Motivational interviewing: what it is and techniques

Motivational interviewing helps to understand the mechanisms underlying the motivation of a candidate or employee in order to draw a...
29 December 2022

Motivational interviewing helps to understand the mechanisms underlying the motivation of a candidate or employee in order to draw a plan of action in the case of being selected or accessing new responsibilities. 

It is applied in various fields such as medicine, education, psychology, law, and Human Resources (HR), the area we will focus on.

In order to make this type of interview a success, you must have professionals who are familiar with its principles and techniques and who can be proactive. 

These are the reasons why we will explain what it is, what its principles are, what techniques it uses, and how many phases it consists of so that you can retain and capture the talent that your project needs. 

What is motivational interviewing?

Motivational interviewing is a type of interview that allows you to identify whether a person is ready for the change involved in joining a new company or in a new job. 

It also allows the interviewer to identify the best way to facilitate this change through dialogue and negotiation. 

This type of interview assumes that change, rather than a result, is a multi-stage process whose starting point is motivation and commitment.

The four essential characteristics of motivational interviewing are:

  1. Bonding. It helps to create a connection with the interviewee based on respect and trust. 
  2. Focusing. It is about maintaining a specific direction throughout the conversation. 
  3. Evoking. The interviewer helps the candidate to make explicit the motivations that lead them to desire a change. 
  4. Planning. The interviewer sets out a concrete plan of action for the interviewee, in which negotiation comes into play. 

These four characteristics require assertion, active and reflective listening, among other skills that make up the principles of this type of recruitment interview. 

motivational interviewing

What are the principles of motivational interviewing 

Motivational interviewing bases its strategy on five unavoidable principles you should know, which we will discuss below.  

Practicing empathy

Through active and reflective listening, empathy is shown as an attitude of respect for the person that establishes an atmosphere of trust. 

Developing discrepancies

Getting the candidate to explain why they need to change allows you to delve deeper into their expectations. 

In this sense, motivational interviewing can be helpful to in annual employee evaluations, as it can detect frustrations and extract valuable information that helps to adapt your career plan

Avoid judgment

The interviewer should avoid confronting the candidate’s statements, so it is necessary to seek the path of empathy without making judgments so that they can express what they want freely. 

Strengthening self-efficiency

It is based on conveying to the interviewee that you believe in their capabilities to carry out the change, strengthening their decision. 

Underpinning freedom of choice

Motivational interviewing should provide the interviewee with the necessary tools to advance the change process through proactive and reactive attitudes such as pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.

what is motivational interviewing

Techniques of motivational interviewing

The principles we have just seen are developed thanks to narrative support techniques to make the person feel accepted and understood. Here we leave some examples of motivational interviewing techniques.

Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions call for broad and well-argued answers. This would be the case with questions such as: “What aspects of your job – or the offer – concern you most? 

Rephrasing and reflective listening

The interviewer guides the interviewee thanks to a sort of mirror effect that reflects or emphasizes parts of the interviewee’s intervention to provoke the interviewee to go deeper into those rephrased aspects. 

You can use phrases such as “That sounds like…”, “You seem to feel…”. 

Awareness of the consequences of change

By helping the person express their arguments for making the change, they become aware of them and delve deeper into the implications. 

For example, using a scale to score the need for change from 0 to 10 allows you to probe the candidate’s answers by asking, why did you say four and not 8?

Summary and positive restructuring

In this technique, the interviewer highlights the positive aspects of the person’s speech by rewarding statements of concern by underlining ambivalences with phrases such as: “You say that…, but…”. 

Motivational interviewing phases

Motivational interviewing phases

The motivational interview can be part of a structured interview and used in a few minutes.

It consists of 4 four distinct moments: 

  1. Beginning of the motivational interview. This involves introducing, through an open-ended question, the topic of conversation that the interviewee wishes to address. 
  2. Exploration of reasons for concern. In this phase, the candidate’s concerns are explored with questions such as: “What worries you about your new responsibilities? 
  3. Choosing options for change. Thanks to open-ended questions and a reflective listening process, you can delve into critical milestones in the candidate’s experience with phrases such as, “You say that when faced with …, you react in such and such a way, but you could react differently?”.
  4. Summary. Finally, the summary of the interview should also involve the interviewee by asking for their intervention to confirm that the interviewer has understood what he or she wanted to express. 

Motivational interviewing requires, as you have seen, that an exchange based on respect and trust is built between the interviewee and the interviewer, and even more so in the case of remote interviews. 

In these cases, our proctoring products can help you create safe environments for your interviews, motivational or otherwise. Do not hesitate to ask us for a free demo in which we will share with you solutions adapted to your needs.


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