By Kent Noel, Ph.D.
In this current economic climate, employers will likely have a surplus of candidates from which to choose. This further begs the question, “What can be truly learned about a prospective candidate in terms of potential for success from a pre-employment interview?”
The short answer is not much. Findings consistently show that interviewing is a 50/50 proposition, a “coin-flip” in terms of selecting the best fit candidate. Conversely, comprehensive psychological assessment, done properly, can increase predictability to well over 90% – saving a small business considerable time and money by getting it right the first time.
That so, interviewees can raise “red flags” when it comes to what they say or how they say it. While many may simply be having a bad day and thus not giving the best or truest account of themselves, some stylistic patterns can emerge as possible “deal killers.”
Some individuals experience considerable difficulty providing a “Cliff’s Notes” version or sound byte. When queried, they engage in lengthy accounts of past successes chocked with non-essential details.
While such communications may simply be the nervous ramblings of a person trying to impress (completely convey all he/she can about past experiences and accomplishments) it could also be a signal that succinctness in responding is not a strength. Nor is full consideration of the needs of the listener.
If this tendency persists, through multiple interviews with different questioners, it may pose real concerns in terms of moving forward. If chosen, such individuals may monopolize group situations and kill both constructive discourse and morale over time in the process. People can and do lose their jobs over such propensities. Consultants hear these kinds of stories all of the time.
The tell-tale sign of an egoist is her/his overuse of the words “I” and “me” when describing career successes. In small business settings, few, if any, best result scenarios occur in isolation. Even if the person did largely work alone, he/she likely benefited significantly from collaboration in some fashion.
If they cannot articulate how they were helped along the way, it can speak to a real lack of collegiality. Moreover, if selected, these individuals may be too focused in on their own advancement at the expense of optimally preparing subordinates and peers for possible next steps professionally. It is hard to work for, with, or under those who are blatantly and intensely self-serving.
The Guarded One
By its nature, job interviewing is, to a large extent, a “put your best foot forward” endeavor. Nevertheless, candidates should possess enough self-awareness to effectively articulate strengths and weaknesses beyond the generic “I’m too impatient” or “I expect too much out of myself” responses.
Additionally, they should be able to describe how they were instructed in the past-how someone actively mentored them from a “green” to “seasoned” performer. Moreover, they should also demonstrate recent, ongoing learning experiences. If they cannot give voice to the above, it may indicate concerns regarding coachability. Responses to questions such as “tell the last time you learned something and from whom,” can speak volumes.
Finally, if past experiences did not pan out as envisioned, it should not always be someone else’s fault. Applications with a “reason for leaving section” for previous jobs can provide further information as to how a candidate viewed her/his role in things not working out as anticipated. Again, a lack of objectivity may be at play.
The Career Explorer
Amazingly, some people enter job interviews not knowing what they really want to do professionally and actually convey this uncertainty to the interviewer. Incredibly, they openly give voice to considering going back to school in a new field or starting a business while at the same time trying to sell themselves and their experiences/abilities to a prospective employer.
From their comments and demeanor, the position they are applying for seems to be little more than a stop gap or settle for type scenario, not a destination job. This may be more prevalent, pronounced in the present economic cycle. While re-inventing oneself vocationally can be tremendously satisfying to an individual, no small business benefits from taking on someone who doesn’t know what he or she wants to be when they grow up unless the position is, in fact, limited in duration and all parties agree to timeframes.
At its best, interviewing alone is a dicey proposition. The above can help screen out undesirables, but offer little in terms of identifying those right for a particular position. This puts further impetus on the need for psychological assessment. Gut feelings and hunches are best given credence when supported by hard data.