: multiple choice, true-false/explain, identification, essay
Multiple Choice
1. A sampling of all members of a given population is called a:

A. universe

B. stratified random sample

C. convenience (or available) sample

D. census (*)

E. probability sample

2. Qualitative research focuses on:

A. observable, measurable data

B. quality-based information rather than information of questionable value

C. human experiences that characterize and affect social action (*)

D. surveys of political and social attitudes

E. studies that have predictive value

3. A focus group is best described as a:

A. team responsible for developing a research questionnaire

B. collection of individuals used by researchers to determine preferences or attitudes (*)

C. survey sample drawn from a select group of respondents, through a “focusing procedure”

D. unit within a research institution that is assigned a particular task

E. collection of politically active people used to engage in a discussion with candidates

4. The quintamensional sequence of surveying helps researchers:

A. determine how much respondents know or have thought about a subject (*)

B. measure multiple attitudes on a given subject

C. collect demographic information

D. introduce respondents to particularly sensitive subjects

E. zero in on deception

5. Ethnography can be defined as:

A. encountering strange or alien cultural worlds and making sense of them (*)

B. participating in autobiographical interviewing

C. collection and interpretation of oral history interview findings

D. gathering data systematically through ethical quantitative research

E. studying and interviewing people in geographic settings

6. Self-administered surveys generally don’t work as well as telephone surveys. T___ F___ Why?
7. In research projects, validity is valued more than reliability. T___ F___ Why?
8. Implied consent in research doesn’t require a signed agreement from respondents. T___ F___ Why?
9. Postmodernists tend to see knowledge as “social construction.” T___ F___ Why?
10. A member check is a way of ensuring accuracy in ethnography. T___ F___ Why?
11. Literature review
12. Studs Terkel
13. Local knowledge
14. Over-rapport
15. Note set
16. Explain how both vertical and horizontal dimensions apply to oral history interviews.
17. Elliot Mishler writes about the need to “empower respondents.” What does he mean? How does it relate to the tasks of a research interviewer? Discuss a hypothetical research situation in which respondents are empowered as Mishler would suggest.
18. What principles should apply in wording questions for surveys? (Note: You do not have to recall the exact terms in order from the textbook list, but should be able to discuss the basic ideas underlying them.)
CHAPTER 8: Interviews for Employee Selection
The nitty-gritty
Of all the chapters, students will find Chapter 8 the most familiar and, perhaps, the most relevant in the short term. Nearly everyone in your class will have firsthand experience with a selection interview of some sort; many eventually will move into jobs that include responsibilities for selecting employees or applicants. You should anticipate that students will approach the chapter with preconceived attitudes based on limited, casual exposure. This is why we open with — and reinforce — the point that you can’t “just be yourself,” relying on common sense, in selection interviews. The practical advice offered to counteract this tendency is to “get out of yourself.” Ample time should be devoted to exploring this concept. Chapter 8 also integrates the complementary roles and perspectives of both interviewer and interviewee, which other texts address in separate chapters. This makes it a somewhat longer reading assignment than other chapters, but not unmanageably so; if you want to break down the discussion over several days, we’d still recommend that you ask the class to read the entire chapter before the first class discussion — and then, perhaps, reassign smaller sections for specific class periods. Special note on conflicting advice students often hear: Teaching this course unit is probably not the place to assert with certainty that a student’s Uncle Will and Aunt Marsha are “wrong” in their advice (unless it is truly bizarre). Neither is it the place to assert with certainty that there is only one best way to interview or be interviewed. Instead, a skills-plus approach would suggest you help students clarify choices for themselves while still providing guidelines that reflect contemporary research.
Suggestions for “Trying Out Your Skills” and “Making Your Decision” boxes
— The first TOYS box places students in the role of critic. Instead of presenting an ideal case, it asks them to examine a real employment interview schedule in terms of its inner workings, as well as how it could be adapted or improved. They should ideally react by comparing the schedule to chapter concepts, rather than by simply saying what they like or don’t like about it. In a follow-up exercise, students will be following explicit guidelines in order to write their own interview schedule.
— The second TOYS box invites students to draft a resume and use it in role-play situations. Among the interesting points that often emerge will be the ethically ambiguous dilemmas where applicants are tempted to beef up an image with fancy labels or with truth-stretching. Concerning the logistical decisions of preparing a resume (one page or two? what color paper? which typeface is best?), teachers might want to check with their campus’s career centers to determine the resume-related advice seniors are receiving there. If possible, coordinate your advice with the center’s guidelines. If you cannot do so in good conscience, at least prepare clear reasons why you disagree and acknowledge that the center’s staff has reasonable explanations for their differing advice. Otherwise, the result is student confusion.
— The third TOYS box describes an activity similar to one of the graded assignments from the sample syllabus. This could be an individual or a small-group exercise.
— The MYD box first asks students to consider the ethics and pragmatic implications of asking applicants about other interviewing they might be doing — and then turns the exercise around to inquire about a helpful answer to such an inquiry. Here and elsewhere, use such situations as double-edged problem-solving opportunities, not places to prescribe answers for students. In another situation, students consider the dynamics of stress interviewing. Finally, a case situation of cross-cultural interviewing lets students discuss possible solutions together. Student reactions to this case will probably open the door for you to discuss the relationship between legal and ethical responsibilities of interviewers, as well as how interviewees could react verbally to awkward intercultural interviewing situations.
Additional activities and discussion questions
This chapter warns against the simplistic advice to “be yourself.” However, are there ways applicants ought to concentrate on “being themselves”? What are those ways?
— Have students role-play a situation in which they decline a job offer tactfully (perhaps because it involves travel; because its job description is so broad; because the salary is disappointing). Variant: Students could write a letter requesting an additional week to consider an offer. Variant: Students could write a letter thanking the interviewer for an informative and interesting interview. See John D. Shingleton’s Successful Interviewing for College Seniors (Lincolnwood, IL: VGM Career Horizons, 1996).
— Help students in various subdisciplines of communication (e.g., organizational communication, communication technology, rhetoric, public relations, advertising, journalism) develop comprehensive lists of skills they’ve developed through their coursework, internships, student activities, and volunteer work.
Additional resources
Anderson, N. R. (1991). Decision making in the graduate selection interview: An experimental investigation. Human Relations, 44, 403–417.
Ayres, J., Keereetaweep, T., Chen, P-E., & Edwards, P. A. (1998). Communication apprehension and employment interviews. Communication Education, 47, 1–17.
Dipboye, R. L. (1992). Selection interviews: Process perspectives. Cincinnati, OH: South-Western.
Duhe, S. F., & Zukowski, L. A. (1997). Radio-TV journalism curriculum: First jobs and career preparation. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 52, 4–15.
Engler-Parish, P. G., & Millar, F. E. (1989). An exploratory relational control analysis of the employment-screening interview. Western Journal of Speech Communication, 53, 30–51.
Halvorson, S. (1997). Interviewing: Role playing to help understand the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Speech Communication Teacher, 11, 1–3.
Jones, D. B., & Pinkney, J. W. (1989). An exploratory assessment of the sources of job-interviewing anxiety in college students. Journal of College Student Development, 30, 553–560.
Joyce, A. (2005, January 16). Job hunting in a family way. Washington Post, p. F1.
Kirkwood, W. G., & Ralston, S. M. (1996). Ethics and teaching employment interviewing. Communication Education, 45, 167–179.
Ralston, S. M., & Kirkwood, W. G. (1995). Overcoming managerial bias in employment interviewing. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 23, 75–92.
Ralston, S. M., Kirkwood, W. G., & Burant, P. (2003). Helping interviewees tell their stories. Business Communication Quarterly, 66, 8–22.
Robinson, M. D., Johnson, J. T., & Shields, S. A. (1995). On the advantages of modesty: The benefits of a balanced self-presentation. Communication Research, 22, 575–591.
The Black Collegian Online: The career site for students of color, (Tips, advice, and resources from the perspective of minority job seekers.)
Many recent textbooks and training manuals in business communication are accompanied by video recordings demonstrating helpful and unhelpful approaches to the employment-selection interview. In addition, many campus career centers have video collections of exemplary employment interviews from the standpoint of applicants, and your library or media center might have other training videos that will be helpful in demonstrating personnel interviewer behavior. If you choose to use one of these in class, be sure to preview these interviews carefully to ensure they demonstrate the same points you want to stress in class.
You want the video demonstration interview to stimulate conversation, but try to avoid senseless quibbles about so-called proper interview behaviors (“My uncle was a personnel director, and he told me to do something different than you are advising!”; “My roommate got a great job last year and she didn’t do any of this stuff”; “I just hated the way he combed his hair!”). Clearly, applicants take many routes to success, and interviewers may prefer different tactics. However, we believe that teachers should stress that while specific advice will vary, there is little controversy about the general guidelines for effectiveness in preparing for and interacting in selection interviews.
Sample exam questions: multiple choice, true-false/explain, identification, essay
Multiple Choice
1. The advice to an interview participant to “get out of yourself” refers to:

A. expanding your focus to include the needs and goals of the other person (*)

B. suppressing, for the moment, your own personality

C. assuming a role or character other than your own

D. suppressing your ego

E. seeing yourself as others see you

2. A key concern of an employment interview conducted as a “rhetorical encounter” is:

A. overreliance on rhetorical questions

B. an inevitable clash of goals

C. the relative effectiveness of persuasive proofs (*)

D. the predominance of argumentation over logic

E. the likely emphasis on the “encounter” rather than communication

3. Which of these best describes attribution theory?

A. how people try to attribute questionable statements to specific sources of information

B. how people attempt to explain the behavior of others (*)

C. how people read too much into the motives of others

D. how people translate behavior to related theories of communication

E. how people make errors in assessing motives and behavior

4. Building rapport in interviews through small talk that humanizes communication is called:

A. empathy

B. pathos

C. validation

D. phatic communion (*)

E. relayed feedback

5. The employment interview is best described as a:

A. test of confidence

B. trial that measures the ability to perform under pressure

C. communication exchange with mutual implications (*)

D. formalized ritual

E. interpersonal competition

6. The employment interview is notoriously weak as a predictor of job success. T___ F___ Why?
7. “Attending behaviors” signal careful listening. T___ F___ Why?
8. Job applicants ought to use the interview as an opportunity to “comparison shop.” T___ F___ Why?
9. It is legally permissible to question a prospective employee about marital status. T___ F___ Why?
10. A single-version resume is preferred in today’s job market. T___ F___ Why?
11. Behavioral interview
12. Decentering
13. Elite selection
14. Needs assessment
15. Functional resume
16. How does Sissela Bok’s “test of publicity” apply to an employment or a selection interview?
17. Describe and discuss the DPFP sequence of developing a resume.
18. What can organizations do to create an environment of fairness in employment interviews and hiring?

CHAPTER 9: Interviews in Organizations
The nitty-gritty
Chapter 9 focuses on the importance and versatility of the interview as a means of effective communication and goal accomplishment in organizations. Most often organizations use interviews as part of a process of performance evaluation, so a good part of the chapter is devoted to appraisal interviews. Methods and motives vary among organizations; the chapter provides an overview of common appraisal processes and systems, including explanation and discussion of ratings, rankings, and surveys, for example, that provide a contextual foundation for effective appraisal interviews. Following the appraisal section, the chapter explains how interviews serve the interests of organizations by addressing and resolving personnel problems that require intervention, such as anger and disruptive workplace behavior. The subject matter ought to be highly relevant to students who intend to assume positions of authority within complex organizations (virtually all communication students aspire to this level of responsibility, whether their organizations will be Microsoft, ABC News, or Wal-Mart). You probably should remind students that other chapters also apply to organizational settings; for example, basic information-gathering interviewing (see Chapters 1 and 6) is a common expectation for any organizational communicator charged with preparing a report.
Suggestions for “Trying Out Your Skills” and “Making Your Decision” boxes
— The first TOYS box asks students to write a global essay appraisal. It should be based upon an actual evaluation experience the student call recall, but there’s no reason why the name of the evaluated person should ever be disclosed in any way. Look for ways to: (1) help students supplement conclusions or generalizations with specific job-related examples, (2) help students clarify for themselves the criteria that underlie their evaluations, and (3) help students examine their work for any potentially unfair or unnecessarily offensive statements that may leak into the essays through careless semantic choices. Students can also use their essays to help construct an appraisal interview schedule.
— In the second TOYS box, students analyze an excerpt from a hypothetical intervention interview by examining an interviewer’s conflict management skills and an interviewee’s assertiveness. We’ve made the interviewer’s approach somewhat demanding (some would say “unfair”) and the interviewee responds with requests for clarification. Use this exercise to focus not only on how the manager could have intervened differently (with more explanation of company dilemmas, less anger, and more empathy, for example), but also on realistic ways employees can be assertive when confronted with such evaluations. Did Mardra respond appropriately in this instance? If so, why? If not, why not?
— The MYD situations have students trying to “translate” their learning, making it more practical through considering common situations that occur in organizations. The first, a lesson in feedback in the context of an exit interview, will let you see how thoughtful students are about giving and receiving feedback. The second, taking the role of an interviewee who doesn’t receive enough feedback, but desires more, is quite common in organizations; such employees often need to interview interviewers. The third, involving the delicate handling of a sexual harassment complaint, might be a good topic for general class discussion.
Additional activities and discussion questions
John Kao, a management consultant at Stanford who has founded a number of companies himself, wrote a book called Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity (New York: HarperBusiness, 1996). His central metaphor, jamming, comes from the music world, of course; jazz players must learn on-the-spot and at-the-moment creativity — but not at the expense of discipline and preparation. Ask students to make connections to organizational interviewing from the following quotation from page 35:
Today’s global marketplace — turbulent, “spacey,” and endlessly demanding of the new, the experimental, the faster, the better, and the cheaper — is not a concert-hall environment. There’s no time for business managers to look for solutions in the archives of corporate sheet music. Today’s highly competitive business world puts a premium on the skill of improvisation. All the world’s a jazz club. This is an era, in short, that calls for the inspiration of art.
And discipline. The (creative) role of the manager is to work the central paradox, or tension, of the jam session: to locate the ever-mobile sweet spot somewhere between systems and analysis on the one hand and the free-flowing creativity of the individual on the other.
How can Kao’s comment help organizational interviewers? Is it at all inconsistent with other interviewers’ advice to set clear goals for employee behavior? How can goal setting and jamming (improvisation) be made more compatible?
Additional resources
Cheney, G. (1995). Democracy in the workplace: Theory and practice from the perspective of communication. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 23, 167–200.
Cleveland, J. N., Murphy, K. R., & Williams, R. E. (1989). Multiple uses of performance appraisal: Prevalence and correlates. Journal of Applied Psychology, 130–135.
Communication Briefings. (This newsletter is popular with many trainers and teachers. Each of the 12 annual issues collects dozens of brief tips, ideas, suggestions, and vignettes that have worked in someone’s organizational or business setting. Many ideas described are directly or indirectly relevant to interviewing. They can be valuable, but remind students that the occasionally prescriptive tone can mask the difficulties and ambiguities of communication dilemmas. You can contact the publisher at for subscriptions.)
Giacalone, R. A., & Duhon, D. (1991). Assessing intended employee behavior in exit interviews. Journal of Psychology, 125, 83–90.
Goodall, H. L., Jr., Wilson, G. L., & Waagen, C. (1986). The performance appraisal interview: An interpretive assessment. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 72, 74–87.
Krayer, K. J. (1987). Simulation method for teaching the performance appraisal interview. Communication Education, 36, 276–283.
Lobdell, C. L., Sonoda, K. T., & Arnold, W. E. (1993). The influence of perceived supervisor listening behavior on employee commitment. Journal of the International Listening Association, 7, 92–110.
Monroe, C., Borzi, M. G., & DiSalvo, V. S. (1993). Managerial strategies for dealing with difficult subordinates. Southern Communication Journal, 58, 247–254.
Ray, E. B. (1993). When the links become chains: Considering dysfunctions of supportive communication in the workplace. Communication Monographs, 60, 106–111.
Organizational interviews, including performance appraisals and exit or termination interviews, tend to be relatively private occasions in practice. However, their relative privacy makes them dramatic events that can be portrayed interestingly in sitcoms and films. You may want to watch for vivid examples in such contemporary spoofs on organizational life as TV sitcoms The Office, starring Steve Carell, or Ugly Betty, starring America Ferrera, and the film Office Space. These comedic portrayals can then be compared to your recommendations for more realistic and effective behaviors.
Combining print with nonprint representations, the “Dilbert” cartoons by Scott Adams in newspapers, books, calendars, animations, and online ( give teachers of organizational communication much to work with in class. Adams’s work lampoons organizational life and often focuses on performance evaluations between superiors and subordinates.
Sample exam questions: multiple choice, true-false/explain, identification, essay
Multiple Choice
1. The research of goal-setting theory suggests that:

A. goals set by managers achieve a higher level of success

B. goals should be easy to accomplish rather than challenging

C. goals set jointly by employees and employers are more likely to be met (*)

D. goals without rewards usually don’t succeed

E. goals with stated consequences for failure generally succeed

2. A narrative evaluation as a form of appraisal:

A. ensures a focused, detailed, and frank assessment

B. depends, in part, on the writer’s ability to describe an employee’s strengths and weaknesses (*)

C. encourages employees to talk about their lives through stories

D. ranks employees by their ability to communicate effectively

E. succeeds in encouraging supervisors and employees to work together

3. Appraisal interviewers should focus on which type of question?

A. closed-ended

B. exploratory (*)

C. hypothetical

D. leading

E. indicative

4. Psychological contracts are:

A. the mental games played in appraisal interviews

B. unstated expectations between organizations and workers (*)

C. binding work agreements involving fair treatment of employees

D. intervention sessions for uncooperative or angry workers

E. remedial steps difficult employees are required to take to keep their jobs

5. A 360-degree appraisal system:

A. asks employees to undergo a total change in work behavior

B. scrutinizes an employee in terms of behavior, attitude, and character

C. puts supervisors in the position of being evaluated by workers

D. encourages supervisors and employees to exchange perspectives

E. collects feedback from everyone affected by the performance of the employee in question (*)

6. “I-messages” aren’t effective in addressing performance problems. T___ F___ Why?
7. Theory X management assumes that employees work best when carefully monitored and forced to perform. T___ F___ Why?
8. In an appraisal interview, the focus should remain exclusively on the interviewee. T___ F___ Why?
9. Some organizations use coaches as part of their appraisal systems. T___ F___ Why?
10. An exit interview is another term for “termination interview.” T___ F___ Why?
11. Quality of Work Life
12. Critical incident report
13. BARS system
14. Graphic rating scale
15. Employee assistance programs
16. Describe the logic behind the steps for dealing with anger in the workplace.
17. Compare and contrast defensive and supportive climates of communication. Use at least two relevant examples of each, but you do not have to reproduce the precise lists of defensive and supportive behaviors.
18. What role does a company philosophy play in an appraisal process?
CHAPTER 10: Interviews in Persuasive Situations
The nitty-gritty
Chapter 10 encourages students to see many forms of persuasive encounters, including sales, as interviewing situations. It attempts to counter the assumption that persuasion in selling is a kind of unethical manipulation, and move persuasion more into the realms of listening, learning, and information. Persuasion is not an unsavory goal for communicators. At the same time, those who become familiar with the potential abuses of persuasive interviews become better consumers as well. In addition, this is an opportunity for you to help demystify and clarify similar forms of persuasion, such as negotiation and interrogation/advocacy interviewing.
Suggestions for “Trying Out Your Skills” and “Making Your Decision” boxes
— The first TOYS box, a job-based exercise, allows students to explore the concept of persuasion as a helping relationship. It asks them to consider actual job conditions they’ve experienced in the past (few students will never have worked at a job, but this exercise also fits anyone who’s cooperated with others in any organization); the key is to help them see how organizations are changed in the directions we want primarily when others discern how they are helped by the changes, too.
— The second TOYS box, in which the reader imagines being a student ambassador, explores both how a persuader adapts his or her own personality to the task and how questions are answered ethically. We’ve found this to be a good situation for in-class role playing; students directly confront the persuasive cross-pressures as they want — at the same time — to be good spokespersons and honest respondents to potential students and their parents.
— The MYD box includes three tasks. The first is an ethics-related issue concerning this chapter’s position that promoting free and fully informed choices among persuadees is realistic. Be straightforward in encouraging students to argue with this position, but remind opponents of the practical benefits mentioned in the chapter, as well as the ethical responsibilities. (It is not incumbent upon teachers, we believe, to take the position that ethical persuasion always “works as well” as unethical, especially in the short run. Everyone has examples of cheaters winning. It’s helpful and perhaps rare, however, for students to hear a strong and persuasive version of the counterargument from a credible source . . . which, as teachers, we hope we are.) The second task asks students to relate negotiation to their own lives. This is an excellent opportunity to ask them to review the concepts of communication competencies and to relate this task to other courses in interpersonal communication. The third task explores the nature of questioning in persuasive interviews relative to a dictum about questions many students have heard about in a different context. You may want to review aspects of Chapter 4 if you choose to bring this up in class.
Additional activities and discussion questions
After a discussion of negotiation, highlight a prominent local campus controversy, and use a 10-minute discussion to explore the issues of various “sides.” Identify two or three primary constituencies involved in the controversy, and appoint representatives responsible for speaking for those positions. Then, do a demonstration negotiation interview, with either yourself or a student volunteer working in a fishbowl format in the center of the room. The purpose here is not to “settle” or resolve the problem, but rather to ensure that all sides understand the information and frames of other positions as fully as possible. The negotiator must therefore elicit information and acknowledgments of where information is lacking. Discuss with the class the effectiveness of the negotiation interviewing strategies. Variant: Give volunteer participants a 10-minute break to gather their thoughts about the task; during that 10 minutes, train observers (the rest of the class, perhaps) to look for certain things like defensiveness, the negotiation interviewer’s unintentionally loaded language, unfair summaries of positions, and the like. Later, observers can lead the discussion/analysis.
Additional resources
Delia, J. (1976). A constructivist analysis of the concept of credibility. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 62, 36–75.
Goodman, G. S., & Bottoms, B. L. (1993). Child victims, child witnesses: Understanding and improving testimony. New York: Guilford.
King, N. (1987). The first five minutes: The successful opening moves in business, sales, and interviews. New York: Prentice-Hall.
Rollnick, S., Miller, W., & Butler, C. C. (2008). Motivational interviewing in health care: Helping patients change behavior. New York: Guilford.
Shepherd, G. J. (1992). Communication as influence: Definitional exclusion. Communication Studies, 43, 203–219.
Smith, D. H., & Pettegrew, L. S. (1986). Mutual persuasion as a model for doctor-patient communication. Theoretical Medicine, 7, 127–146.
Wilson, R. B., Jr. (1996). Effectively interviewing the sales manager candidate. Trusts & Estates, 135, 44–47.
TruTV (formerly Court TV), a cable/satellite network, telecasts live courtroom interaction. It is an excellent source for students who want to study how lawyers question witnesses. In addition, C-SPAN, another network, often televises congressional hearings in which witnesses are questioned by committees. See the online resources for more information: and

Theater, television, and film productions abound with stereotypes of certain occupations associated with persuasive interviewing: the used car salesperson, the insurance salesperson, and the lawyer. It wouldn’t be difficult to make a brief videotape collage of different styles that are facets of such stereotypes. The 1987 movie Tin Men, starring Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito, would be a good starting point.

Sample exam questions: multiple choice, true-false/explain, identification, essay
Multiple Choice
1. Defining persuasion as a “helping relationship” means:

A. when you persuade someone, that’s helpful for you

B. you have to be helped a lot to learn how to persuade others

C. meeting your own persuasive goals should also help those people you persuade (*)

D. helping professions like counseling, health care, and social work are the best places to study persuasion

E. nothing; persuasion is a relationship of influence, not of help

2. Sometimes persuasive interviewers will benefit from the “passant phenomenon.” This means that:

A. they will accidentally run across people who want to buy things

B. people will spend more than they plan to

C. rumors will create a negative image for competing products or services

D. sometimes people will disclose personal information to a seemingly credible stranger (*)

E. certain kinds of people tend to disclose the vulnerabilities in their defenses without interviewers even having to ask a question

3. The process of social influence (in Kelman’s system) in which people change their behaviors because they want to stimulate a favorable reaction in a specified other person or persons is:

A. compliance (*)

B. internalization

C. immediacy

D. identification

E. empathy

4. The main difference between negotiation and mediation is that:

A. mediation is a when a third-party interviewer helps parties in conflict to resolve a disagreement appropriately (*)

B. negotiation is a more specific term for mediation

C. in negotiation, both parties make the decision together, but in mediation the mediator decides what they should do

D. in mediation, both parties voluntarily give up control over their definitions of the situation

E. there is no real difference; the terms are roughly synonymous

5. Which of the following characteristics most accurately describe an interrogation interview?

A. interrogation interviews are characterized by animosity between participants

B. interrogation interviews are conducted by those who already know the answers to the questions they ask

C. interrogation interviews presume that interviewees are hiding something

D. interrogation interviews are occasions for judging others as persons

E. interviewees ideally disclose relevant information whether they have something to hide or not (*)

6. Brown and Keller’s interpersonal ethic means essentially that communication messages should bolster other people’s self-images. T___ F___ Why?
7. Persuasion is the ability to make people do what you want, even if they don’t want to do it. T___ F___ Why?
8. Journalistic interviews have very few elements of persuasion in them. T___ F___ Why?
9. Prior research on the interviewee and the topic/product is relatively important for the master salesperson, because this type of person can sell anything to anyone. T___ F___ Why?
10. “Holding your fire” is an important concept for negotiators because it means you should not say anything that will irritate the other party or parties. T___ F___ Why?
11. Interrogation
12. Rapport
13. Interviewing by comment
14. Assumptive close
15. Fundamental attribution error
16. Imagine that you are placed in charge of a one-day training session for new student ambassadors at your campus. You want them to be sure to understand several basic principles of persuasive interviewing when they start their jobs. In your own words, describe four or five principles that would guide how you present your workshop; then, describe why each of these ideas is important for this task.
17. How do you know in a persuasive interview whether the interviewer is behaving ethically? The text focuses on one overriding criterion. What is it? Describe that principle and whether you agree. Then, describe a specific hypothetical persuasive interview that illustrates how this approach can be applied.
18. Describe the developmental sequence of a typical persuasive interview. You do not have to have memorized names of stages from the textbook, but generally speaking, what are the main goals that should guide the early parts of the interview? The middle? The latter parts? Why?
CHAPTER 11: Interviews in Helping Professions
The nitty-gritty
Chapter 11 provides an overview of helping in a variety of contexts, including diagnostic, therapeutic, and counseling interviews. The chapter cannot begin to prepare readers to become licensed, professional helpers, but a basic understanding of the helping interview has practical, everyday value for all of us — on the job and in our personal relationships. That point is important, because subtle signals for help can crop up unexpectedly, and if we’re uninformed or unprepared, we can miss them. Emphasis on helping should be tempered with concern that helpers can sometimes become too involved and lose perspective. The chapter also stresses empathy, listening, and probing feelings and perceptions — offering another opportunity to reinforce the skills-plus orientation. Moreover, people in need often aren’t at their communicative best, which further tests the ability of those who want to help them.
Suggestions for “Trying Out Your Skills” and “Making Your Decision” boxes
— The first TOYS box asks the reader to write interview dialogue that can show realistically the successes and dilemmas of diagnostic interviewing. The focus here should be on whether the student can point to places where criteria (such as Rogers’s facilitative conditions) are met by the doctor’s listening style. If class members take the time to act out one or more of these “scripts,” they may hear even more ways to improve this ticklish communication relationship.
— The second TOYS box is a classroom exercise that involves students’ real experiences. The stipulation that no details should be mentioned that could “even remotely be able to be associated with the real identities of [people]” gives you yet another opportunity to stress the ethical dimensions of interviewing.
— The MYD box sets up a situation in which any student could find himself or herself. It allows the reader to consider elements of diagnostic, therapeutic, and counseling communication. If you discuss this situation directly with students, you may want to remind them that what a potential helper presumes will be helpful may not actually be experienced that way by the disclosing person. Thus, a listener may be tempted to get angry, or reinforce a tendency to blame, or claim, “I know exactly what you should do,” or say “Leave it all up to me!” Help students recognize that none of these approaches will necessarily be helpful unless the disclosing person feels understood and “listened to.”
Additional activities and discussion questions
— Consult Andrew Wolvin and Carolyn Gwynn Coakley’s text, Listening, 5th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996). On pp. 284–289, they discuss a series of inappropriate and unhelpful listening responses that cut off people’s own self-exploration when they are disclosing themselves to a listener. Each example is matched effectively with a brief discussion of the problem it creates. For example, “Forget it. It’s water over the dam now” (p. 285) is analyzed as a discounting response that indicates the disclosing person somehow isn’t entitled to experience whatever frustration he or she feels. “You probably haven’t demonstrated enough initiative on the job,” an evaluative response, similarly stifles someone’s attempt to be understood. A useful classroom exercise might be to have groups look over a list of Wolvin and Coakley’s 10 inappropriate response statement examples, and then either: (1) discuss their relative frequency on campus, (2) discuss how typical they are of group members’ own behavior, or (3) create a dramatic scene to present to the class that illustrates one or two of the principles.
— In addition, David W. Johnson’s Reaching Out: Interpersonal Effectiveness and Self-Actualization, 9th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2006), contains dozens of exercises that are easily adaptable to helping interviews.
Additional resources
Baldwin, M. (1987). Interview with Carl Rogers on the use of the self in therapy. In M. Baldwin & V. Satir (Eds.), The use of self in therapy (pp. 45–52). New York: Haworth Press.
Barrier, P. A., Li, J. T.-C., & Jensen, N. M. (2003). Two words to improve physician-patient communication: What else? Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 78, 211–214. Available at:
Cichon, E. J., & Masterson, J. T. (1993). Physician-patient communication: Mutual role expectations. Communication Quarterly, 41, 477–489.
DiSalvo, V. S., Larsen, J. K., & Backus, D. K. (1986). The health care communicator: An identification of skills and problems. Communication Education, 35, 231–242.
Geist, P., & Dreyer, J. (1993). The demise of dialogue: A critique of medical encounter ideology. Western Journal of Communication, 57, 233–246.

Jackson, S. W. (1992). The listening healer in the history of psychological healing. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 1623–1632.

Keranen, L. (2007). “‘Cause someday we all die”: Rhetoric, agency, and the case of the ‘patient’ preferences worksheet. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 93, 179–210.
Kron, T., & Friedman, M. (1994). Problems of confirmation in psychotherapy. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 34, 66–83.
Lipchik, E. (1992). A “reflecting interview.” Journal of Strategic & Systemic Therapies, 11(4), 59–74.
Platt, F. W. (1992). Conversation failure: Case studies in doctor-patient communication. Tacoma, WA: Life Sciences Press.
Schneider, D. E., & Beaubien, R. A. (1996). A naturalistic investigation of compliance-gaining strategies employed by doctors in medical interviews. Southern Communication Journal, 61, 332–341.
Sample exam questions: multiple choice, true-false/explain, identification, essay
Multiple Choice
1. In medicine, a patient-centered approach involves:

A. controlling the emotions of patients

B. studying the physical roots of illness from the patient’s perspective

C. exploring both the disease and the illness “experience” (*)

D. letting the helper take charge of the patient’s treatment

E. keeping the patient fully informed of decisions

2. In therapy, the client can actually end up playing this role:

A. therapist

B. teacher (*)

C. facilitator

D. supplicant

E. parent figure

3. Codependency refers to:

A. two or more addictions or dependencies exhibited by one client

B. patients who depend on their helpers

C. a helper who suffers emotional harm as a result of dealing with clients

D. the therapist-client relationship generally

E. manipulation or control by the client (or patient) of others (*)

4. A study found that the interviewing type of the typical physician most often fits this model:

A. “Find it — Tell What to Do” (*)

B. “Listen, Learn, and Act”

C. “Partnership”

D. “How Can I Help?”

E. “Ask, Don’t Tell”

5. Which of the following best fits a balanced approach for helpers in a variety of contexts?

A. stay focused on doing everything to serve the person being helped

B. respect the other person’s role in helping himself or herself (*)

C. keep others fully informed at early stages

D. give the person being helped ample opportunity to engage in dialogue, then act according to your assessment of his or her best interests

E. exhibit a combination of empathy and sympathy

6. Leading questions can be a serious problem in diagnostic interviews. T___ F___ Why?
7. People use narratives to define and redefine themselves. T___ F___ Why?
8. Nonscheduled interviews are rare in therapy. T___ F___ Why?
9. “Facilitative conditions” refers to the ways some helpers manipulate the feelings of their clients. T___ F___ Why?
10. An inverted funnel sequence of questions is not recommended in diagnostic interviews. T___ F___ Why?
11. Closure
12. Precipitating event
13. Case worker
14. Holding
15. Cognitive therapy
16. Discuss the roles of both content-oriented and feeling-oriented listening in a specific helping context of your own choice (such as a doctor-patient diagnostic interview or an advisor-student counseling interview on campus).
17. Outline the arguments for and against full disclosure of information to medical patients.
18. What are the possible implications and consequences of helping strategies that are basically “directive”?

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