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How to Standardize Interview Formats Across Multiple Departments

The most worthwhile interview is a structured one with predetermined questions carefully planned and sequenced.

How can you use interviews to your advantage when tackling the job redesign process? Find out more here.

Interviews are most valuable when used in conjunction with other techniques such as questionnaires and work logs so data can be verified. This gives the interview direction and helps assure that the same kinds of data are gathered from each different employee interviewed.
If job descriptions are to be standardized across departments, then interview format and content also should be standardized.
Interviews also work best if they are conducted after the analyst has gained insight into a given job by work logs or questionnaires and after the analyst has consulted with the supervisor of the incumbent about the given job. Job analysts are much better prepared to ask worthwhile questions during the interview if they have considerable insight into the job first.
Interviews are expensive; they take time. They also require considerable patience and skill on the part of the analyst. The analyst has to know how to direct the interviewee toward expression of information that will be worthwhile. A useful technique to use during interviews is to ask interviewees to categorize their jobs into six to twelve general areas of responsibility such that all specific tasks will be covered by the general categories--this is a technique that helps employees better visualize and understand their jobs. This gets interviewees to mentally probe the structure of their jobs, and to comprehend the entire job--leading to richer discussions about the position later in the interview.
Standardized Questionnaires, Checklists, and Functional Job Analysis
Standardized questionnaires have the advantages of being already developed, fully tested for validity, and allowing for comparison of data across organizations. The fact that jobs in many different types of organizations have essentially the same structure is the underlying rationale for use of standardized approaches. Quantitative task inventories have the great advantage of allowing for in-depth statistical analysis of jobs and for better comparison of jobs. The Managerial Position Description Questionnaire (MPDQ) is a method of analysis that relies upon the checklist to analyze jobs. It contains 208 items related to the concerns and responsibilities of managers, their demands and restrictions, and miscellaneous characteristics. These 208 items have been condensed into thirteen job factors as follows:
  1. Product, market, and financial planning
  2. Coordination of other organization units and personnel
  3. Internal business control
  4. Products and services responsibility
  5. Public and customer relations
  6. Advanced consulting
  7. Autonomy of action
  8. Approval of financial commitments
  9. Staff service
  10. Supervision
  11. Complexity and stress
  12. Advanced financial responsibility
  13. Broad personnel responsibility
The MPDQ is designed for managerial positions, but responses to the items vary by managerial level in any organization and also in different organizations. The MPDQ is appropriate for determining the training needs of employees moving into managerial jobs, evaluating managerial jobs, creating job families and placing new managerial jobs into the right job family, and compensating managerial jobs.
The Position Analysis Questionnaire (PAQ) describes jobs in terms of worker activities. The six activities analyzed in the PAQ are the following:
  1. Information input: Where and how does the worker get the information used in performing the job? Examples are the use of written materials and near-visual differentiation.
  2. Mental processes: What reasoning, decision-making, planning, and information-processing activities are involved in performing the job? Examples are the level of reasoning in problem solving and coding/decoding.
  3. Work output: What physical activities does the worker perform, and what tools or devices are used? Examples are the use of keyboard devices and assembling/ disassembling processes.
  4. Relationships with other people: What relationships with other people are required in performing the job? Examples are instructing and contacts with the public or customers.
  5. Job context: In what physical or social context is the work performed? Examples are high temperature and interpersonal conflict situations.
  6. Other job characteristics: What other activities, conditions, or characteristics are relevant to the job?
The PAQ rates each job on the basis of 194 descriptions related to these six activities. In the PAQ, the nature of jobs is essentially determined in terms of communication/decision making/social responsibilities; performance of skilled activities; physical activity and related environmental conditions; operation of vehicles and equipment; and processing of information. Using these five dimensions, jobs can then be adequately compared and clustered. The job clusters can then be used for, among other things, staffing decisions and the development of job descriptions and specifications. The PAQ's reliance on person-oriented traits allows it to be applied across a variety of jobs and organizations without modification. This, of course, allows organizations to more easily compare their job analyses with those of other organizations.
The Hay Plan is used in a large number of organizations. Although much less structured than the MPDQ and PAQ, it is systematically tied into a job evaluation and compensation system. Using of the Hay Plan allows an organization to maintain consistency not only in how it describes managerial jobs, but also in how it rewards them. The purpose of the Hay Plan is: management development, placement, recruitment, Job evaluation, measurement of the execution of a job against specific standards of accountability, and organization analysis.
The Hay Plan is based on an interview between the job analyst and the job incumbent. The information that is gathered relates to four aspects of the incumbent's job: the objectives, the dimensions, the nature and scope of the position, and the accountability objectives. Information about the objectives allows the reader of the job description to know why the job exists in the organization and for what reason it is paid. Information about dimensions conveys to the reader how big a show the incumbent runs and the magnitude of the end results affected by his or her actions.
The real heart of the Hay Plan job description is the information about the nature and scope of the position, which covers the five crucial aspects below:
  1. How the position fits into the organization, including reference to significant organizational and outside relationships.
  2. The general composition of supporting staff. This includes a thumbnail sketch of each major function of any staff under the incumbent's position--size, type, and purpose.
  3. The general nature of the technical, managerial, and human relations know-how required.
  4. The nature of the problem solving required: What are the key problems that must be solved by this job, and how variable are they?
  5. The nature and source of control on the freedom to solve problems and act, whether supervisory, procedural, vocational, or professional.
See the following articles for more information: