… the HR Minion. Because even minions have opinions. And giggles.

Brilliant, Arrogant, Jerk

Do you ever find yourself looking through old candidate files when you should be cleaning out old file cabinets and folders? Sometimes I can’t help myself. I’m a little too curious for my own good and I like knowing what’s going on. That’s part of the fun being in HR. Besides, there’s blogging gold in old records believe you me.

Submitted for your entertainment: An old phone screen record for a hard to fill technical position. Everything with the candidate looks straight forward in the beginning; he has a good resume and is well within our price range. But he never made it past the phone screen and I totally needed to figure out why.

So as I am scanning the paperwork I come across this question:
“If I were to ask your peers about you, what do you think they would say?”. His answer: Brilliant, Arrogant, Jerk.

Bingo. All is explained.

Now, I often hear criticism about how ridiculous interview questions can be because doesn’t everybody know how to answer these things correctly? Aren’t interviewers just being fed trite, generic answers that don’t tell them anything? In a lot of situations, yes, that may very well be the case. Interviewing is hard and despite all the advice out there, no one has it down perfect.

But every once in a while the most generic questions, such as the one from the phone screen, can give you an absolute perfect summation of a candidate that you learn everything you needed to know in an instant.

And that is exactly what this candidate did. In 3 words the interviewer knew exactly the kind of person the candidate was and exactly why they did not want to hire them. Let me explain.

Brilliant – Clearly, he has a high opinion of himself. Whether it is deserved or not, he is confident enough in his abilities that he feels others recognize his value. This by itself isn’t a deal breaker.

Arrogant – Ok, that ties in well with his first answer. It also demonstrates that he has an awareness that he comes across to others in less than favorable ways at times. Once again, this is not a deal breaker. I think a certain amount of arrogance can be a good thing for some positions.

Jerk – Red Flag! Red Flag! And now we come to the real issue. Here we have a candidate who has a high opinion of his abilities and acknowledges that his confidence can come across as arrogance. But if he is self aware enough to know that his peers would call him a jerk that means he can’t play well with others and has no interest in doing so. You can almost hear the employee relation issues now…

And I would not want that type of person on my team. But hey, that’s just me. There are plenty of companies that would snap him up precisely because of his answer.

It takes all kinds people.

But it is a nice reminder to pay attention to the little things, and sometimes the obvious things, candidates do that tell you who they really are. Because at the end of the day, skills can be taught but personalities are pretty much set.

2 Responses | Add your Own

  • 1 John Hunter :

    There is a point many miss, that can be taken from this story (but you probably need to understand the point first). If you want to work somewhere that you will fit in without having to hugely alter yourself be honest in interviews. Tell it like it is. If they don’t want who you are, that is better to know before you waste your time working there.

    Two points on that. If you are desperate, haven’t had a job in 6 months and don’t have money to pay your internet bill so your kid can do their homework probably saying whatever you have to, be hire and living with the consequences is wise.

    Second, that doesn’t mean being a jerk is good (based on the story above). If you are a jerk that is something you should change. But on matters of your skills, desires, temperament, be honest. If you get the job, good. If you don’t because they want something other than what you want, good.

  • 2 Shauna :

    John – Thanks for contributing to the conversation.