How to Identify the Best Character Traits During a Job Interview

BY C. Lee Smith
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Hiring managers often fall victim to bias as they review applications and consider how candidates present themselves in an interview. The “similarity attraction” bias, described by Angelica Guttierez, happens when interviewers like candidates who went to the same college they did. In other cases, interviewers might automatically rank a candidate higher than a more qualified person because they are the child of a friend. These factors should not come into play during a job interview but character traits should. You’re hoping to find the best person for your open position. To do that, you can minimize the influence of bias and rely on data that matters.

How to Identify Good Character Traits

It’s far more effective to consider the good character traits needed for a new hire to succeed in your organization instead of relying on likeability and familiarity. Being confident, self-​motivated and a problem solver are the characteristics most sales professionals believe they need in order to succeed, according to our research. The sales managers in our most recent Voice of the Sales Manager survey generally agreed with the sales reps’ opinions, but they also believe the ability to manage time is another critical characteristic.

How will you know if a candidate possesses the traits you’re looking for? Asking a person directly if they manage their time well will usually be answered with, “Yes.” Candidates are paying attention to what they think matters most to the interviewer. If they are serious about landing the job, they’ll give the answer they believe the person wants to hear.

Changing the Job Interview Questions

The job interview usually involves asking a serious of agreed-​upon questions, which are often provided by HR departments. That’s because managers aren’t always sure what they can ask during an interview. A few training sessions provided by the HR department can assist managers who must follow the law when talking with candidates.

Beyond that, managers need to ask a few nonstandard questions to determine whether a candidate possesses the best character traits for the job. Using a psychometric assessment will allow you to measure how well a candidate’s typical behavior at work matches the job they’re applying for. The assessment results will also allow you to determine whether the candidate will be a good fit for the types of customers your organization typically serves. Making a hiring decision based on that information will result in a more successful outcome than relying on your instinct alone.

Asking A Key Question

Another way to determine the best character traits is to consider company fit. Every company possesses unique aspects and culture. For the most part, hiring managers want to onboard people will fit in while also enhancing the group through their unique characteristics. At Amazon, for example, the process of hiring new employees follows the challenge set forth by the founder, Jeff Bezos. Members of Amazon’s interview panels ask themselves: “Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they are entering.” If you can answer affirmatively about the candidate that you like best, you’re much closer to making a great hire.

Because each candidate brings a unique set of skills, tendencies and experiences to a position, managers should ask personalized questions. A great assessment platform will suggest interview questions based on a candidate’s profile. For example, one of your candidates has a profile that indicates they are more likely than most employees to be a perfectionist. This could be a problem in the sales assistant position you’re hoping to fill. While accuracy is important, you need to hire a person who can produce output at a reasonable pace. Consider asking questions like the following:

  • How important is design and formatting in your slide deck or proposals?
  • Which is more important — understanding all perspectives and details of a project/​problem or acting swiftly and decisively?

The answers your candidate gives will allow you to understand their decision-​making process at work.

Realistically, most candidates will not be a perfect match for your position. But after you identify your top candidate's character traits during the assessment and interview process, you can onboard a new employee who checks most of the boxes. At that point, you can coach, train and manage them to optimal productivity.

Photo by George Milton on Pexels.