How to hire collaborators

Wouldn’t it be great if you could look into a crystal ball and see whether an interviewee is a good fit for your collaborative environment before giving them the job? Avoiding a bad hire could save you and the newbie a good bit of time and frustration and, according to a recent CareerBuilder study, your company at least $50,000.

Sadly, most of us will never be experts in the fine art of divination, so we have to rely on more practical approaches to spotting and hiring collaborators.

The good ole, bad ole job interview

As anyone who’s ever worked anywhere during the entire history of working knows, interviews are the traditional method of getting to know a job candidate. But, according to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology and the vice president of innovation at Hogan Assessments, they are actually unreliable, inaccurate predictors of future work-related behaviors. He says, “If you are relying on interviews to select candidates, you will almost certainly end up with the wrong person.”

Why the doomsday prediction? In part, Chamorro-Premuzic says, because “interviews are mainly focused on assessing competencies, values or personality characteristics, all of which are better assessed via standardized tests.”

And then there’s the whole “fake it till you make it” thing people sometimes do in hopes of sealing the deal. If someone knows you’re looking for a collaborator, for example, they’ll act like one—and that’s a red flag. Chamorro-Premuzic says, “The paradox is that the candidates who are most likely to emphasize it are the least likely to collaborate. Being a ‘show off’ almost always equates to being a bad collaborator.”

The one-two punch: good questions and personality profiling

Chamorro-Premuzic says even psychopaths can come across well during interviews, “but the bright side is sooner or later eclipsed by their dark side tendencies.” (Phew. Who wants to rehash last night’s Game of Thrones episode—much less share a spreadsheet—with a psychopathic coworker?)

Despite that flashing “L is for Loser” sign flashing above our old friend The Interview, Chamorro-Premuzic says it can have a place in performing an accurate assessment. So long as the interviewer is trained and has a strong clinical eye, “they should be able to distill irrelevant features to evaluate things such as collaborative potential or team spirit.”

So what should a good interviewer ask to determine whether a candidate is right for your company? Chamorro-Premuzic says the best questions are “competency-based scenarios” such as, “Tell us about a situation where you demonstrated good team spirit or collaborative efforts.”

Even when questions are framed well, though, he says the response should be evaluated in conjunction with the interviewee’s body language and, ideally, with a standardized personality test. “A person’s collaborative potential can be evaluated with 50-60 percent more accuracy via standardized/computerized tests” than with an interview alone. Together, they are a complementary set of tools.

While some are skeptical about personality tests in the hiring process, entities ranging from college sports franchises to financial advisers are bringing it into their recruiting processes. As a result, job candidates should not be surprised if asked to take a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or submit a handwriting analysis as a follow up to the age-old interview question: “If you were a car, what would you be?” Hey, it’s at least as legit as a crystal ball.

Post by Jill Coody Smits

Jill Coody Smits is an Austin-based freelance writer and proponent of research-backed communication. Interested in psychology, health, fitness, and human rights. Wife, mother, traveler, reader, dog-lover, unaccomplished athlete.