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Why personality is the new focus of interviews

Updated: May 29, 2021

Having met many candidates who are trying to make the best of every interview opportunity they get, the one advice that many commonly seek is "what is the interviewer looking for?"

Interview Coaching

I find that it is helpful among those I have coached to do this visualisation prior to coaching. Take a step back and view the interview from the other end of the table. If you are about to spend a huge sum of money, your own hard earned money and you get to select just one person to help you in your own business, what would you look for in the candidate? How picky would you be? What would drive your decision? Its not a straightforward answer and as cliche as it sounds, the answer is likely to be "it depends".

Every employer struggles with this. At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is usually to find someone who fits into the company culture. Why? Because the cost of recruitment is increasing, and finding a long term employee means finding someone who will be happy in the long term and who enjoys being in the company of like minded people, or who share similar values. Just like John Holland's Theory of Career Choice, Dr John Holland maintains that in choosing a career, people prefer jobs where they can be around others who are like them. They search for environments that will let them use their skills and abilities, and express their attitudes and values, while taking on enjoyable problems and roles.

But is great personality more important than skill? Clearly, the ideal person is one who has both the skill set and the personality, but that would be the rare gem. When it comes down to the masses, the employer may have to weigh one over the other.

In recent times, the purpose of the interview is changing. Most employers now spend that valuable interview time focused on your personality. The search for skill sets happened before you stepped into the interview room - via your resume. Again, many people forget to understand things from the other side of the table, especially if you are a fresh graduate. See things from the other side, so that you can adjust your own response. If you don't ask the right questions, you won't find the right answers. When you got offered that interview opportunity, the employer has already seen your CV and your cover letter. When they scanned your CV - they looked for your skill sets, your experience. They can't quite tell what your personality is. Your cover letter, may provide a hint of your personality (and you should let it shine through if possible) but nothing beats meeting someone in person to determine personality.

In LinkedIn's Global Recruiting Trends 2018 report, traditional job interviews are found to be poor predictors of performance. What is on the rise, is the emphasis of soft skill assessments and behavioural predictors.

Many employers now commonly use personality assessments such as the DISC Personality Assessment, which we use at Discovering Potential. Some may use more than one type of assessment metric - to give them an insight to the personality of the candidate. Some employers create their own group activities, to enable the interviewer to make observations about how you interact and make decisions. Some may introduce a casual interview - perhaps an interview coupled with dinner.

The interview itself has also moved towards personality and behavioural type questions. At the end of the day, the employer is trying to seek the best balance between skill sets (which was scanned and pre-selected earlier from your CV) and your personality traits, which is best found from your interview.


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