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Best Practices For Uncovering a Job Candidate's True Personality


You know that personality can have a big impact on whether or not a job candidate will be successful in a given role at your business. But unless you’ve worked with this person before, it can be a challenging task to uncover someone’s true personality during the hiring process.

Resumes are useful documents, but don’t really show personality beyond “This person can pay attention to spelling and formatting when it’s absolutely a must.” And candidates often push themselves in interviews to display whatever personality type they think a potential employer is searching for.

Hiring for Personality Guide - free download

Obviously, everyone has a personality that’s hiding under there somewhere. Here are some best practices for bringing that inner self to the light.

Ask for cover letters.

In the days of computerized applications, some employers no longer request (or even look at) cover letters. But this is a mistake! Cover letters not only give candidates an opportunity to explain anything odd in their resume (such as long employment gaps, unusual educational credentials, or a circuitous career path), they are also an early opportunity to peek at the candidate’s personality.

What do they emphasize about themself? What about the position excites them most? While some cover letters are formal to the point of seeming zombie-like, others will provide a window into how they communicate and interact with others, a key consideration in hiring for many roles.

Consider personality assessments.

If you don’t have time to grill every candidate on every single one of their personality traits, it can help to lean on a good assessment. These assessments will focus on the kinds of environments that make them most comfortable, often by providing a series of questions in which they can choose between two options. 

While individual questions can sometimes provide an inaccurate picture (all questions are oversimplified to one degree or another), enough of them together can uncover a candidate’s natural inclinations with surprising detail, even if they have tried to shift their answers to what they perceive as the “right” ones.

Interview carefully.

Straight-up asking questions like “Would you say you’re more logical or creative?” or, even worse, “How would you describe your personality?” will tell you more about how the candidate is able to hedge around awkward questions than anything else. Off-the-wall questions like “What character from the Wizard of Oz do you most identify with?” will get you more of the same. (Did you really plan to eliminate a solid candidate because they feel like a flying monkey at their current job?)

If you’ve used a personality assessment tool before interviewing, this is your chance to ask questions related to any areas of concern you may have. Behavioral interview questions are especially useful in this way. If you’re worried that your introverted candidate might be overwhelmed by the amount of public interaction the role requires, you can ask questions like “Tell me about a time when you had to manage the expectations of large numbers of people,” or “You mentioned presenting at Big Industry Conference last year. Can you walk me through that experience?”

Ask for references.

Still not sure about whether your impression of a candidate’s personality is accurate? Ask their references. Most will want to present the applicant in a good light (after all, that’s why they were asked to be references in the first place), but it’s much easier to get an honest answer once they understand you’re not looking for them to criticize, but rather to provide a clearer picture. Other mutual acquaintances are also excellent sources for personality questions.

No single method will tell you everything about a candidate.

By using all the tools at your disposal, you can get a little closer to understanding someone’s personality, and whether that personality might work well in your organization. Interested in learning more? Get your free copy of True Match: Hiring for Personality.

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