Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Advice to Candidates: Don't Lose Out On A Job Because Of Your Personality; Advice To Interviewers: Don't Lose A Great Candidate Because You Confuse Adjectives

It is a shame that people with certain personality traits lose out on interviews because of them.  And  interviewers often misjudge candidates because they do what I call, confusing adjectives. Interviewees need to know themselves well enough to manage perceptions of themselves and interviewers need to carefully assess candidates by probing them carefully.

What happens is that interviewers assume, for instance,  that someone who is laid back cannot be dynamic when they present to a client.  Or that someone who is thoughtful cannot be quick on their feet.  Or, that someone who is assertive during their interview isn’t a good listener or follower.

This is a common interviewing mistake when it comes to assessing candidates.  It costs many companies to lose good candidates and many candidates not to get jobs that they should have.
If a candidate has the proper credentials and background, but may come across as not being exactly what you are looking for, it is incumbent on the interviewer to explore that issue, question further or even confront the candidate to determine whether they are right or wrong for the job based on details learned from questioning.  This is especially true if they come from good companies or strong competitors.  I have had candidates rejected because they came across in the wrong way.  Those same candidates then got other similar jobs where they succeeded admirably.  The difference is that the company that hired them spent the time fully understanding the candidate and did not confuse adjectives.

And candidates should know themselves well enough to understand how they come across and correct misperceptions which may come from their personality.

I once had a candidate delay his answer (hem and haw, actually) on a question about strategy. The interviewer concluded that he was not strategic when, what the candidate was really doing, was collecting his thoughts.  I was told the candidate was not quick enough on his feet.  Today that candidate is the chief strategic officer of a major ad agency, a direct competitor to the one where he was dismissed.  I am told he is witty, smart, great on his feet, but can be thoughtful when asked tough questions.  The original interviewer simply didn’t explore the issue far enough to discover the candidate’s substance and ability.

Following is a brief list of adjectives and descriptors which are easily confused.  This list could go on and on, but you will get the point.

Thoughtful = Quick
Laid Back = Aggressive
Aggressive = Patient
Quiet = Strong
Nervous = Unsure
Soft Spoken = Strong
Talks a Lot = Listens Well
Creative = Strategic
Strategic = Creative
Friendly = Tough
Glib = Credible

The key is not to stop at a mere judgement, but to fully explore your intuition to determine if the person you are interviewing is really capable of doing the job.  It is  also something that can be further explored during reference checks.

And, as a candidate, you must know yourself well enough to be able to communicate your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.

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