5 adjectives you want to hear job candidates say

It’s difficult to tell what kind of person someone is just by their resume. Heck, it can even be difficult to tell when face to face with the person. But there are some approaches that will do the trick. 
Obviously, you want a hire who’s self-motivated, honest and trustworthy — in addition to having the background you’re looking for, of course.
While candidates will likely tell you they’re all those things if asked, it’s also likely they’re doing so because they know that’s what you want to hear (whether it’s true or not).
As a result, Dave Porter, managing partner at Baystate Financial in Boston, a company that holds its recruiters and managers accountable for the results of those they bring on board, says companies should ask candidates to describe their character.
Five words Porter says you want to hear candidates say that indicate they’re made of the right stuff:

  1. Honest
  2. Respectful
  3. Punctual
  4. Curious, and
  5. Accountable.

Whether or not you hear adjectives like these will tell you “how much the candidate cares about others and about doing the right thing,” Porter says in his book Where Winners Live: Sell More, Earn More, Achieve More Through Personal Accountability.

‘When nobody was looking’

Porter has another suggestion as well. Ask candidates this question: When in your life have you made a decision that you’re proud of — when nobody was looking?
If candidates take a while to answer, they’re likely not good fits for Baystate Financial. Porter says, candidates with integrity should have little trouble recalling situations — and the decisions they made in them — that reveal their true character.
In his book, Porter said one candidate, Leonard, told a story about finding a camera in the back seat of a Boston taxi. When the driver told Leonard he was going to keep the camera, Leonard refused to give it to the driver and instead took it to the taxi company’s lost and found. Leonard got the job.
Those are the kinds of stories you want to hear — along with adjectives like those described above.

Bad indicators

What you don’t want to hear, Porter says, are indicators the candidate has what he describes as an “all-about-me” attitude.
Some of those indicators could be dropping adjectives like:

  • Carefree
  • Fun
  • Laid back.

However, describing themselves in those ways aren’t necessarily deal breakers. Those qualities can actually be good things, Porter says, when balanced out by professional attributes. But finding out whether that’s the case requires deeper probing.