Glassdoor conducted some research and found that each corporate job, on average, attracts 250 resumes or CVs. Now, this is the average; the actual amount obviously depends on many other factors: field, industry, company, and position. But for every 250 applicants for a corporate job, only four to six candidates on average are invited to interview. This means potential employers typically interview only 2% of job applicants.
By the time you’ve narrowed down your candidate pool to just 2%, you tend to have candidates whose CVs look very promising. So what should you look for at that interview stage? What are some crucial qualities that could be discovered? Let’s start with some obvious ones:
- A track record of learning from experience: Is the candidate able to cite real examples of growth and success in her/his past work history? Has she or he learned to turn problems and setbacks into opportunities for growth and improvement? Many hiring managers and HR professionals would cite this as the single most important indicator for job success. Behavioral interviews are structured around this principle, attempting to create a more objective test of a candidate’s value (instead of flimsier qualities, like likeability).
- Charisma or likeability: Yes, this is a bad reason to hire someone. But pretending that this isn’t a factor in hiring decisions is somewhat unrealistic. Is this candidate someone with whom co-workers and customers will enjoy interacting? Flimsy and subjective of a quality as this may be, likeability translates into value in a day-to-day work environment. Many interviewers refuse to admit this is a quality they’re noticing, while meanwhile, it influences most of their feedback and scoring. Better to be conscious of the influence of likeability, recognise it, and then isolate it in evaluations.
- Strong communication skills: Can this person express herself/himself clearly and persuasively? Anyone can get a professional to put together a CV, but there’s no expert in the room to coach your candidate during an interview. Interviews make most people nervous, so you may have someone with a great track record of success who struggles to express that. Try to set up an atmosphere that puts the candidate at ease. But ultimately, you’re judging a candidate performing under pressure, which is a valuable work quality.
- Team or collaborative orientation – Does the job candidate cite accomplishments as if she or he achieved everything single-handedly? Most achievements require the work of a team and are a cross-functional victory. Listening carefully to a candidate during an interview, it can become apparent whether this person connects to others or seeks to gain credit alone.
- Engagement or positive energy – Does this person exhibit a positive perspective and an energetic outlook? Highly engaged, positive people often lift the whole team around them. Even when they are not necessarily leaders, they create an atmosphere that can lead to a culture of speed, positivity, and even efficiency. They help those around them to want to do their jobs and do them well. Similarly, negative or low energy co-workers can bring down the output of the whole team.
- Innovative insight – Does the candidate offer innovative, even unusual insights? Many companies, particularly large and established companies, reward what is commonly expected in their organisational culture. Out-of-the-box thinking can be met with distrust and discomfort. This can result in groupthink, employees largely mimicking each other. Many interviewers look for someone who seems to ‘fit” what they expect. But looking for a candidate who has valuable insight, viewing policies, customers, or markets a little differently can be a valuable asset in creating a more innovative company.
- Curiosity – Does the candidate have good questions for you? Does she or he seem genuinely interested in your company, customer, and/or industry? This curiosity and desire for continual learning and improvement can be an infectious and driving influence to help a culture and organisation learn and improve. It also is a quality that can lead an employee to discover, diagnose, and solve problems within an organisation. And without being asked!
- Discretion (and loyalty) – Does the candidate criticise former employers or share details that you wouldn’t want shared about your own company? Though incompetent or unethical employers do exist, raising these issues or stories with a stranger during a job interview could indicate a lack of discretion and loyalty that is worrisome in a potential employee.
Interviews without focus often become simple tests of whether people might get on together. But there are much more important qualities to be looking for in an interview; an interview gives you a specific opportunity to evaluate certain attributes in a candidate and determine if she or he is right for your organisation.
Review Checklist of 8 Candidate Attributes to Look for in an Interview
- A track record of learning from experience
- Charisma or likeability
- Strong communication skills
- Team or collaborative orientation
- Engagement or positive energy
- Innovative insight
- Discretion (and loyalty)
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