Personality Type and Job Interviews
Changing jobs is hard to do and interviewing generally sucks. You're nervous anyway, because you want to make a good impression, and if it's over the phone you don't even know if they're really browsing the web for cartoons while pretending to listen to you.
The ethical use of Type knowledge clearly states that someone's Type doesn't indicate skill or competence. Just because you prefer to use extraverted Thinking doesn't mean you're any good at it, or that you always come to the correct logical conclusions. It is also true that people may be more likely to enjoy professions that stimulate or nurture the inherent talents of their Type preferences, and therefore that Type shows up in greater numbers.
At the interview, I generally like to discuss our company's philosophy of supporting employees' interests outside their specific role at the firm. When I do, I want to see if the candidate gets more excited about how we can help with those outside interests than with the job at hand. I also ask direct questions like "What motivates you?" and "What makes an individual successful?" Entrepreneurial spirited individuals are motivated by, and can find success in, the everyday activity of the company and the opportunities their role affords to grow the business. The entrepreneur's answers will focus on personal achievement and independence.
Type knowledge can help with the interviewing process.
From the interviewer's perspective
Once you identify which skills or behaviors would be helpful in the position, you can phrase questions in a way that reaches candidates of all types and gets to the heart of the capability.
For example, someone who processes information through iNtuiting and/or Perceiving is going to respond more easily to those open-ended questions like "What motivates you" or "What do our values mean to you". It allows them to move from the broad to the narrow; outline the theme before diving deeper. Questions like "describe an example when you used this particular skill and overcame that particular challenge" may be too specific for them and throw them off their game.
If you have a candidate with Sensing and/or Judging preferences, the blank canvas may unnerve them and the more specific guidance allows them to shine and showcase their expertise more easily. Framing the questions in more narrow terms helps them to move from the detail up to the theme.
From the interviewee's perspective
The idea for this post really came from a friend of mine (INTP preferences) who recently went through a telephone interview for a manager position. He knew he was completely qualified for the position, read everything he could about the company, and was inspired by the information he found. Needless to say, he was really excited about the opportunity.
The interviewer asked precise questions and expected short, concise answers. This was only going to be Round 1; all candidates have to get passed him to speak to the people who actually make the hiring decisions. They spent 45 minutes on examples, case studies, and practical tests.
Here's how the INTP described his experience:
"All the time I was thinking, 'these are questions I ask when I'm interviewing for people to join my team'. And I'm not hiring managers, I'm hiring employees! I was getting more stressed and just trying to say what I thought he wanted to hear, but really, I felt like the interviewer was doubting my competence. The questions were just too simplistic. Why didn't he ask me at a more strategic level? The level that as a manager I would be facing challenges at? I wanted to talk about the general landscape first before going deeper into the issues. He even could have asked what motivated me, or what I would bring to the position, or what value I could add to their company. This was a crap interview, I'd be surprised if I get a call back."
He was right, he didn't.
Knowing your Type preferences can help ground you and recognize when you're getting outside of your comfort zone. When we're stressed, it's difficult to maintain conscious control and keep calm. Telling the interviewer what he thought he wanted to hear in this case came from the 4th (aka inferior/aspirational) Fe function. INTP's don't generally have a lot of practice with- or conscious control over it, so using Fe is draining and not always successful.
Type also gives you a non-judgmental language to describe what's going on, so our INTP could have said something along the lines of, "before I get to the specifics of your question, allow me to paint a general picture to be sure we're on the same page."
Interviews are stressful. Making space for candidates to be themselves may take a little longer, but I'm pretty sure it will result in a better fit in the long run.
Image by vincent desjardins, flickr, Creative Commons License