Week 3 Discussion Post

Post a critique of the research study in which you:

· Evaluate the authors’ use of literature.

· Evaluate the research problem.

· Explain what it means for a research study to be justified and grounded in the literature; then, explain what it means for a problem to be original.

How and Why Do Interviewers Try to Make Impressions on Applicants? A Qualitative Study

Annika Wilhelmy and Martin Kleinmann Universität Zürich

Cornelius J. König Universität des Saarlandes

Klaus G. Melchers Universität Ulm

Donald M. Truxillo Portland State University

To remain viable in today’s highly competitive business environments, it is crucial for organizations to attract and retain top candidates. Hence, interviewers have the goal not only of identifying promising applicants but also of representing their organization. Although it has been proposed that interviewers’ deliberate signaling behaviors are a key factor for attracting applicants and thus for ensuring organiza- tions’ success, no conceptual model about impression management (IM) exists from the viewpoint of the interviewer as separate from the applicant. To develop such a conceptual model on how and why interviewers use IM, our qualitative study elaborates signaling theory in the interview context by identifying the broad range of impressions that interviewers intend to create on applicants, what kinds of signals interviewers deliberately use to create their intended impressions, and what outcomes they pursue. Following a grounded theory approach, multiple raters analyzed in-depth interviews with interview- ers and applicants. We also observed actual employment interviews and analyzed memos and image brochures to generate a conceptual model of interviewer IM. Results showed that the spectrum of interviewers’ IM intentions goes well beyond what has been proposed in past research. Furthermore, interviewers apply a broad range of IM behaviors, including verbal and nonverbal as well as paraverbal, artifactual, and administrative behaviors. An extensive taxonomy of interviewer IM intentions, behaviors, and intended outcomes is developed, interrelationships between these ele- ments are presented, and avenues for future research are derived.

Keywords: employment interview, impression management, signaling theory, recruitment, qualitative study

The employment interview continues to be the most popular selection tool used by both applicants and organizations to assess and select one another (Macan, 2009). It is characterized by social exchange processes between applicants (who want to get hired) and representatives of the organization (who want to attract and select the best candidates). To reach their goals, applicants and

interviewers try to detect what their interaction partner is interested in and try to use this information to send appropriate signals (Bangerter, Roulin, & König, 2012).

Signaling processes in the interview have mainly been studied in terms of impression management (IM) efforts (Delery & Kacmar, 1998). Scholars have repeatedly pointed out that interviewers frequently use IM and that these deliberate behaviors are a key factor for attracting applicants and thus ensuring an organization’s economic success (e.g., Dipboye & Johnson, 2013; Rosenfeld, 1997). However, it is striking that past interview research has rarely addressed the phenomenon of interviewer IM, as most prior studies have limited their focus on how applicants use IM (Ko- slowsky & Pindek, 2011). Furthermore, research has assumed that interviewers use the same IM behaviors as applicants (e.g., Ste- vens, Mitchell, & Tripp, 1990) without taking a closer look at what interviewers actually do when they interact with applicants.

We define interviewer IM as interviewers’ deliberate attempts to create impressions on applicants (cf. Schlenker, 1980) and argue that it is important to identify and explain interviewer IM. As outlined below, we argue that interviewers’ aims and opportunities may be different from those of applicants, and therefore their IM efforts should be somewhat different as well. Furthermore, schol- ars have noted that signaling theory, which is most often used to explain recruitment phenomena (Bangerter et al., 2012; Spence,

This article was published Online First October 5, 2015. Annika Wilhelmy and Martin Kleinmann, Department of Psychology,

Universität Zürich; Cornelius J. König, Department of Psychology, Uni- versität des Saarlandes; Klaus G. Melchers, Institute of Psychology and Education, Universität Ulm; Donald M. Truxillo, Department of Psychol- ogy, Portland State University.

We thank Talya N. Bauer and Adrian Bangerter for their helpful com- ments on earlier versions of the paper. We are grateful to Stéphanie Weissert, Lisa Juliane Schneider, Romana Nussbaumer, and Sabrina Engeli for their help with data collection and analysis and to Michel Hunziker for his help with data analysis. We would also like to thank Susanne Inglin, Domenico Amendola, and Roger Keller for technical and methodological consultations.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Annika Wilhelmy, Department of Psychology, Universität Zürich, Binzmuehlestrasse 14/ 12, 8050 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail: a.wilhelmy@psychologie.uzh.ch

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Journal of Applied Psychology © 2015 American Psychological Association 2016, Vol. 101, No. 3, 313–332 0021-9010/16/$12.00 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/apl0000046

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1973), is currently not well defined and understood in the context of interviewers’ IM intentions and behaviors (Celani & Singh, 2011). Thus, to provide a more comprehensive theoretical under- standing of how and why interviewers try to create impressions on applicants, it is crucial to learn more about interviewers’ deliberate signaling behaviors as well as their underlying intentions.

Therefore, the aim of the present study is to use a qualitative approach to create a taxonomy and a conceptual model by identi- fying and analyzing the broad range of possible interviewer IM intentions, behaviors, and intended outcomes. We use this concep- tual model to point out propositions for future research on inter- viewer IM. Drawing on interdependence theory (Rusbult & Van Lange, 2003), this study sheds light on how interviewer and applicant IM are similar and distinct. Furthermore, our study elaborates signaling theory (Bangerter et al., 2012; Spence, 1973) in the interview context by gaining insights into specific signals that are deliberately used by interviewers and why these signals are being sent.

Theoretical Background

Signaling Processes in the Interview

The employment interview is a dynamic exchange in which interviewers and applicants engage in social interaction, gather information, and create and form impressions (Levashina, Hartwell, Morgeson, & Campion, 2014). Consequently, in the last two decades, researchers have increasingly considered both inter- viewer and applicant perspectives and have given more attention to how applicants and interviewers intentionally adapt their behaviors to pursue their interests (Dipboye, Macan, & Shahani-Denning, 2012).

In employment interviews, applicants have information that is of interest to interviewers but to which interviewers do not necessar- ily have access (e.g., information about the applicants’ personal- ity). Similarly, interviewers have information that is of interest to applicants but to which applicants do not necessarily have access (e.g., selection criteria). In situations like this, when two parties have access to dissimilar information, signaling theory (Bangerter et al., 2012; Spence, 1973) is helpful for describing and explaining behavior. According to this theory, signaling processes consist of several elements, such as two primary actors—the signaler, sender, or insider (e.g., the interviewer) and the receiver or outsider (e.g., the applicant)—as well as the actual signals sent by the signaler to the receiver (Connelly, Certo, Ireland, & Reutzel, 2011). As Con- nelly et al. (2011) pointed out, the signaler can also take an active part in this signaling process. For instance, interviewers can de- liberately choose whether and how to reduce information asym- metry by intentionally communicating (or signaling) certain qual- ities to applicants who lack this information (Connelly et al., 2011).

In this vein, IM behaviors reflect an intentional way of sending signals (cf. Schlenker, 1980). While interviewers’ signals could be anything that is interpreted as a signal by the applicant, interviewer IM refers to signals that are deliberately sent by the interviewer. In other words, interviewer IM relates to a deliberate facet of signal- ing theory (Bangerter et al., 2012). In addition, it is important to note that any behavior that an interviewer applies could constitute interviewer IM behavior if this behavior is shown with the inten-

tion to create impressions on applicants (e.g., asking challenging interview questions not only because they are part of the interview guide but also with the intention to signal the organization’s high performance expectations). Conversely, if an interviewer’s behav- ior is not linked with such an intention (e.g., asking challenging interview questions only because they are part of the interview guide), it does not constitute interviewer IM.

Although signaling theory is the framework most often used to explain recruitment phenomena, it is currently not well defined and understood when it comes to organizational representatives’ inten- tions and deliberate signaling behaviors (Celani & Singh, 2011). To further develop signaling theory, there have been calls to view and study signals within their social context, such as the context of employment interviews. As such, a typology of signals that are sent in certain contexts—like the employment interview—would be of high value to partition these signals into meaningful catego- ries and thus further understand signaling phenomena. In addition, research would benefit from investigating the incentives of signal- ers, such as the outcomes they want to achieve by using signals (Connelly et al., 2011). Thus, the main focus of this study is on signaling intentions, the signals that interviewers deliberately send through their behavior to create applicant impressions, and the outcomes interviewers want to achieve.

Potential signaling on the side of the interviewer. When organizations try to attract and retain promising applicants, delib- erate signals such as interviewer IM behavior have been proposed to be particularly important (Celani & Singh, 2011). Nevertheless, despite extensive calls in the literature to examine how and why interviewers intend to affect applicant impressions (cf. Delery & Kacmar, 1998; Dipboye & Johnson, 2013; Gilmore, Stevens, Harrell-Cook, & Ferris, 1999; Macan, 2009), there have been no systematic attempts to examine the broad range of IM behaviors used by interviewers. However, evidence suggests that interview- ers pursue specific goals and that there are certain interviewer characteristics that positively influence applicant attraction (Chap- man, Uggerslev, Carroll, Piasentin, & Jones, 2005; Derous, 2007).

It is important to note that only vague categories of behavior have been examined with regard to applicants’ perceptions of interviewer behaviors (e.g., competent behavior, professional be- havior, friendly behavior; cf. Chapman et al., 2005). Whereas it has been found that certain interviewer behaviors and characteris- tics influence recruiting outcomes, such as perceived interviewer personableness, competence, informativeness, trustworthiness, warmth, humor, and job knowledge (Carless & Imber, 2007; Chapman et al., 2005), the signals that interviewers deliberately send through their behavior to create these intended impressions have not been identified. Knowing more about these specific, deliberate signals is crucial because it would help interviewers to influence applicant impressions and thus to enhance recruitment success.

Furthermore, we do not know to what degree these interviewer behaviors represent IM in terms of intentional, goal-directed be- haviors. For instance, Tullar (1989) examined on-campus inter- viewer utterances and found that about two thirds of the utterances could be categorized as being structuring (e.g., expanding on a previous statement) and nearly one third as demonstrating equiv- alence such as mutual identification (e.g., “That is interesting”). Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether, how, and why interview- ers intentionally adjust their behaviors to create images in appli-

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cants’ minds—for example, images of being competent, profes- sional, or friendly.

Potential differences between applicants’ and interviewers’ signaling. Applicants and interviewers find themselves in the same social setting, but it might be misleading to apply existing applicant IM taxonomies to interviewers. There may be consider- able differences in applicants’ and interviewers’ roles, intentions, and scopes of action. Interdependence theory (Rusbult & Van Lange, 2003) focuses on the causal determinants of dyadic social behavior and provides a conceptual framework for the structure of interpersonal situations. The main idea of this theory is that char- acteristics of the situation (e.g., individuals’ interests, information, and level of dependence) exert strong effects on individuals’ behavior—for example, IM behavior. Thus, although interviewers should apply some IM behaviors similar to those of applicants, they should also apply different IM behaviors because they differ from applicants regarding several situational characteristics.

First, interdependence theory (Rusbult & Van Lange, 2003) suggests that individuals are likely to use IM in different ways when they pursue different goals. As pointed out by Bangerter et al. (2012), applicants and interviewers have partly divergent inter- ests. For instance, while applicants’ primary signaling interest is to get a job offer, one of the interviewers’ interests is to identify, attract, and finally hire the best performer. With this end in mind, interviewers try to create an image not only of themselves but also of the job and the organization as a whole (Connelly et al., 2011). In other words, interviewers need to influence applicants’ image of multiple targets. Thus, in addition to IM behaviors that we know from applicant IM research such as self-promotion or self-focused IM behaviors (i.e., describing one’s past accomplishments and competencies in a positive way) and ingratiation or other-focused IM behaviors (i.e., flattering one’s interaction partner), interview- ers may use additional strategies to promote the job and the organization.

Furthermore, many existing taxonomies distinguish between assertive IM behaviors that aim to enhance one’s own image and defensive IM behaviors that aim to defend against threats to a positive image (e.g., Ellis, West, Ryan, & DeShon, 2002; Van Iddekinge, McFarland, & Raymark, 2007). However, in addition to the goal of promoting or defending oneself, the job, and the organization, interviewers have also been given recommendations to provide realistic information to facilitate self-selection (Wanous, 1976) and to signal honesty (Earnest, Allen, & Landis, 2011). Thus, in order to create realistic applicant impressions, interviewers may apply behaviors that go beyond applicant IM and that should result in a broader range of IM behaviors than the ones that applicants apply.

Second, according to interdependence theory (Rusbult & Van Lange, 2003), individuals’ behavior is influenced by the informa- tion that is available to them. This is particularly relevant in employment interviews, which involve interaction between strang- ers and are characterized by the presence of vague information about the other (Rusbult & Van Lange, 2003). For example, interviewers have access to information on applicants’ past fail- ures, potential weaknesses, and gaps in the applicants’ curriculum vitae (CV)—whereas applicants usually do not easily get informa- tion before the interview regarding the job, the organization, and the interviewer. This depth of interviewers’ information on appli- cants should give them more possibilities to deliberately send

signals and should thus translate into a broader set of IM behaviors as compared to applicants.

For example, while research on applicant IM has primarily focused on verbal IM behaviors (i.e., the content of applicants’ responses and statements), scholars have pointed out that much more could be considered as part of one’s attempt to create images (Dipboye et al., 2012). For instance, nonverbal IM has been seen as a fruitful area of research, including IM behaviors such as smiling, eye contact, and body posture (Levine & Feldman, 2002), as well as head nods, handshakes, and hand gestures (McFarland, Yun, Harold, Viera, & Moore, 2005). In addition, verbal behaviors through ways other than words may be used, also referred to as paraverbal or paralinguistic behaviors (DeGroot & Motowidlo, 1999). Examples of paraverbal behaviors include style of delivery (e.g., pitch and speech rate) and verbal fluency.

Third, interviewers and applicants are, to some extent, depen- dent upon each other, but in distinct ways, which should result in some differences in their IM (Rusbult & Van Lange, 2003). For instance, applicants rely on interviewers because interviewers’ evaluations affect their chances of a job offer (cf. Barrick, Shaffer, & DeGrassi, 2009). Therefore, applicants aim to create a positive image. Similarly, interviewers depend on applicants in terms of applicants’ job choice behavior and hence intend to create impres- sions on applicants (Dipboye et al., 2012). However, interviewers are usually in a more powerful position than applicants because applicants only get to make a decision about whether or not to work for the organization if they are offered a job (Anderson, 1992). Consequently, interviewers might have the intention of signaling this power by using IM behaviors that go beyond appli- cants’ IM.

Aims of the Present Study

In summary, interviewers’ goals and opportunities for IM are likely to differ from applicants’ goals and opportunities. Therefore, to enhance our theoretical understanding of this phenomenon, it is crucial to develop a comprehensive taxonomy and a conceptual model about the deliberate signaling processes on the side of the interviewer in terms of interviewer IM. To address these empirical and theoretical gaps, we want to explore three main questions with our qualitative study. Based on these research questions, our aim is to develop a conceptual model and a taxonomy about how and why interviewers apply IM.

Research Question 1. What do interviewers intend to signal to applicants—that is, what are interviewers’ IM intentions?

Research Question 2. What signals do interviewers deliber- ately use to create their intended impressions—that is, what IM behaviors do interviewers apply?

Research Question 3. What outcomes do interviewers want to achieve by deliberately sending signals to applicants—that is, what are interviewers’ intended IM outcomes?

Method

Grounded Theory Approach

Grounded theory is a qualitative methodology that is particu- larly appropriate for our study because it has been developed to understand phenomena about which little is known (Glaser &

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Strauss, 1967)—such as interviewer IM. In addition, grounded theory has been shown to help researchers understand complex social processes (Willig, 2009). Thus, it has been suggested that researchers apply qualitative research strategies, like grounded theory, in employment interview and IM research (cf. Macan, 2009).

A core characteristic of grounded theory research is that data collection and analysis are closely interrelated to engage with a phenomenon as deeply as possible. As such, analyzing data influ- ences the strategy of data collection and vice versa (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Hence, in our study, data analysis influenced our subsequent choice of participants, interview questions, observation emphasis, and topics for further data analysis.

Furthermore, grounded theory involves collecting data from multiple sources using multiple techniques and analyzing it from multiple perspectives to create a multifaceted sense of the phe- nomenon (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Thus, following recommenda- tions by Bluhm, Harman, Lee, and Mitchell (2011), we sampled diverse interviewers and applicants and collected comprehensive information from in-depth interviews with interviewers and appli- cants, observations of selection interviews, the review of memos related to these in-depth interviews and observations, and the review of informational material that was given or recommended to applicants during the interview. These data were analyzed and discussed by multiple researchers (following recommendations by Corbin & Strauss, 2008).

Moreover, according to grounded theory, data collection and analysis continue until no new information is gained—that is, until no new categories and concepts emerge from the data. In the present study, this point, which is called theoretical saturation (Glaser & Strauss, 1967), was reached after analyzing 30 in-depth interviews, 10 observations of real employment interviews, 43 memos, and 12 pieces of informational material.

Samples

To better understand interviewers’ IM behaviors, we studied samples of populations who had firsthand experience with the social interaction processes in employment interviews: people who are regularly conducting employment interviews (i.e., interview- ers) and people who had recently been interviewed in several employment interviews (i.e., applicants). We included applicants because signalers (i.e., interviewers) might not always report all of the signals they apply. Specifically, we used information provided by applicants to develop ideas about possible interviewer IM intentions and behaviors. We then asked interviewers whether the behaviors and intentions reported by applicants actually repre- sented deliberate interviewer IM.

To achieve high heterogeneity of data sources, we began our study with different variables in mind that might influence inter- viewer IM, such as gender, age, interview experience, hierarchical level, and educational level (Dipboye, 2005). Interviewers were 27 to 63 years old (M � 41.5, SD � 12.2), and 60.0% were male. Their interview experience ranged from several months to 40 years, and the number of interviews conducted in the past 12 months ranged from 4 to 300. Furthermore, their hierarchical levels were very diverse, ranging from assistant positions (e.g., human resources [HR] assistant) to senior manager positions (e.g., commanding officer in the army), and their vacancies ranged from

trainee and administrative positions to positions with managerial functions. The industry sectors of these vacancies were also very diverse, such as human health services, financial services, and the army.

Applicants were 25 to 46 years old (M � 31.1, SD � 7.7), and 33.3% were male. Their interview experience was very diverse, ranging from 5 to 30 interviews, and the number of interviews in which they had participated in the past 12 months ranged from 3 to 11. Furthermore, our applicant sample consisted of people applying for various positions such as paid internships, adminis- trative jobs, PhD programs, executive officer, senior consultant, and senior manager positions in various industry sectors ranging from human health services, financial services, and travel services to research and education.

Following an approach within grounded theory called theoreti- cal sampling (Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007), we did not determine a priori what kind of and how much data we wanted to collect. Instead, we used information gathered during the research process to develop ideas about who could be interviewed and observed next. These new data were used to see whether additional relevant categories might emerge, whether categories were well estab- lished, and whether relationships between categories were fully developed (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Thus, later in the process, we also approached interviewers and applicants from industry sectors that were not yet included in our sample (e.g., manufacturing and gambling services) because industry sectors were mentioned as a potentially important aspect by participants. In addition, we pur- posely included organizations that were facing difficulties regard- ing their reputation (e.g., a wholesale trade service organization that had recently faced a scandal) because participants pointed out that this might help to capture potential defensive strategies used by interviewers. Furthermore, participants’ comments led us addi- tionally to include third-party interviewers (e.g., recruiting consul- tants) and interviewers within an employing organization, inter- viewers with experience in college recruiting and in initial screening interviews in addition to late-stage interviews, and in- terviewers and applicants with experience in telephone interviews, video interviews, and panel interviews (because of the common- ness of such interviews). Sampling was done through job websites, an alumni pool of a Swiss university, and references from our participants.

Data Collection

For data collection, we applied several methods as suggested by Bluhm et al. (2011): semistructured in-depth interviews of inter- viewers and applicants, observations of real employment inter- views, memos, and review of informational materials provided to applicants. It is important to note that behaviors that were observed and ones that were reported by applicants provided us with addi- tional ideas of potential IM behaviors that we could verify in subsequent in-depth interviews to ensure that these behaviors constituted IM (i.e., that they were applied by interviewers with the intention of creating impressions on applicants). The in-depth interviews and observations are further described below. Memos (one to two pages) were written subsequent to each in-depth interview and observation and during the coding process. They were used to document ideas for data interpretation and to engage in self-reflection about potential personal biases (see Glaser &

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Strauss, 1967; Suddaby, 2006). Furthermore, as suggested by Bansal and Corley (2011), informational material (such as bro- chures) that was given or recommended to applicants was ana- lyzed.

In-depth interviews. All of the 30 in-depth interviews (1 hr) with interviewers and applicants were conducted by the first author in Switzerland and Germany. Regarding in-depth interviews with applicants, the main goal was to develop ideas about what IM intentions interviewers might have had and what signals they might have applied to create favorable impressions. Regarding the in-depth interviews with interviewers, however, we placed special emphasis on whether they really reported having had these intentions and whether they deliberately engaged in them in terms of IM.

Following an orienting theoretical perspective (Locke, 2001), in-depth interviews were based on semistructured interview guides derived from insights gained during the review of the existing literature. As can be seen in Appendices A and B, these interview guides covered four aspects: (a) whether the particular impressions that applicants form during interviews might be important to interviewers, (b) impressions that interviewers want applicants to form, (c) behaviors that interviewers apply to create these favor- able impressions, and (d) possible consequences of interviewer IM. Part (a) of the interview guide ensured that our participants were concerned about the impressions applicants form during the interview. It also prepared the mind-set of our participants and stimulated them to take a recruitment perspective on the interview to ensure that we had a common basis for the data from all interviews.

Furthermore, our interview questions were continuously adapted during the data collection process depending on the insights we gained (Glaser & Strauss, 1967): Questions asked earlier in the research process were different from those asked later as we better understood the interviewers’ and applicants’ experiences and con- texts (see Appendices A and B). For instance, to verify ideas that emerged from applicants’ statements or from observations, we adapted the questions for our in-depth interviews with interviewers to verify that these behaviors were intentionally applied IM be- haviors rather than some other, naturally occurring behavior. Hence, our in-depth interviews became increasingly focused over the course of the study.

At the beginning of each in-depth interview, participants were ensured of confidentiality and anonymity during further data pro- cessing. They were instructed to answer our questions based on the employment interviews they had conducted (or participated in as an applicant) within the past 12 months. At the end of each in-depth interview, participants were given a survey that covered demographic and context information. Furthermore, we audio re- corded all in-depth interviews.

Observations. As interviewer IM behaviors might not always be recognized by either interviewers or applicants, we decided to observe 10 actual employment interviews. Following recommen- dations by Bluhm et al. (2011), these observations served as an additional data source to develop ideas on possible interview IM categories that could be verified in subsequent in-depth interviews with interviewers.

The observed employment interviews were between 25 min and 2 hr long and took place in seven different organizations. Two of these employment interviews were with the same interviewers.

Furthermore, one interviewer took part in both the in-depth inter- views and the observations. In addition, three of the employment interviews were not only observed but were also audio or video recorded. To avoid observer-expectancy effects, observation par- ticipants were not told that this study examined interviewer IM behavior (Kazdin, 1977). Instead, they were briefly informed that we were interested in the social processes taking place in employ- ment interviews and were ensured confidentiality.

The first author and a trained industrial and organizational psychology (I-O) master’s-level student conducted all of the ob- servations using an observation guide (see Appendix C). The goal of this observation guide was to help consider all important aspects of the interview. The guide consisted of three main parts: obser- vations prior to the employment interview (e.g., what interviewers say and ask prior to the interview), different kinds of interviewers’ IM behavior during the employment interview (e.g., how inter- viewers talk to the applicants during the interview), and observa- tions after the employment interview (e.g., body language of interviewers after the interview). In addition, the observation guide contained sections for unstructured observations in order to in- clude data that might lead to new interpretations or themes. Similar to the in-depth interview questions, the content of the observation guide was constantly adapted in the course of the research process.

During and after each observation, the observers wrote down which IM behaviors interviewers showed on the basis of the observation guide and noted verbatim what the interviewers said. Observed behaviors were described with as much detail as possi- ble. At the end of each observation, the observed interviewers filled out a survey that covered demographic and context informa- tion. As described above, the observed behaviors were then incor- porated into the in-depth interviews with interviewers to ensure that they actually constituted instances of IM rather than some other kind of behavior.