From: Caroline Lipovsky <caroline.lipovskyarts.usyd.edu.au>
Subject: Negotiating Solidarity: A social-linguistic approach to job interviews
Institution: University of Sydney
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2005
Author: Caroline Lipovsky
Dissertation Title: Negotiating Solidarity: A social-linguistic approach to job interviews
In any kind of encounter, you are often judged, amongst other things, by
your behaviour. This is why people often engage in impression management to
influence their audience in a desirable way. Controlling one's
interlocutor's impressions is particularly important if there is much at
stake, or if something can be lost or gained from a given interaction, so a
good way to investigate impression management is to look at job interviews.
This study sets to find out how candidates and interviewers, in the course
of a job interview, manage the impression they make on one another.
This study is based on the analysis of video-recordings and transcriptions
of four authentic interviews in either French or French and English (83
minutes), five role-played interviews in French (74 minutes), and follow-up
interviews with candidates and interviewers for both authentic and
role-played interviews (23 hours and 34 minutes). All but two of the
candidates are native speakers of English, whereas the interviewers are
native speakers of French or English; however there were few intercultural
misunderstandings in the interviews in French with the non-native speakers.
The analysis uses Systemic Functional Linguistics to identify key elements
of the participants' speech, and the theory of politeness to interpret the
motivations for their choices. The findings are supported by the
candidates' and interviewers' post-interview comments. The study focuses on
three areas: the candidates' negotiation of their expertise, the
interviewers' and candidates' negotiation of a common identity, and their
negotiation of rapport.
The analysis shows that the candidates' enactment of their expertise (how
they talk about it) is more important for the impression they make on their
interviewers than their actual skills and professional experience.
Successful candidates volunteer relevant, sufficient and precise
information through numerous full clauses, material processes that describe
what they do/did at work, circumstantial adjuncts that express where, when,
how, etc, they perform/ed tasks at work, and show in-group knowledge
through technical language.
Then, the interviewers and candidates may highlight co-membership through
their use of the semantic resources of Involvement (e.g. familiar terms of
address and informal or specialised language) or humorous utterances and
joking. They may also try to establish co-membership by discussing shared
attributes of their identity, through small talk about common
acquaintances, or self-disclosure of information pertaining to their
An Appraisal analysis highlighted that candidates also share feelings and
beliefs with their interviewers in order to show they belong. For instance,
they make positive judgements on their capability to perform in their job
to negotiate their professional co-membership. They also display positive
feelings, such as enthusiasm and passion for their job to negotiate
empathy, and a positive attitude to emphasise they are the kind of
individuals people want to work with. On the other hand, interviewers share
positive feelings and appreciations about the candidates' performance in
the interview to build rapport and appear friendly as future colleagues.
Thus, this study illustrates how the interviewers' and candidates'
lexico-grammatical and semantic choices play a role in their impressions of
one another and how they attempt to bond with each other.
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