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Storytelling in the selection interview? How applicants respond to past behavior questions

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Bangerter Adrian, Corvalan Paloma, Cavin Charlotte,
Project Interactional competences in institutional practices: young people between school and the workplace (IC-You)
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Business and Psychology
Volume (Issue) 29
Page(s) 1 - 14
Title of proceedings Journal of Business and Psychology


Purpose – Increased use of past behavior questions makes it important to understand applicants' responses. Past behavior questions are designed to elicit stories from applicants. Four research questions were addressed: How do applicants respond to past behavior questions, in particular, how frequent are stories? When applicants produce stories, what narrative elements do they contain? Is story production related to applicants’ characteristics? Do responses affect interview outcomes? Design/methodology/approach – Using a database of 62 real job interviews, the prevalence of five types of applicants' response to past behavior questions were analyzed: story, pseudo-story, exemplification, value/opinion, and self-description. We also coded the narrative content of stories, distinguishing between situations, tasks/actions, and results. We analyzed relations between applicant characteristics (gender, age, personality, self-reported communication and persuasion skills, general mental ability) and response type. We used hierarchical multiple regression to predict hiring recommendations from response type. Findings – Stories were only produced 23% of the time. Stories featured more narrative elements related to situations than tasks, actions, or results. General mental ability and conscientiousness affected response types, and men produced more stories than women. There were differences in the storytelling rate according to the type of competency. Stories and pseudo-stories increased hiring recommendations, and self-descriptions decreased them. Originality/value – Behavioral interviews may not be conducive to storytelling. Recruiters respond positively to narrative responses. More research is needed on storytelling in the selection interview, and recruiters and applicants might need training on how to encourage and tell accurate and representative stories.