Reveal Your Candidate’s Emotional Style
Wouldn’t it be nice to ask one specific question that uncovers at least four areas of your candidate’s general personality, giving you an idea of their overall behaviors, traits and values?
Well, you can. On your next interview guide the conversation towards personality and ask, “Tell me about a time when a co-worker gave you advice.” This one question will uncover four pieces of vital information about the candidate:
- Are they open to criticism or constructive feedback? Listen closely to the response and hear if the candidate was able to grasp the feedback or if they became uncomfortable and got defensive. This could be a sign of inflexibility when future differences occur.
- Are they receptive to change? Did the candidate view the suggestion constructively? If they say that they didn’t realize they had that trait, or that they worked on it or changed the behavior afterward, you can have more confidence about their openness to dialogue and their receptiveness to any future concerns.
- How independent are they? The candidate’s answer can be interpreted in a number of ways. If they were embarrassed by the advice and wanted to change to fit the role, they may be a follower. If they didn’t agree with the advice, it could signal an independent, free spirit who likes to do things their own way. Or it could mean they are prideful and vain. Listen closely to the rest of the conversation and put the answer into context.
- How much do they respect their co-workers? If they took the advice of their co-worker, it could mean a belief in strong ties and the trust that comes from team effort.Asking targeted follow-up questions will enable you to find out even more about the candidate. For example:
- How did the co-worker initially bring up the feedback?
- What was the candidate’s initial reaction?
- Did they agree with the co-worker?
- Looking back, what do they think about conversation?By asking these questions, you now have a much clearer picture of whether these characteristics complement what you are looking for in a candidate.Behavioral QuestionsBehavioral questioning seeks demonstrated examples of previous work situations and how the candidate handled them. The premise rests on the notion that past behavior is a sound predictor of future behavior; that the candidate will likely handle a similar situation in the same fashion in the future.
There are three types of questions typically found in interviews:
- Theoretical questions place the candidate in a hypothetical situation. They are more likely to test the candidate’s skill at answering questions than doing a good job. For example, “How would you organize your project team to begin work?”
- Leading questions hint at the answer the interviewer is seeking by the way they are phrased. For example, “Working on your own doesn’t bother you, does it?”
- Behavioral questions seek demonstrated examples of behavior from the candidate’s past experience and concentrate on job-related functions. They may include:
- Open-ended questions require more than a “yes or no” response. They often begin with “Tell me…,” “Describe…,” or “When…” For example, “Describe a time you had to be flexible in planning a workload.”
- Close-ended questions help to verify or confirm information. For example, “You have a Masters Degree, is that correct?”
- “Why” questions reveal the rationale behind decisions or the level of motivation. For example, “Why did you decide to apply for this position rather than somewhere else?”Use STAR to Get the Whole StoryWhen asking questions, use the STAR technique to obtain a STAR answer, which assists in uncovering the “entire story.” STAR is an acronym for:
- Situation-specific examples the candidate was involved in
- Tasks that describe the situation they were involved in
- Actions they took related to the situation’s tasks
- Result that followed due to their actionsFor example, you might ask a candidate, “Tell me about a time you had to resolve conflict and bring people together in a group setting.” Here’s what a complete STAR answer might look like:”Last semester, I was working with a group on a project for a class. We needed to decide on a topic and determine the data that needed to be analyzed. A number of people in the group became argumentative and could not come to a consensus as to what direction to take. I remembered a workshop I had attended about conflict resolution, and used some of the techniques to help us understand each other. We sat down and outlined all of our options, and determined exactly where we disagreed. In the end, coming together at the table and making lists really helped, and we were able to pull off a great project. The professor said that it was one of the best-organized projects she had ever seen.”With a few simple questions and the STAR technique, you can uncover a wealth of information that can help you uncover a candidate’s behaviors, traits and values before is too late.
Helena Ferrari is director of Human Resources for SDC Technologies, Inc., a manufacturer of chemical coating materials based in Anaheim, Calif.