If the duty of the human resource professionals and recruiting managers is to distinguish the person with a winner attitute among the applicants for a job, is there an easy way to distinguish the winner in an interview?
My answer is YES.
During the interviews with the potential candidate to our company, I try to understand the “mental model” of the candidates. Their attitutes and thinking styles are much more important than their direct answers. Although there are a couple of ways to understand their way of thinkings, one attitute is a great indicator of success. That is responsibility.
What is responsibility?
Most of the people are inclined to accept responsibility for those things that are going well in their life, and disregard for those things that are not going so well.
How do you distinguish the responsibility?
Ask the candidate: “What are your failures ?” and then listen. Ask the next question: “What are the reasons of those failures ?” and listen carefully, try to understand the mental model of the candidate. Does the candidate attribute failure to her/his environment (as 99% will do), or does she/he attribute failure to a more broad set of parameters including herself/himself (only 1% will do).
- If the answer of the candidate is “no failure”, then it reveals that she/he is not aware of the areas where she/he underperformed. That means, the candidate did not acquired the habit of setting challenging objectives for herself/himself. Even if the person’s technical knowledge exceeds the expectations, think twice before offering her/him a job.
- If the answer of the candidate reveals that she/he attributed failure only to external conditions, that means the self-awareness of the candidate is low.
- If the answer of the candidate reveals that she/he thought about the causes of failure objectively, this is a qualified attribute. This means the candidate is smart and may show progress. Consider the candidate to the open position even if she/he lacks some knowledge in order to carry out the job requirement.
- Furthermore, if the answer of the candidate reveals that after the failure, candidate challenged herself/himself and changed (or tried to change) her/his behaviour which she/he thinks as one of the causes of failure, it is a greater indicator of success. That means candidate is willing to develop so that she/he will not be trapped in that failure position once again. The candidate is not only smart but also have the courage to show progress.
Important reminder: The sincerity of the candidate should be checked in both of the answers.
Theory supporting this practice:
There is a natural tendency among people to attribute success to themselves and attribute failure to anything (such as environment, other people and conditions) other then themselves. The opposite is true for attributing success or failure of other people. If a person fails, it is attributed to their personality rather than the conditions. This phenomenon is called as “fundamental attribution error“.
If people learn to cease attributing problems and failures to their environment, and learn to take responsibility of their actions both in the downtimes and uptimes, this is an indicator of progress.
Moral of the story: The winners attitute is accepting both the credit and blame for whatever the consequence is. Winners are the ones who can take the responsibility after failures.