It’s perfectly natural for candidates to put on their best faces during the recruitment process. People often present themselves how they want to be perceived in the interview — but as you assess talent, it’s your job to distinguish each candidate’s calculated best impression from their genuine self.
This becomes especially relevant in the first quarter of the year, when many candidates are dedicating themselves to their New Year’s resolutions. It’s tempting to view these too-good-to-be-true candidates in a positive light. After all, they present with so many unbelievable attributes, and if they admit there are some habits they’re still working on, that demonstrates self-awareness and a commitment to self-improvement.
However, a candidate’s New Year’s resolutions for growth are not a promise that those qualities will ever truly appear in the workplace. Research conducted by Strava in 2019 found that most people give up on their resolutions as early as January 19th — that is, today, the date of this article’s publication. No wonder that Strava calls this “Quitter’s Day.”
When it comes to habits like punctuality, organization, and time management, be sure to do some extra digging to verify your candidates aren’t just putting on a good show at the start of a new year. Here are four ways to see through candidates who may have resolved to hide some red flags:
1. Learn More About Candidates’ Goals
The problem with New Year’s resolutions is they’re too easy to quit when there is no plan in place. When a candidate admits they’re still working on improving their punctuality, for example, you need to follow up with a few questions.
These questions will help you discern the truth about — and gauge candidates’ attitudes toward — their resolutions:
• Where did your motivation for change come from? A strong, internal conviction will likely yield better results than a loved one pestering someone to improve.
• Is this the first time you’re working to improve this problem? If it is, what stopped them from pursuing this goal previously? Are they just saying they’re working on it because they know it’s what they’re supposed to say? If not, what stopped them from reaching their goal last time? An ongoing effort is acceptable, of course, but only as long as evident progress is made.
• How do you plan to stick to your goal? Have they established a reward and penalty system for themselves? Do they know how they’ll measure their improvement?
2. Dig Into a Candidate’s Passions
It’s critical you pay attention to passion when interviewing candidates. The gleam in the eye, the irrepressible smile, the change in voice pitch and speed: All are clear indicators that someone values what they’re talking about. Even more importantly, those kinds of responses are difficult to fake.
Showing unadulterated passion for their work in front of an interviewer is something that sets exceptional candidates apart from the rest. Those candidates aren’t hiding behind a mask they think you want to see. They’re showing you genuine excitement, positivity, and personality. When a candidate gets a little carried away rambling about why time management has become so important to them and what tools they use to keep improving, you can trust they are genuine.
3. Compare What a Candidate Says to How They Act
Candidates know the traits that could get them hired, and many actively project them to appear better than they are. That’s why it’s prudent to question everything and look for objective evidence to corroborate a candidate’s qualities.
Cross-check candidates’ resumes with their interview responses. If you’re still not sure, dig into their social presences or their references. The little details are typically where they’ll slip up if their skills aren’t genuine.
It’s not just about discerning whether the candidate has the skills they claim. Ideal candidates will also know how to implement those skills effectively in the role. During the interview, ask for specific examples and explanations to get to the heart of a candidate’s attitude, thought process, and work style. In sales, for example, I recommend behavioral interview questions like these:
• Give me an example of a time when you feel you let a customer down. How did you resolve the issue?
• A potential customer has never heard of our company before. What would you tell them about us?
• How do you research prospective customers?
• Pretend we’re introducing you to a new customer tomorrow. What would your sales process look like from start to finish?
4. Ask How a Shortcoming May Impact the Candidate’s Work
Once you’ve gone through all the the necessary steps to determine where the truth lies, you’re bound to discover some strong candidates who still have shortcomings. However, finding out a candidate isn’t the most organized or struggles with stress doesn’t have to automatically ruin their chances. It’s up to you to decide whether they could still be worth the hire.
To learn more about how a particular shortcoming may impact a candidate’s long-term value as an employee, ask about how the absence of that skill would interfere with their day-to-day tasks. For example, with disorganization, you can ask how much it limits their ability to function, whether they struggle finding necessary documents amid their clutter, and what kinds of issues their lack of organization may have caused in the past.
Karyn Mullins is president of MedReps.com. Connect with Karyn on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.