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Didn’t get the job? Blame your personality (they certainly do)

(BUSINESS NEWS) Pre-interviews often focus on personality rather than experience to find out if you’re compatible with the company culture.

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Don’t let the door hit you on the way out

An old colleague of mine used to say (not to me specifically), “We’re not getting paid to get along.” I understand that point to a degree. The work is what counts. But do you really do your best work if you’re miserable?

This is why some many companies do personality screenings before they even get around to qualification screenings. In fact, some companies make personality-compatibility such a priority that it makes me wonder if they even get any work done at all. Or maybe they’re just the happiest, least productive company in town. I just don’t get it.

All about morals

A job interview is a poor method to select people to work for you and with you. So says Dr. Anna Hartley, PhD, a postdoctoral research scientist who works on personality judgment and measurement and who recently wrote a guest editorial for Physchology Today.

The thing with job interviews, especially pre-interviews that deal with personality is that they are based on key responses that don’t allow for specifics. For example, “Yes” or “No” answers that don’t allow for the most logical answer which is probably somewhere in the middle.

Dr. Hartley explains that, outside of interview tests, “People care deeply about a person’s morality when forming general impressions of that person, and whether they like, respect, and feel like they truly know that person. More so than other desirable qualities, such as warmth, competence, or sociability.”

Knowing that a person is moral indicates whether we should approach or avoid, and whether we should pursue an interpersonal relationship with that person.

How you detect that in a pre-interview is one of the many challenges of a company’s HR department. And as you can imagine it is not easily distinguishable. At least not when all you can do is answer “Yes” or “No.”

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It’s either yes or no

So you can try to outguess the test and provide the answers you think they want to hear and that doesn’t always work either. Hartley points out that someone who answers “yes” to the question “Are you perfect?” (A typical question in many personality tests) is almost certainly trying to appear socially desirable. Yet at the same time such a response may point to being dishonest.

The main way a lab controls for this issue is by using a measure called the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding test, but there are many other ways to control for dishonest or socially desirable responding.

Experience and skills

Crazy as it seems, personality traits often initially outweigh experience and skills. If you apply for a job and are never asked about qualifications, skills, education or relevant experience – it might be because you didn’t meet whatever the personality standard was to begin with.

An ego-buster for you or a loss for the company that you interviewed with? Now that’s a question worth answering.


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Written By

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.

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