Narrative competence in job interview conversations

 Young woman talking with recruiter in a job interview

Project summary

This project studies how young job applicants tell personal narratives in job interviews and how these narratives affect their interview outcomes.

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This subproject investigates four research questions: 

  • How are personal stories jointly accomplished in job interviews?
  • How are personal stories evaluated by recruiters?
  • How are narrative and interactional competences represented as objects of institutionalized discourse? 
  • How do narrative practices evidenced in job interviews feature in other institutional activities?
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Three field studies will be conducted. They will focus on:

  • Videotaped interactions between recruiters and candidates in real job interviews
  • Recruiters’ evaluations of interview stories from listening or viewing these tapes 
  • Official organizational documents and advice literature about conducting interviews

A range of analytical methods, both qualitative and quantitative, are used:

  • Analysis of interactional data will focus on how personal stories are elicited, as well as how they get jointly produced by candidates and recruiters
  • A secondary focus will be on content and performative aspects of stories
  • Recruiters’ evaluations will be analyzed quantitatively and related to story content and performance
  • Social representations of narrative competence will be determined by content analysis of relevant documents and by interviewing recruiters

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In terms of basic research, this subproject will generate novel understanding of key linguistic and interactional processes that take place in the job interview. It will complement existing research on impression management in the job interview by specifying the collaborative activities by which impressions are co-constructed. The rise of behavioral interviewing will lead to new demands on the narrative competences of job candidates. By diagnosing typical features of narratives in job interviews and analyzing the normative institutional expectations that are brought to bear on the evaluation of young people’s personal stories, this project will lead to insights that can be used to train both candidates and recruiters.

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  • Bangerter, A., Mayor, E., & Pekarek Doehler, S. (2011). Reported speech in conversational narratives during nursing shift handover meetings. Discourse Processes, 48, 183-213. 
  • Button, G. (1992). Answers as interactional products: two sequential practices used in job interviews. In: P. Drew & J. Heritage (Eds.), Talk at work (pp. 101–134). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kerekes, J. (2007). The co-construction of a gatekeeping encounter: An inventory of verbal actions. Journal of Pragmatics, 39, 1942-1973.
  • Ralston, S. M., Kirkwood, M. G., & Burant, P. A. (2003). Helping interviewees tell their stories. Business Communication Quarterly, 66, 2003.

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Team members

List of Publications