Dear Workforce How Can We Learn About Character During Employment Interviews

By Staff Report

Sep. 7, 2011

Dear Brave Hearts:

Character, courage and vision are critical in any organization hoping to compete and last in its industry. Unfortunately, these qualities are also difficult to measure. Subjective impressions and gut feelings are notoriously unreliable (and often legally indefensible). Poorly designed or inappropriate interview questions may do more harm than good. It’s takes effort to design good structured interview questions that enable you to elicit the desired behavior from an applicant. Add the difficulty of measuring the degree of character, courage or vision, and you have quite a challenge.

Your first task should be defining character, courage and vision. You can’t measure something if you don’t know what it looks like. If you can describe the behaviors one would expect to see from an employee with a high degree of character, you’re on your way. These behaviors become the measuring sticks of your interviewers.

Then, learn about an applicant’s behavior at previous jobs. See if this behavior helps you predict whether the candidate will live up to your definition of courage, vision and character. At previous jobs, did the person ever feel compelled to bend organizational policy to meet an important objective? Has he or she ever led a group that didn’t perform well? If so, what actions might have improved the group’s performance? These are the types of questions you’ll want to ask, since the answers provide insight into behavior and character.

Another valid way to assess some psychological characteristics, suggested by experts like Dr. Michael Harris and Dr. Michael Campion, is to ask applicants what they would say and do in hypothetical situations. This method allows the applicant to discuss intentions. Success with this method, however, depends on the use of trained expert interviewers.

SOURCE: Gail Neumann, Ph.D., consultant, and David E. Smith, Ph.D., president,EASI-Consult LLC, St. Louis, December 5, 2003.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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