Seminar Leader Robal Johnson suggests that interviewing is probably the most important single function of the manager. It is used in the selection of people, in selling, in counseling , and in daily management interactions. Interviewing is effective in getting to really know and understand another person and is an essential ingredient in building rapport with another. The major role of interviewing is correct interpretation of frequent behavior ”a poor job of eliciting yields a poor sample of behavior, which will result in poor interpretations. Effectively eliciting behavior is one of the primary skills required of anyone who interacts with others ”salesperson trainer ”manager ”president.

Robal's guidelines for effective and productive interviewing are the essence of connection at the very beginning of a relationship, not only the employment relationship. The exercise here is unique in that it broadens the application of Interviewing. It features a preseminar reading assignment in three parts for trainees, adding to the value of the seminar itself.


  • Demonstrating interpretive skills

  • Accurately eliciting behavior and content during interviewing

  • Defining and recognizing common pitfalls during interviewing


Mastering the skills of effective interviewing help persons to understand each other better. Focusing on techniques of eliciting correct and truthful information is a tool that is useful to all employees as they communicate and connect with each other. Learning to read another person's behavior correctly is beneficial to any organization that works toward productivity and effectiveness.


  • To apply information in the pre-course reading during the seminar and in the workplace

  • To become a better interviewer


Preseminar reading assignment

Flipchart and markers or slides and a projector

Paper on which observers can record comments


Tables and chairs to accommodate groups of three persons


3 hours


  1. E-mail, fax, or mail the Preseminar Reading Assignment, Handout A, and Handout B, to all trainees who registered for the seminar at least one week before the seminar begins. Ask trainees to complete the reading in preparation for the Interviewing Seminar.

  2. Make copies of Handout A and Handout B in sufficient quantity for distribution to trainees at the seminar. Prepare flipchart pages or slides of the four sections of the Preseminar Reading Assignment: General Characteristics of an Effective Interview, Interviewing Principles, Principles of Interpretation, and Common Pitfalls for reference during the seminar.

  3. Prepare a set of titles of 6 to 10 jobs to use in role play during the seminar. Post this list of job titles on a flipchart or a slide for all to see.


  1. Organize trainees into groups of three persons for the interviewing exercise. Ask groups to identify an interviewer, an interviewee, and an observer. Be sure that the observer has pencil and paper to record his or her observations. Remind trainees that they can have their handouts and preseminar reading at hand. Give copies to any who want them.

  2. Ask the groups to choose a job title for the role play. Remind all trainees to use all of the seminar information provided as guidelines during their interviews. Ask the observer to make notes and be prepared to report to the larger seminar group after the role play. (Groups of three can also define their own job titles from their specific businesses to make the exercise more real.)


General Characteristics of an Effective Interview

  1. Interviewee does 80 to 90 percent of talking.

  2. Interviewee's behavior should be, as much as possible, representative of his or her behavior. This occurs if the interviewer sets a warm stage and alleviates tension; and if the interviewer's is calm and nonthreatening in approaching the interview.

  3. Interviewer never sells in the initial portion of the interview until he or she is sure the candidate is the one he or she wants.

Interviewing Principles

  1. The interviewer should be nonjudgmental.

  2. Ask general, ambiguous questions. (Avoid programming.)

  3. Ask value judgment, not factual questions. (Discreetly write down tentative impressions .)

  4. Ask question on subjects other than the interviewee's experience or work background. (Do not use the application form or r sum during the interview).

  5. Use short phrases for questions or reflection.

  6. Use a soft, interested tone of voice with appropriate inflection . Avoid a commanding , "grilling" tone of voice.

  7. Do not attempt to anticipate your next question.

  8. Probe choice points and unusual situations.

  9. Interrupt the interviewee ”natural conversational approach.

  10. Respond as quickly and naturally as you can.

  11. If you run into reluctance or resistance ”back off. A judgment can be made on it as an impression .

  12. Don't be afraid to be na ve ”don't try to impress the interviewee.

Principles of Interpretation

  1. The most valid interpretations are based on behaviors elicited in the interview ”pay attention to the way he or she responds, not to the content of the verbalization.

  2. Be hypercritical (a person is like an iceberg ”only the tip shows in an interview).

  3. Base interpretations on the obvious.

  4. Make your interpretations tentative ”verify them three or four times during the interview. Early interpretations should be more tentative than those made later.

  5. Write down your interpretations.

Common Pitfalls

  1. Jumping to conclusions

  2. Talking too much

  3. Creating defensiveness by coldness or too direct probing

  4. Halo effect

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  1. A person's speech patterns. A most important clue. People's speech indicates the following: a direct person is one who is direct and to the point; a thorough person goes to great lengths to explain a point; a detailed person is one who gives you detail as he or she describes something; a precise person reaches an exact point of something, etc.

  2. What a person reads. Of course, the demands on time are often a factor here, but those who want to read somehow manage to find the time. Is the person interested in expanding his or her own horizons? Learning more about his or her own specialty? Furthering his or her career? This person is ambitious. Does this person read only the local newspaper and an occasional general interest magazine? Then he or she probably isn't interested in self-development, in getting ahead.

  3. What a person likes to talk about. Accomplishments? Problems? Family? To a degree, we are all self-centered, but the person who can see no further than his or her own ego may also lack the "human touch" and the ability to see the other person's point of view. On the other hand, if he or she is well-informed about what is going on in the world, politically , economically, and socially , if they are sensitive to the "big picture", he or she will probably bring this "world view" to the job.

  4. Whom a person admires. The person who idolizes Napoleon is quite different from one who admires Albert Schweitzer. Get a person to tell you who he or she admires most, and you will know much more about a person than you may have originally thought possible.

  5. A person's " ruling passion". Politics? Economics? Gardening? Golf? Horse Racing? The Civil War? Making Money? Whatever it is, it is an important signpost of a person's character.

  6. How this person treats others. If he or she is in a position of authority, does this person act like a little Caesar or respect the rights of others? Does this person cooperate with superiors without stooping to apple polishing? Does this person give credit where credit is due? Real character can frequently be assessed by noting how a person treats the people with whom he or she comes into daily contact.

  7. A person's proudest accomplishments. Get a person to tell you his or her most important achievements, and you have a master key to that person's character. If, for example, he or she beamed at the thought of being "self-made", you may safely assume that he or she has a high regard for self- reliance , determination, and plain hard work. At the same time, this person may be intolerant of others and have no patience with those who have led what he or she considers a "soft" life. If a person takes pride in the accomplishments of his or her department or firm, that person is probably a strong believer in team effort.

  8. A person's self-image. To some extent, each of us entertains a somewhat distorted notion of the kind of person we really are. This "self-image" is a reliable clue to our character. One person may view himself or herself as a Paragon of Common Sense, unmoved by emotions; another, a Great Innovator, ever ready to attempt the new; another, the Power Behind the Throne, one who enjoys intrigue and manipulation. In every case, the person will respond to an appeal to their "self-image".

  9. A person's goals in life. Find out what a person has his or her eyes on. Find out the objective that person is striving for and where that person spends most of his or her energies, and you can usually deduce a dominant trait in a person's character. Is this person aiming for a certain income, for fame, for power? Whatever the goal, you can probably influence this person by putting your proposition in terms of the goal he or she has set.

  10. A person's work area. A person's work area is a solid clue to his or her make up. Is it neat? If so, this person is probably orderly in other ways. Are there plaques, degrees, mementos on the wall? These indicate major interests.

  11. A person's way of reaching decisions. The way in which a person makes up his or her mind to pursue a certain course of action is another clue to psychological make up. A thoughtful, prudent person will gather as much data as possible, consult with others, and study all the "angles" before acting. An impulsive person will act hastily, often overlooking alternatives. We have several clear characteristics in this area: The indecisive person who fears criticism of mistakes, the cautious person who approaches answers very carefully , the deliberate and careful person between cautious and decisive , and lastly, of course, the impulsive person.

  12. A person's reaction to setbacks. The way a person takes a rebuff speaks volumes . If he or she is well balanced, he or she won't sulk, but will try to learn from a failure. If a person dwells on it, making endless excuses and taking offense at the mention of the setback, this person may be emotionally immature. Such a person is not ready for large responsibilities, so pay particular attention to this character clue. Especially watch for sensitivity to feedback or rebuff ”a tough trait to overcome .

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Approach to Intellectual Problems


  • Grasps and Solves Problems Quickly


  • Precise in His/Her Thought; Rarely Makes

Serious Mistakes



  • Does Not Waste Time or Energy on Irrelevancies; Emphasizes Productivity


  • Intent on Avoiding Mistakes


  • Works Through Problems in an Organized Manner; Avoids Tangents


  • Examines All Aspects of a Situation


  • Generalizes from Concrete Situations to Broad, Abstract Principles


  • Breaks Down Complex Situations into Simple Components


  • Thoughts Correspond with Reality; Moves Rationally from Given Premises to Warranted Conclusions


  • Thinks in Terms of the Facts of a Situation and Considers Both Positive and Negative Aspects


  • Understands Ramifications and Interrelationships


  • Focuses on the Lowest Common Denominator in Problem Areas


  • Probes the Relevant Aspects of a Situation


  • Thoughts on an Issue Can Be Changed by New Input


  • Reaches Quick, Spontaneous Conclusions with Minimum Analysis


  • Not Fearful of New or Ambiguous Areas; Willing to Try New Things


  • Solutions Are Constructive, and Rarely Thought of by Others


  • Offers Alternatives Rather Than Criticizing the Ideas or Approaches of Others


  • Frequently Asks Questions; Interested; Seeks to Develop In-depth Understanding

Tactician Versus Strategist

  • Focuses on Daily, Narrow Issues Versus

  • A More Global View of Situations and Their Implications


  • Responds to His/Her Environment


  • Conveys Information with Minimum Verbiage, Time, and Energy


  • Moves Through Situations in a Logical Manner


  • Anticipates Necessary Actions and the Consequences of Decisions


  • Thoughtfully Hesitates Before Committing to a Decision


  • Not Fearful of Mistakes; Jeopardizes Important Things for Worthwhile Goals

Good Detail Orientation

  • Watches Nuances Closely Without Bogging Down in Them

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Name :

Robal Johnson


RAJ Associates


1000 Lake Shore Plaza


Suite 40A


Chicago, IL 60611






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ROBAL JOHNSON is an international lecturer, trainer, and business consultant with more than 20 years experience in conducting hundreds of programs and tailor-made seminars on a wide variety of subjects. These include coaching, performance evaluation, interpersonal skills, interviewing and evaluation for managers, management development in small and mid- size companies, managing the sales force, motivation, empowerment, selling skills for new or experienced salespersons, management team building, and facilitation. He is known as a seminar leader who elicits spontaneous responses while guaranteeing results.

Robal Johnson was formerly the President of Graphco Reproductions, Inc., a Chicago-based printing and engineering reprographics firm. He was on the board of Tower Products, Inc., and Pace Institute of Chicago. Previously, Mr. Johnson was Vice-President of Sales for Illinois Central Industries, and General Manager of Manufacturing for the Weyerhauser Company.

He received his initial education at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the University of Hartford, where he obtained his BS in Engineering. He did advanced graduate work in Business Management at the University of Connecticut.

Robal Johnson has taught these AMA seminars:


Fundamentals of Sales Management for the Newly Appointed Sales Manager, Level 1


Advanced Sales Management


Recruiting, Interviewing, and Selecting Employees


AMA's 5-Day MBA Program

The AMA Trainers Activity Book. A Selection of the Best Learning Exercises from the Worlds Premiere Training Organization
The AMA Trainers Activity Book: A Selection of the Best Learning Exercises from the Worlds Premiere Training Organization
ISBN: 0814408141
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 61

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