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Dear Workforce How Do We Gauge a Person’s Passion and Commitment for the Job During Interviews

What specific interview questions should we ask in order to gauge whether a person is committed to and passionate about his work, and prompt in his dealings?
February 22, 2006
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Dear Enthusiasts Only:

The characteristics you mention--passion, commitment and promptness--would be desirable in just about anyone, so your question may be on the minds of many employers.
While the three terms have something in common, it is possible for someone to be prompt but not passionate, passionate but not committed, and committed but not prompt. Let's look at behavioral questions that focus on each of the characteristics individually.
Passion springs from a person's deeply felt convictions. It is visible in the emotional response of the candidate. To assess the candidate's passion for the type of work you offer, ask:
  • What do you like most about your current job? What part of your job is most fulfilling? Why? Follow up with: Can you describe a work opportunity that meant so much to you that you put everything else aside to be involved in it? What did you do? How did it work out?
  • Please give me an example of a time when your heart wasn't in your work, and describe what you did about the situation.
  • Have you ever worked for an organization whose mission did not match up with the things you really feel strongly about? Please describe the situation and how you handled it.
Committed people follow through on the promises they make and take responsibility for the achievement of plans, sticking with work until it is completed. Committed people take responsibility for the consequences of their actions and do not blame others for their own mistakes or failures. To assess this competency, ask questions such as these:
  • What plans were set for you in that job? What plans did you set for yourself? Please describe a situation where the plan was set by your manager and you were accountable for completing it. What happened? How did it work out?
  • Describe a situation where your role was to set the direction for the work and things didn't go as you'd expected. What setbacks did you experience in that assignment? How did you respond?
  • What did you do to achieve your goals? How well did you achieve them? Please give an example of a time when you exceeded your goals.
Promptness requires good planning and time management. People who are prompt make sure they allow enough time to accommodate unexpected changes. They place a high value on the importance of other people's time, and avoid inconveniencing others. Here are some good questions to assess a person's promptness:
  • Please give an example of a situation when the timeline for a project was cut short, but you were still expected to deliver. How did you handle this situation?
  • How do you keep your calendar under control? Have you ever been unavoidably detained? How did you handle it?
  • What have you done to avoid missing deadlines? Please tell me about a time when your best efforts failed. What did you do?
Listen for candidate responses that include a description of the problem the individual faced, the actions taken to address the problem and the results of the actions. To evaluate candidate responses, give extra weight to those that have:
  • Multiple job-related examples
  • Recent, challenging examples
  • Examples with a significant impact
  • Examples in which the candidate took accountability for the outcome
To check your thinking on how important these qualities are within your own organization, ask your top performers how they would answer your interview questions. Use their responses as a guide for evaluating new talent.
SOURCE: Patsy Svare, Managing Director, the Chatfield Group, Glenview, Illinois, April 22, 2005.
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