Here's An Interview Question To Test If Millennial Candidates Are Actually Entitled Narcissists
This article originally appeared on Forbes by Mark Murphy, Founder of Leadership IQ
Of all the charges that get leveled against millennials, the most pernicious, and ubiquitous, is that they’re entitled narcissists. Now, those charges are seriously overblown (and often completely inaccurate). But for the moment, let’s imagine that we do think the ‘entitled narcissist’ label fits and that we need a way to assess job candidates to ensure that anybody we hire is not an entitled narcissist. Is such a thing even possible?
It turns out that this is not a new challenge. Based on the Hiring For Attitude research, we know that 46% of new employees will fail within 18 months of hire. And 89% of the time when new hires fail, it’s for attitude rather than skills, with a lack of coachability being the number one reason why they fail. In case you were wondering, a lack of coachability looks virtually identical to being an entitled narcissist.
So how can you tell if someone is an entitled narcissist (or uncoachable)? I recommend the interview question
“Could you tell me about a time when you doubted your abilities?”
This question has three hallmarks of an effective interview question: it’s open-ended, it forces the candidate to provide a specific example, and it makes the candidate reveal their underlying attitudes. You can find more interview questions that share these characteristics (and learn how tough they are to answer) in the online quiz “Could You Pass This Job Interview?”
In this particular question, you’re forcing the candidate to reveal whether they’ve had doubts about their abilities. This indicates a level of coachability as someone is not coachable if they’ve never had doubts, and they’re fairly narcissistic if they think they’re perfect. And you’re not just forcing them to reveal any doubts they’ve had; you’re also testing to see whether they’ve been able to transform those doubts into any kind of improvement and self-growth.
When your interview question is this open-ended, your candidates’ answers will very quickly reveal their “goodness of fit.” The following are three real-life answers to the question “Could you tell me about a time when you doubted your abilities?” In all three cases, hiring managers thought these responses indicated a lack of coachability and high levels of entitled narcissism.
Notice how all three of those answers indicate someone who has no doubt about their abilities? Even though they could be totally wrong, there’s just no openness in any of those responses to the possibility that they could do better. Imagine how painful it would be if you’re the manager trying to give some constructive feedback to any of these candidates. Confidence is great, but delusional self-assuredness is a major problem.
Now let’s look at two other real-life answers to the question “Could you tell me about a time when you doubted your abilities?” that hiring managers thought indicated high coachability and low levels of entitled narcissism.
You’ll notice that each of those two answers reflects doubt, but also a willingness to learn (in order to eliminate the doubt).
When these candidates say, “It was a humbling experience” and “I learned that there are going to be times where you don’t know everything” they’re telling you that they’re not entitled narcissists, they’re coachable and they’re quite open to learning and feedback.
So, while it’s often wildly unfair to label an entire generation as being entitled narcissists, the simple fact is that you can immediately assess whether someone fits that label. And all it takes is one simple interview question.
Mark Murphy is the CEO of Leadership IQ and the author of Hiring For Attitude.