By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I am being asked to do more and more hiring of new employees for my team. We have a standard set of interview questions, but people don't always tell the truth. Especially when it comes to interpersonal skills, I have trouble screening for quality people. Are there any brilliant interview questions that reveal the personality I'm about to hire?
A. Yes, you can ask questions where people who are difficult to work with will chose to ask for pity rather than take responsibility. People who have poor communication skills generally have had bad experiences in many jobs. The problem is they don't see the common denominator is them.
An excellent question to ask job candidates is whether they have experienced good fortune or whether they have ended up in unfair circumstances. People who are accountable will not use the interview to whine about how mean everyone has been to them.
Another smart inquiry during interviews is to ask about any behavior they feel past bosses, teachers or managers did that created problems for them. Again, an employee you don't want to hire will leap at the chance to enlighten you about what a victim they've been. Even people who are more responsible will end up telling you areas where they are touchy. If you have a stellar candidate who complains about managers being condescending, you'll now have a chance to weigh out his genius against this chip on his shoulder.
Surprisingly, people who are irresponsible don't see an issue in using an interview to complain. Prospective hires who use the interview as a therapy session to vent about bad experiences are about to see you as the next perpetrator of their misery.
As much as you think you're a caring and competent manager, anyone who tells you repeated bad experiences will see you through a negative lens. People tend to pack up their bag of troubles and cart them to their new manager. Unfortunately, they don't see that their behavior is generating the same negative reaction in their new employer.
Anytime your pity button is getting pushed during an interview beware. There is excellent research on psychopaths that indicate the main way they manipulate people is by fishing for sympathy. People who use others know that most people are vulnerable to poor decision making when they feel sorry for others.
What you want to see during an interview is multiple aspects of accountability. If they had a problem, they found a solution. If they had difficult circumstances, they coped or changed their behavior. You want employees that experience low drama in their interpersonal relationships because they don't create emotional chaos in people around them.
Remember when you are bringing someone new on your team, you can train for technical skills but you are stuck with the personality of your new employee. If you don't take the opportunity to realistically evaluate the emotional wellness of a new hire, you may find yourself dreading Monday morning.
Effective managers know they'll never "coach" a difficult employee into a new character. Hiring people who see themselves as responsible, resilient and resourceful is a gift that keeps giving.
Q. I work with a guy who is always unhappy. I keep trying to get on his good side but am getting nowhere. Is there a way to win him over?
A. No, focus on your own effectiveness and not your coworker's approval. As Ben Franklin observed, "A quarrelsome man has no good neighbors."
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact her at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027.