The employee interview

It is important that you as an employee have familiarised yourself with the methods and ideas that apply to employee interviews in your workplace.

What do collective wage agreements say about employee interviews?

In (Art. 1.2.2.) of the collective wage agreement between VR and SA provides that an employee has the right to an annual interview regarding their job and any possible change to employment terms. If an employee requests an interview, it should be granted within two months, and the results of the interview should be available within one month.

VR emphasises that this right should be respected.

The objective of the employee interviews is that both the employer and the employee can express their opinions about the job and related matters. In order for the employee interview to be as efficient as possible, it is preferable that the parties discuss matters relating to the employee’s job.

See the minutes on the employee interview in its entirety (p. 85 in the English pdf agreement)

Everything you need to know about the employee interview

How do you get the most out of the employee interview? You will find the answer to that in this section which guides you through the interview so that you know how best to prepare, what to do if the supervisor makes you uncomfortable and whether it is appropriate

  • According to the collective wage agreement, the company must comply with the employee’s request for an employee interview within two months of such a request.
    If the supervisor does not initiate an interview, you can politely and honestly request an interview.

    1. Discuss the matter with your colleagues.
    2. Together, you can make a request to the supervisor for regular employee interviews.
    3. Good arguments for the supervisor: Besides the fact that employee interviews are important to the employees to ensure job satisfaction and growth in the job, the employer can, through such interviews, ensure the best distribution of tasks and resources and thus development and productivity in the workplace.
    4. If your supervisor is not sympathetic to this, contact your shop steward or union for assistance in finding the best way to handle matters if there is no employee interview offered at your workplace.
  • The objective of the employee interviews is that both the employer and the employee can express their opinions about the job and related matters which is to ensure the development and strengthening of the employee.

    Here is a list of topics you can discuss in an employee interview. Some of them are stated in the minutes of the parties to the agreement, VR and SA/FA.

    • The past year – your projects, their success and development.
    • The job itself and the workload.
    • General well-being in the workplace and your collaboration with co-workers, customers and immediate superiors.
    • Your knowledge with regards to your job.
    • Your projects, their number and project management.
    • Job satisfaction.
    • Working environment, working conditions and working facilities.
    • Flow of information.
    • Workplace morale.
    • Feedback to the employee from their immediate supervisor.
    • Career development and objectives.
    • Your requests and those of the workplace for the future, about your projects and what needs to be developed and what new skills need to be built to meet those requests.
    • What education do you need and what studies/courses/training could be considered in the next 12 months.
    • Mutual assessment, how does your supervisor evaluate your contribution? Are you familiar with the objectives and values of the workplace and your supervisor?
    • Wages and other employment terms, if no decision has been made to discuss that separately.
    • The wage interview and how best to prepare for it is discussed here.

    It is not recommended to discuss:

    • Very personal matters, if you don’t want to. You set the boundaries.
    • Other employees, unless in a professional manner and regarding the work.
  • Think about what you want to talk about in relation to the past year, in connection with your projects, your well-being in the workplace, job satisfaction, management and communication in the workplace, as well as goal setting and results. It is good to write down the issues you want to discuss in the employee interview.

    Think about what you want at work for the coming year. Do you want new tasks? Do you need to take a course or educate yourself in something?

    Examine your opportunities and qualifications for education and skills development carefully, so that you can make well-considered requests.

    If you have a criticism, e.g. about your supervisor or the work environment, consider carefully how you can present it politely and respectfully.

  • According to Gylfi Dalmann Aðalsteinsson, associate professor at the University of Iceland’s School of Business, it is important to be well prepared for the employee interview. Employee interviews are a forum for employees and managers to improve the workplace, where parties step aside from the hustle and bustle of the day and discuss aspects of the work.

    Gylfi emphasises the following checklist regarding employee interviews:

    • Review the form thoroughly and fill it out a few days before the employee interview, so you get a better sense of what will be discussed in the employee interview and how it works.
    • Be well prepared, give yourself plenty of time, review your job description and see how the tasks have changed since the last employee interview. Be ready to discuss these changes.
    • In employee interviews, mutual and constructive communication takes place between the employee and the manager. Use this forum in a constructive way.
    • The main objectives of the employee interview are reform, to clarify what is unclear, assess behaviour and performance and examine the need for training (career development).
    • Remember that the goal of the conversation is to improve collaboration and increase job satisfaction.
    • In the employee interview, you will have the opportunity to discuss your well-being at work, workload, work ethic and working conditions. It is beneficial to focus on specific issues rather than general ones.
    • In the employee interview, you will have the opportunity to discuss the management and governance of the workplace and evaluate these aspects.
    • Set goals for the coming year, the goals should be SMART, i.e. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
    • Take a good look at your performance, how are you doing in certain areas, in what areas are you doing well and where do you need to improve?
    • Remember that the employee interview is confidential.

    The employee interviews are a forum for establishing regular conversations between employees and managers with mutual provision of information and improved communication in mind. Therefore, this is a kind of feedback where the employee and the manager are given the opportunity to discuss various issues related to the employee’s work environment, such as requests for career development and training and the employee’s educational needs. The benefits of employee interviews are unequivocal. Through regular employee interviews, a forum is created for communication between the parties to discuss the work and the work environment, thus strengthening trust between the parties, the employee gets the opportunity to comment on their own performance, workplace management, workplace culture and they can comment on workplace management.

    Furthermore, the employee becomes aware of how they are performing at work and can better understand the managers’ expectations of them. This type of communication also increases the likelihood of managers’ increased understanding of the needs of employees in general, and not least when it comes to the person’s career development and lifelong learning. Finally, employee interviews also contribute to regular motivation and a better work ethic, and last but not least, such interviews can prevent disputes and misunderstandings, clarifying things that may be unclear.

  • Criticism and requests/demands can be presented in a positive manner in an employee interview. However, it requires that you prepare what you want to say and how you want to say it and that you think about your body language.

    Honesty regarding stress: If you feel nervous about an employee interview, please say so. Say: “I’ve been looking forward to this and I’ve prepared well, but I’m still a little nervous.” That way, your supervisor knows that you want to be there but that they should make an effort to make you feel at ease.

    Remember to criticise in a constructive manner.
    Give a short example: “In XX situations, you said YY and it made me nervous.” Think about what is positive about your workplace and then relate it to what is negative. For example, if you are under pressure in terms of time and projects, you could say, “I enjoy working here and I have good co-workers. But I feel that I don’t get enough time for my projects and that puts a strain on me.”

    Receive criticism in an open way: Be ready to receive criticism. Don’t get defensive. Listen and get your supervisor to be clear and ask them to suggest a solution to the problem. Ask if you don’t understand something or you don’t agree with something. For example: “When you say I’m not co-operative enough, what do you mean?”

    Be persuasive: When you need to be persuasive, either to have your requests or criticism met, straighten up and let your shoulders drop, move in a relaxed way (don’t jerk) and speak in a clear and strong voice with an open face. You can even practice in front of the mirror at home.

    Be an active listener: When you need to appear open to the discussion, smile and sit back in your chair with your arms relaxed in your lap. Look your supervisor in the eye. Don’t squint, keep your eyes open. You can also raise your eyebrows and tilt your head slightly to achieve a friendly demeanour. You can even practice in front of the mirror at home. Don’t interrupt your supervisor when they are talking.

    Leave your bad habits: Hold back on physical bad habits that can make you appear insecure or unprofessional and can get on your supervisor’s nerves. Don’t scratch your nose, blink continuously, fidget in the chair, shift your eyes around the room or say “uhhmmm” too often.

    Take a break: Take a little break when you need to think. A little silence is much better than saying something that is not well considered. This applies both to criticism and demands/requests.

  • You are responsible for your own behaviour. But if your supervisor is mean, talks down to you or makes you uncomfortable in any other way during the employee interview, then you should:

    Talk to your co-workers to see if anyone else has experienced the same thing.
    Contact the shop steward or your union who can help you take the issue further.

  • Herdís Pála, Managing Director of Operations and Human Resources at Deloitte, recommends the following when preparing for an employee interview:

    It is very important that employees be well prepared for employee interview with their supervisor. If the supervisor has not convened such an interview for a long time, the employee should request such an interview, but then also be well prepared, as previously stated.

    Factors or questions that can be helpful to go over during the preparation are, for example:

    • What success in my work have I been most proud of in the past year, or since the last employee interview?
    • What are my main strengths, am I utilising them well enough at work, how could I utilise them better?
    • How has communication with colleagues and customers/clients been going?
    • What new knowledge or skills have I gained over the past period?
    • Opportunities for improvement that I see regarding my work, so that I and my team achieve more success.
    • How do I want to continue learning and developing at work?

    You are more likely to be able to express your views to your supervisor if you have prepared well and have examples ready.
    With good preparation, where you have examples ready to support your case, you are more likely to be able to express your views to your supervisors.
    Likewise, welcome all suggestions and consider them as opportunities to continue to become an even better employee.

  • You and your supervisor should create a list or summary of what you agree on and what should happen during the coming year. Both of you should sign it.
    If your supervisor does not take the initiative regarding the changes that were decided, remind them of the items on the list and review it together.

    Go through each item on the list/summary for the next employee interview. Assess whether goals have been achieved or whether there is a need to review some items.

  • There can be many pitfalls in employee interviews. If you recognise any of the following, you should bring it up with your immediate supervisor, shop steward, or union:

    • An employee interview is practically the only time of the year you talk to your supervisor.
    • For a whole year, you suppress accumulated stress, disagreements with co-workers or requests for courses because you only dare to discuss such things in employee interviews.
    • You are afraid of employee interviews because the work environment is not good and therefore it is frightening to have to be alone with your supervisor.
    • You are friendly with the supervisor and you blurt out too much personal information in employee interviews. You feel like you have said too much and are afraid that your supervisor will use it against you.
    • You or your supervisor keep postponing the employee interview. This indicates that they are not taken seriously and booking a new appointment may be forgotten.
    • You or your supervisor have not prepared for the employee interview and thus chat casually – without assessing the situation, setting new goals or preparing any development work.
    • Therefore, there is no follow up to the employee interview.
  • Your supervisor calls you in for an employee interview once a year and you both prepare well. The interview takes place in a quiet environment where telephones and e-mails are blocked.

    You and your supervisor give each other constructive feedback and agree on some things that need to change for your well-being at work, regarding tasks and retraining.
    The company’s objectives for the coming year – and thus also the objectives of your projects – are clear.

    You have also been given permission to strengthen personal skills, e.g. in communication, languages, mindfulness or problem solving, if it also benefits the company.

    You have been given new responsibilities or authorisation for a job transfer or new projects.

    You are provided with tools in the form of appropriate courses, continuous learning, coaches or mentors to tackle the new projects.

    You and your supervisor aim to solve problems in the workplace, if you have mentioned any, such as noise in an open office space or workload.

    You get a wage increase because you point out in the interview that you have gained more skills or had more responsibilities in the past year.

  • Group discussions follow the same principles as regular employee interviews but are used in project groups, or teams that work together for a longer period of time. The group and the supervisor may need to hold an annual meeting where the development of the group’s projects and job satisfaction and its projects are reviewed. Both the supervisor and co-workers should prepare for a group discussion in the same way as for an employee interview, and the agenda and division of roles should be clear.

    Group discussions can provide employees with more influence, both increasing the competence of the individuals and the group as a whole, making objectives clearer, the framework realistic and ensuring feedback.

    Group discussions can give the supervisor more knowledge about the group’s skills and thereby maximise the group’s use of resources and give the best possible results and provide a clear view of what motivates the group to do well.

  • When preparing for an employee interview, it is very important that you put your work and skills into words, as well as the skills you want to acquire.

    Therefore, it can be helpful to create a job description, which describes your work role, responsibilities and work environment, and a competency description, which describes your professional and personal skills.

    This can make your projects and skills more prominent in the supervisor’s eyes and therefore you may be able to argue for more responsibilities, a higher wage or new projects. It can also support your argument for continuous learning if your skills do not meet the requirements set out in the job description.