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It’s not easy to pinpoint what interviewers want. You may be confronted with as many different approaches as there are interviewers. However, here are 10 qualities that I look for during an interview:
- People with a lot of energy. Some people are, quite simply, born with more energy than others. At an interview, or almost anywhere, they naturally exude vigor, enthusiasm, and drive. They want and need to be active, up and doing. You can sense this quality in a person almost as soon as he or she walks into the room. It is an innate drive that puts a spring in his/her step and makes his/her eyes sparkle. Put your money on just such a person.
- People who channel energy into their work. Do not be deceived by people who talk about hard work and say what a lot of hard work they do. To the lazy person, everything is hard work and he or she spends much or all of his/her time complaining about it.
One candidate who did not get the job said in an interview, “I met a few people in my time who were enthusiastic about hard work, but it was just my luck that all of them happened to be men I was working for at the time.” Solid evidence of an individual who has a strong work ethic includes:
- Parents, heroes, or mentors who believed in hard work
- Work-oriented spare-time interests
- Willingness to take a second job
- No concern at all with hours worked -- no clock watching
- High career goals
- Completes anything undertaken
- Paid own way through college
- Evidence of role awareness. Oscar Wilde’s observation that “it is only shallow people who do not judge by first appearances” is more perceptive than might at first be imagined. Candidates who present themselves for interviews should be aware that they are onstage. If the candidate is at all sensitive to the expectations of corporate life, he or she will have dressed with care and got the rest of his/her act together, too.
If a candidate arrives in attire more suitable for a golf outing than a corporate setting, then you may immediately infer that he/she lacks role awareness. And if he or she lacks it on this particular day, you may be sure he/she will never have it.
- Inner motivation based on family background. It’s not so much what you have or where you were born that counts as what you did with what you had and what you make of your own life. In trying to determine what you did with what you had, I always subtract what you began with from what you have now and look at the difference.
- Emotional maturity. People grow up three ways: physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Most executives mature physically and intellectually, but emotional maturity can never be taken for granted. While you can see that a person is physically fully grown, and you can check his/her educational record for intellectual ability, badges or certificates of emotional maturity are unavailable.
Spotting immaturity – and, therefore, maturity – is difficult. However, the immature person inevitably possesses two qualities to mislead you: childlike charm and, as the result of long experience, the capacity to distract attention from his/her shortcomings.
Immature people are not a good employment risk as line executives because, like most children, they are essentially concerned with their own immediate gratification and because they tend to see the employer as a sort of Santa Claus. What they want is to have someone to look after them just like their parents did until they left home at age twenty-eight.
Conversely, the best index of maturity is consideration and concern for the well-being of other people. Three excellent clues to an individual’s emotional maturity are:
- Judgment. Has he handled himself well in his business affairs – or has he embarked upon harebrained, get-rich-quick schemes?
- Finances. Has she lived within her means? Is she financially secure enough to suggest that her personal, financial money decisions are being chosen with a cool, clear, adult head?
- Number of past employers and the manner of departures from them. Has he pursued his career in a mature and adult manner? Has she job-hopped without realistic consideration for the future of either her employers or herself?
- Someone who can profitably channel hostilities. You want to hire a person with fire in his or her belly, of course, but at the same time, you do not want a rebel without a cause. The best job-seeking candidates can temper hostilities with tact and, if they cannot do that, you as the interviewer may be in for trouble. So, watch for evidence of spite unreasonably directed toward previous employers and associates.
- The need to finish a task begun. Evidence of this agreeable condition can be discovered by looking for a goal-oriented individual with a history of completing anything undertaken. Examples include: finishing a college degree, writing an article and getting it published, or successfully putting together a sound and profitable business enterprise.
- A candidate who wants to do a good job, not just earn a paycheck. If you hire a mercenary, someone who believes in your cause only as long as the money is good, then you may be courting trouble. Such a person usually lacks any inner job motivation, and, as a result, often harbors a deep resentment of his/her dependency upon the employer. Consequently, he/she will be ambivalent to a fault, particularly if well paid.
- Loyalty to your cause. Loyalty means not that you agree with everything another person says or that you believe someone else is always right. Loyalty means that you share a common ideal with another human being and, regardless of minor differences, both fight for it, shoulder-to-shoulder, confident in one another’s good faith, trust, constancy, and affection.
The key to loyalty, whether you are recruiting an executive or making a friend, is in finding that common ideal, and once again this should stem from an individual’s deepest underlying values. If these values are not in harmony with those of yours or the company’s cause, then loyalty may be unattainable.
- Compatibility. Individuals make up teams, but compatible individuals make the best teams. Any candidate who is unnecessarily touchy and thin-skinned at an employment interview will probably be abrasive and disruptive if he/she joins the team. A get-along, go-along person who also works hard is a jewel because his/her shine attracts people like him or her.
Remember that the opposite is also true. The bad has a tendency to drive out the good.