Top 10 Qualities to Listen
For When Interviewing Job Applicants
There's a lot to listen for in
a conversation. When a person speaks, listen to what's NOT being
said, as well as what's being said. The purpose of an interview
isn't merely to learn about an applicant's skills or background
you've already gleaned this information from their resume.
Listen beneath the words to who a person is. Listen for the qualities
that most matter to the position and to the company.
1. Confidence & Self Acceptance
Beneath the surface conversation,
listen to who a person is. Listen for how comfortable a person
is during the silences within a conversation. All conversation
waxes and wanes during the pauses in a conversation, listen
for the level of confidence and self-acceptance a person has.
When s/he pauses to gather her/his thoughts prior to answering
your question, do you sense nervousness or anxiety? The level
of comfort a person exhibits during the pauses within a conversation
says a lot. Listen for the level of confidence and self-acceptance
beneath a person's word.
2. Follow Through & Persistence
Follow through and persistence
is the unique ability to engage in a project and see it through
-- at all costs. The downside of persistence is the fine line
that exists, separating persistence from stubbornness. Think
about the qualities that are essential to the position - then,
upgrade those qualities, envisioning a top performer in the position.
Identify the desired qualities for the job - then pursue a line
of questioning that will allow the quality to emerge. What line
of questioning will bring forth the quality you're looking for?
To ask the applicant to "tell
me about your follow through abilities" isn't going to reveal
anything but an artificial response. Use your own experiences
to identify impactful questions. What line of inquiry would bring
out YOUR perseverance? A question about personal commitments
and passions, or a question about your project management skills?
My guess is that you'll learn more about a person's persistence
by asking them about their passions vs. previous job responsibilities.
Integrity is about being
responsible for our actions and inactions; it's about keeping
one's word -- to oneself and to others. It's about being responsible
for handling whatever happens, and making adjustments so problems
don't reoccur. When one is responsible, one doesn't blame or
complain. Listen for how the applicant responded to situations
in the past. Does prior behavior demonstrate responsibility,
integrity and keeping one's word? Listen for level of ownership
and the attitude one has in accepting responsibility. (Hint:
You'll also learn about their leadership qualities in this conversation.)
The most tedious jobs
benefit when performed by a person who thinks creatively. Listen
for the level of comfort in considering and/or behaving in an
"out of the box" way. Don't confuse style with creativity.
Creative thinkers can present very "ordinary." Listen
to a person's mind when assessing their creativity. A bold dresser
who looks "creative" might very well be a rigid thinker.
A conservatively dressed person might be an extraordinary creative
thinker. Don't let appearances fool you.
We're all motivated by
our values, whether we realize it or not. Values are what motivates
and sustains us. They are the core of who a person is. What standards
motivate the applicant? Does s/he seem to value working hard
and getting the job done at all costs, or does s/he place priority
on communication? Is s/he motivated by setting standards of excellence
and quality, or are her/his motivators about connectedness and
team? Listen for what drives a person. By doing so, you'll have
a better sense of "job fit."
6. Clarity of Communication
Communication isn't just about the words a person uses. It's
also not only about the tone or affect the speaker uses. Communication
is about being 100% responsible for the other person's listening.
Communication is also about making a profound connection with
another human being. It's about establishing rapport and being
such an excellent listener that your responses perfectly answer
the needs of the conversation.
How strong a connection has the
applicant made with you? Did the person present authentically
or were they playing a role to impress you? Listen for
how well a person listens and connects with you. This is a highly
valuable skill with enormous benefit for your team and
7. Personal Philosophies & Beliefs
What are the beliefs of the person? What messages do they
embrace or are passionate about? A person's beliefs about opportunity
will generate activity based upon their particular perspective
and beliefs. Is their glass half full or half empty? A person's
personal philosophy about life will tell you something about
how they'll approach the challenges of the job. Guide the conversation
to allow the person's belief system to emerge. Then listen for
The word commit comes
from the Latin word committere, which means to connect and entrust.
Listen for a demonstration that the person has the ability to
connect and entrust her/him self consistently to your product,
service or organization. The ability to connect and entrust oneself
is a key ingredient for rapport and building trust. Commitment
is the quality that generates a consistent connection with another
- an ability that benefits all types of relationships. Listen
for evidence that the person can follow through on the connections
they make - this is where commitment is found.
Connection + Consistency = Commitment
Success comes effortlessly
to the person who's doing work they're passionate about. But,
must a salesperson be passionate about their product to be successful?
Maybe not. Listen for what the person's most passionate about
- is s/he a people person or is s/he passionate about analysis?
What motivates a person and lights their passion? When do their
eyes sparkle with excitement? The more aligned a person is to
their job, the more passionate and successful they and you will
Warren Bennis, professor
and noted author of more than 20 books on leadership, change
& management and who's advised 4 U.S. Presidents, speaks
about authenticity as a core ingredient of leadership. He says:
"Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.
It is that simple. It is that difficult."
How genuine is the person during
the interview process? How comfortable with oneself does she/he
appear? Authenticity is about being real & about being genuine
- listen for conflicts that get in the way of a person's authenticity.
Copyright © 2001 by
Jan Gordon. All Rights Reserved. This content may be forwarded
in full, with copyright/contact/creation information intact,
without specific permission, when used only in a not-for-profit
format. If any other use is desired, permission in writing from
Jan Gordon is required.
toll free US & Canada