Improve Your People Evaluation Skills
July 11, 2017
Whenever we meet new people we make evaluations ranging from ‘nice’ to ‘OK’ or “not nice” or ‘beware’, etc. based on initial impressions they create on us. Yet judging people correctly is not so straightforward at all. Bad judgments can lead to complications out of making wrong hiring choices, or choosing wrong business partners. While some people are gifted at judging people and situations well, using that extra sense or hunch can often go wrong. Therefore relying on just hunches and personal impressions instead of careful objective judgment can result in mistakes that we can all do without. We need to improve our ability to evaluate a prospective relationship by looking for ‘signs’ that may reveal subconscious character traits more clearly. Nebulous qualities are harder to figure out than we would like. As recruiters, we can’t be perfect judges of character especially when we are meeting a person or a candidate for the first time. Although there are personality tests that are scientifically backed, we can only get a good sense for someone’s personal motivation, degree of passion and extent of mental toughness when we’ve worked closely with them or spent time getting to know them.
Professional capability is more easily assessable from documentation of education, training, past career records and questions on technical know-how. But what about the hidden traits of the person that actually drive his/her external behavior? Correctly reading personality and attitude traits through minute observation of the person’s external behavioral skills can make for a safer reading of the subject person.
So how do we get better at evaluating people better? Here are some behavioral indicators that can help:
What is the person’s ego-to-enquiry proportion?
Observing how much a person talks and how much he allows others to talk suggests the extent of his self-importance (ego) and his interest in absorbing anything from others (enquiry). Talking too much over letting others talk, or vice versa, indicates the subject’s nature and can be helpful, whether being evaluated for a job, or considered as a potential business partner or client. You can get a sense of whether a person is empathetic by nature when he or she listens more than they talk. If a person hogs all the attention and loves to divert conversations to his or her own accomplishments, beware. This person may be self-absorbed and have an inflated ego. Not a great candidate for building a cohesive team especially not for a leadership role.
Is he/she a giver or taker?
Both a depressing and a vivacious nature are highly contagious. However, everyone loves the latter because a positive attitude spreads positive energy while the other envelopes one in negativity. Those radiating positive energy make positive contributions and generate reciprocal positive response from others that also creates a powerful bonding force which can be directed towards a common objective. A depressed nature usually focuses only on the problem and not on the solution. Observe the real: false nature of the subject and deduce accordingly. A giver will be offering suggestions and sharing knowledge gained from experience unselfishly. If someone takes the credit for every bit of success, that’s a warning signal that they will not make good leaders. This person can have an unhealthy view of his or her achievements — if conversations and meetings almost always happen to be all about him or her, it’s never going to be about the team and the customers you serve.
What is the quality of the person’s family/social interaction?
Observe the type of friends they socialize with, and learn even more of the person’s attitude by meeting their family and spouse, if that is possible. Checking out their Facebook or other social media affiliations will also give you a good insight into their private life. Be careful though, when evaluating solely based on what you see on social media as this can be deceiving. Look beyond the superficial and find authenticity whenever and wherever you can.
How does he interact with unknown people?
Observe carefully at a job interview with others present, how he treats those around him. If you happen to go out to a meal, observe how he treats the waiter, whether it’s with courtesy and consideration or from a “look-down” dismissive stance. One of the best indicators of a positive character is the way a person treats those who can’t do anything for them.
Does she have any general or literary interests?
Establish the extent of her reading habits and preferences which will reflect her intellectual maturity, and discover whether all she reads, if at all, is pulp fiction. Is she interested in current events and issues beyond work that may have given her a broader perspective, greater awareness and maturity? A person who is continuously learning will bring to the table a wider perspective and this can benefit your team-building and problem-solving efforts.
Can she communicate clearly?
Observe not just her communication style but content and establish whether the person is capable of knowledgably and clearly discussing work issues; and can impartially offer insights in her area of expertise/experience. Having crucial conversations can be telling in that you are able to witness how a person behaves during highly-stressful or highly-charged moments. A person’s verbal and non-verbal cues can exhibit underlying issues that may affect the way they react or respond to issues that require objective, firm, encouraging, affirmative responses. Sudden outbursts and fits of rage in the office email (or pantry) can tell you not only who may win the shouting match but who has the better sense to walk away.
Does he offer well thought out, original and logical solutions to critical questions.
Observe his capacity for reasoning and weighing all options. It is not necessarily for him to always have solutions to resolve the problem, but just discussing options will usually show if he has any depth of intellectual reasoning. Critical thought and thought processes vary from per person. A person that approaches issues with a creative problem-solving or solution-finding thought process can lay out plans and clearly explain or support arguments without being defensive. A methodical, logical and out-of-the-box thinker is what you want on your team.
Does he follow an original agenda or just follow others?
Note that the ‘yes’ man or woman shows an inherent dependence on others and an incapacity to lead or make original contributions. Organizations seek out people who can set their own agenda and pursue goals independently although good followers are also needed to complete the team. Evaluating self-starters isn’t hard because self-starters present their own evaluation of themselves or their performance and ask for feedback. These types of people are hard to miss because they stand out with concrete ideas, action plans and come back excited with results or are hungry for feedback when there is a lack of it. You won’t see them sitting on the fence waiting and watching for what others do. Oftentimes, contrarians can bring a healthy balance to your team of lemmings.
Does the person have an interesting personal history and relevant organizational experience?
Knowledge acquired from experience, and accomplishments give credence to ability. Note the way this could be utilized according to relevance, and whether such expertise has the promise of matching future requirements.
What about transparency?
Except for classified and confidential information, observe whether he or she is open to share information and knowledge, or is the person more inclined to retain such knowledge for exclusive self interest? A person who is amenable to sharing information and helps others to learn from their own experience shows that he/she will be a good team player and leader.
Thus in any people evaluating process, be it recruitment or another association, consider the kind of person or people involved, as the outcome of any project will depend on this. A good proposal can fail with selfish people and it’s not improbable that sometimes even a difficult project may have a fair chance of success with the right mix of people on the team. Examine not just the track record of an organization but how openly its people interact at a discussion on the relevant issues. Draw conclusions, not just from what kind of answers are given to critical questions but from what drives such responses. Refine your technique of properly evaluating people by asking probing questions on each person’s work so as to assess whether the answers make sense and surprise yourself with your good judgment. The key is to identify, understand and use the various character strengths and personality traits to build profiles that match and enhance others’ strengths and traits. Having a balanced mix of people is where the magic happens in teams.
Looking for your next challenge? Ikon Executive Solutions IES) is right behind you! Ask us about opportunities that are perfect for you, and we’ll help you get in touch. Good luck with your job hunt!