How Candidates Behave in the Interview is not an Accurate Predictor

Nowadays when management is asked what they need in their new employees, they say “we need somebody with a high energy level.  We have fewer people doing more work, and therefore need employees who have lots of drive, energy, and stamina.”  That may seems like a clear mandate to search for people with high energy, but if that’s all you know, your understanding of the job requirements is inadequate.  Let’s assume two candidates are exactly the same in all other ways, including knowledge, skills, experience, and training.  If they are equal in all these areas and the only difference between them was behavior you noted during the interview—one is outgoing and upbeat, the other rather introverted and quiet—and on top of that you know that the job requires a “high energy level,” most interviewers would, understandably, choose the first candidate.  While you might be absolutely correct about these two individuals, you might also be absolutely wrong.

Somebody’s behavior in front of you, while not irrelevant, is a very inaccurate predictor of how they will behave on the job, yet most interviewers observe behavior in the interview and make a judgment about candidates based on that observation.  A candidate’s behavior during the interview is contaminated by an incalculable number of things.  Some have been coached and prepped and as a consequence they come across smoother than they really are—or than they will be when they get the job.  Another may have been told that he comes across as pushy or aggressive, so now this person may overcompensate during the interview and come across as hesitant and reserved.  You can’t possibly know all the random factors that might affect a candidate’s behavior at this particular moment in time.

So how do you determine whether the candidate possesses the “high energy” that is required for the job.  If you can’t judge this by how he or she behaves in the interview, what can you do?  This question will be answered in different ways depending on the job.  If “high energy” means somebody who multitasks well – someone who can shift between projects all day long without becoming exhausted–then you can search into a candidate’s background during the interview to see if they’ve behaved that way  and you won’t be fooled by how they behave momentarily in front of you.  If “high energy” means someone who is just as detail-minded, systematic, and as focused at 7:30 at night as they were at 7:30 in the morning, then that’s a completely different definition.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is knowing what behaviors to look for.  Determining how to hire employees becomes much easier when you use behavioral interviewing techniques.


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