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Hiring for Negative Competencies?

INTERVIEW EDGE OCT 1993 • volume 1 • number 10

The applicant exercises regularly, works hard and has a healthy social life. Who wouldn't want to hire this well-rounded person? You might not if you were hiring a telephone operator.

Brooks Mitchell, founder of Aspen Tree Software, has come to the conclusion that positive qualities don't always make for good employees. Mitchell uses computer interviews to track which characteristics make the best employee for a specific position. He explains, for example, that successful telephone operators exercise once a week or less and have over five hours of leisure time a day.

How will this effect your next interview? Take a look at the successful people in the position and identify their behavioral characteristics - both good and bad. Determine if there are characteristics that are not obvious but that you can screen for legally. Aspen Tree programs ask applicants about their cigarette smoking habits, hours of daily television viewing and favorite games.

Mitchell also uses his software to circumvent the intuitive input of human interviewers. He uses an example of someone interviewing for a retail job in a department store. The computer asks the applicant in which department he/she would like to work. His research shows that the most successful retail workers have a favorite department in mind. Yet a human interviewer may be more inclined to hire someone that is flexible and will work anywhere.

Mitchell's software is only a tool to look at the real person behind the resume and there are still many unresolved issues about its legality. Nevertheless, interviewers can learn from a computerized approach and adapt certain technologies knowing it is ultimately up to the interviewer to determine the top competencies for any position and candidate.