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Detecting Derailers in the Interview

NEWSLETTER • volume 2 • number 4

In our ever-optimistic American culture, the emphasis is usually on the positive. It's no wonder, then, that most hiring decisions focus on a candidate's strengths. But as several articles in this issue (How To Spot A Falling Star; Employee References) show, it's imperative also to consider limitations - things that can really derail someone on the job.

Elliot Jaques calls these derailers "dysfunctional personal characteristics," but by any name, they spell trouble for employers. Jaques mentions as particular problems abrasiveness, (think Chris Steffen), lack of initiative, indecision, unreliability, uncooperativeness, insensitivity, rigidity, impatience, and a lack of integrity. Any one of these qualities is far more likely to explain on-the-job failure than a "resumé factor" such as the wrong major or a lack of experience.

Like the rest of us, candidates are human and complex, and a balanced picture of a potential employee needs to include both strengths and limitations. The "perfect" candidate probably doesn't exist, so if you think you've found one, keep probing.