Are You Screening For Character?

Your business depends upon establishing trust between you and your customers, guests, and associates. Skills and competence play critical roles, but we go back to businesses that we trust. Your customers don’t trust your “business.” They trust the people in your business.

When it comes to building your team, character counts.

Character is “the set of qualities that make somebody distinctive, especially somebody’s qualities of mind and feeling.” The key to that Encarta dictionary definition points to “mind and feeling” – one’s emotional make-up. In today’s fast-paced world, most interviewers do not go deep enough to uncover a candidate’s character.

Here are two easily-applied strategies to quickly get to the heart of a candidate’s character – the emotional intelligence and core value drivers.

Look for emotional intelligence

Most interviewers ask what a candidate does and how she gets it done. To get to the emotional intelligence you have to find out if the candidate knows why she makes the choices she makes. Does she know her motivations?

Classic emotional intelligence competencies include an understanding of self, an understanding of one’s impact on others, and the ability to manage oneself. According to various studies, emotional intelligence competencies account for 24- 69% of performance success.¹

Challenge candidates to address difficult situations with questions like:

  • Tell about a time when your trustworthiness was challenged. How did you react/respond? Why did you react that way? Is that typical for you?
  • Everyone has made some poor decisions or has done something that just did not turn out right. When has this happened to you? What were the results?
  • Describe the most difficult working relationship you’ve had with an individual. What specific actions did you take to improve the relationship? What was the outcome?

If responses lean toward defensive, blame-shifting, or victim mentality, then your candidate does not have the emotional intelligence for leadership. Conversely, if the candidate recognizes her fault in relationships and decisions, can speak sincerely about her growth from such experiences, and how she now applies what she learned, then she has the self-awareness and coachability elements necessary for leadership excellence.

What are their core value drivers?

Everyone has a set of core values that drive decision-making. These core values are always revealed over time in a working relationship, and your job is to determine whether your candidate’s core values are a fit with your company’s culture and the intended leadership role. The Ethics Resource Center provides a comprehensive list of values.

If you are going to ask your candidate to state core values, do it at the end of the interview. This will allow you to compare  explicitly-stated values to previously-answered situational and behavioral questions. If the responses align, the candidate is truly values-driven. If the responses do not align, the candidate is not truly values-driven and gave you a “canned” response.

You can also look for values as patterns in response to your questions, or even in conversation. Key in on motivation and impact:

  • Motivation
    • Why do you want this particular job?
    • Why did you leave past positions?
    • What is most important to you? Why? How are you going to get it? When are you going to get it? If you don’t achieve it by such time, what will you do?
    • What are your short- and long-term career goals? Why?
    • If money did not matter, what would you do for a career?
  • Impact
    • What is your single favorite accomplishment? Why?
    • What are you known for? What is your reputation at your former employers?
    • How do you get things done?
    • Besides you, what three people play the biggest role in your success or failure?
    • If you could change three things about our industry as a whole, what would they be? Why?

If you want to discuss different responses to these questions and how they reveal candidates’ value drivers, shoot us an email and let’s set up a chat.

Remember, discernment about core values isn’t necessarily about “right and wrong.” It’s about hiring the right people and putting them in the right positions in your organization. Sometimes candidates don’t know that they would be very successful in other departments. If you are interviewing someone who is trained in food science and has spent the first part of their career in an R&D lab, but you discern that they have the values of aspiration, competition, and credibility, then a lane change to account management may be perfect for both your company and the candidate.

¹from The EQ Interview by Adele B. Lynn

Joseph D’Alessandro

About Joseph D’Alessandro

Joseph spent 15 years in leadership positions in hospitality operations before becoming a full-time executive recruiter in 2000. Joseph founded SHS in 2002 and has grown the business from a one-person outfit to a full team of dedicated experts.

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