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How to judge a job candidate's personality (and why you should)

Sharon Florentine | July 22, 2014
An emphasis on evaluating personality traits is helping firms find, attract and retain talent by using targeted interview questions that gauge more than technical aptitude.

A Family Dynamic
For Sunil Sani, co-founder at education and skills consulting firm Career Glider, making sure potential employees would be a fit within the family-owned company is of the utmost importance when interviewing candidates.

"We are a family business, so the dynamic is a bit different from other places," Sani says. "Finding someone who can fit into the company and, therefore, into our family, is really important. I focus on communication skills, values and attitude. I present a problem and ask candidates how they would solve it to see if they'll rise to the challenge," he says.

Hearing a candidate's answer and watching them work through a problem gives Sani insight not only into their enthusiasm and skills, but also gives him insight into their thought processes and allows him to gauge how they'll fit in, he says.

"When I see a candidate in an interview, I'm much more apt to ask them about the portion of their resume that talks about hobbies, skills and other interests," Sani says. "I can always teach them technical skills. I can't teach them culture or force a cultural fit where there isn't one," he says.

What's the Right Answer?
If you're a job seeker and find yourself on the receiving end of one of these interview questions, there's no "right" or "wrong" answer, says ExecuSearch's Bernstein, but there are some points to remember. First and foremost, be honest, even if your answer might mean you're not a good fit for the company.

"Don't pretend to be someone you're not," Bernstein says. "Even if you were to land the job, you're not going to be happy there and chances are the company won't be happy, either," he says.

Second, always do research up front to get a general sense of the company culture to make sure you even want to interview with the firm.

"You still should do research ahead of time to find out the culture and the working atmosphere and decide if you want to work there; then you can anticipate 'personality' questions and craft your responses based both on your true self and the needs of the company," Sani says.

Then, if you find a great fit, everyone wins.


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