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As an experienced interviewer, you already use several tested-and-proven strategies for assessing specific skill sets. From French fluency to editing skill to XTML coding, you have a straightforward toolkit of tests, questions and hypothetical scenarios you can present to your candidates, and you know these tests will bring clear results. When it comes to these specific skill sets, your tests will allow you to separate the superstars from the merely competent, and they’ll help you identify advanced, intermediate and beginner practitioners.

But what about intangible qualities, like social skills or passion? There are no simple tests you can hand to a candidate to determine how easy he is to get along with, or how invested she is in her work. With that in mind, we’ve identified a few simple moves (simple enough to incorporate into a 30-minute interview session) that can help.

Ask for stories.

You want to know something about your candidate that’s impossible to measure. So, let your candidate articulate this quality in their own words. Use open-ended behavioral questions. For example: “Can you tell me about a time you had to demonstrate leadership on the job?” or “Can you describe the worst interpersonal conflict you’ve ever faced at work? What happened and what did you do?” The phrasing of your question makes clear there are no right or wrong answers. But as the candidate speaks, you can read between the lines.

Know it when you see it.

No matter how many questions you ask about your candidate’s level of “passion,” or how you ask them, you won’t get a reliable answer if you yourself don’t really know what this word means. If you’re going to ask about passion, define the term for yourself beforehand. Think about the sufficiently passionate employees you’ve worked with in the past and identify what made them special. Even if you can’t offer a concrete definition to your candidate in a 30-minute chat, make sure you come armed with one for yourself.

Recognize deficits.

Look for strong signals that you’re dealing with a truly “passionate” person, or a well-adjusted, highly social team player. But at the same time, keep an eye out for red flags that signal a troubling deficit. Your candidate will never tell you “I’m poorly adjusted” or “I lack passion,” so don’t wait for that to happen. Instead, mine their stories for indications of social oblivion (“I was the smartest person in the company at my last job”) and disengagement (“I haven’t bothered to look at the company website, so please tell me all about this position, starting with the job title.”)

Bring out the best.

Encourage your candidate to share their best side and best qualities. If you look for trouble, you’ll find it. But if you look for signs of strength, you’ll find those too.

For more on how to assess intangible qualities during your candidate interviews, turn to the Milwaukee staffing team at Extension.

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