Top 10 Qualities to Listen For When Interviewing Job Applicants
by: Jan Gordon
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
- 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.
- 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 impact 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 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.)
- Creativity 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.
- Standards 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."
- 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 organization.
- 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 it.
- Commitment 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
- Passion 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 be.
- Authenticity 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.
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Jan Gordon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visited on the web at http://www.qualitycoaching.com