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On Wednesday, we talked about the Spirit Animal interview question. Sparked a bit of response.
I do see the humor in this question, and on the surface, it does seem silly. However, there may be more to the question than you think. I had a manager tell me they ask silly questions like this, not to judge the surface response, but to evaluate how the candidate reacts to such a silly question. Do they roll their eyes disrespectfully? Does it take an exorbitant amount of time to come up with an answer? Are they creative with their answer? Do they panic and start sweating? Are they a quick wit and come up with a novel response?
Here’s the problem. And I will state this in the form of a question.
- Why do interviewers misinterpret candidate responses?
To this question, I get the usual –
- The interviewer doesn’t listen well.
- The interviewer is listening for something she wants to hear.
- The interviewer has already made up her mind.
- The candidate exaggerates the content in his response.
But that’s not the real reason interviewers misinterpret responses. Here’s why.
Interviewers misinterpret candidate responses because they ask questions which require interpretation. The Spirit Animal question will get a response, like rolling eyes, a long pause, panic sweats, snappy answer. But what does that response mean related to the work in the role. We don’t know what it means and any attempt to interpret the response places us in the position of playing amateur psychologist.
Most managers don’t have a degree in psychology, certainly not a Masters or PhD in psychology. None are certified by their respective state to practice psychotherapy. Most managers stink at it.
But managers are expert at spotting positive work behaviors, expert at spotting negative work behaviors. Don’t play amateur psychologist, play to your strengths as a manager. Ask questions about the work. It’s all about the work. And never ask about a person’s Spirit Animal.
Mine is a python that starts with a wrapped embrace, then squeezes the life out of its unsuspecting prey. -Tom