Tailoring Your Interviews to Spot the Imposters

You were excited and optimistic about your most recent candidate after the phone screen. You even broke into your happy dance because you were that much closer to the light at the end of the talent hunting tunnel. But as these things often do, your tune has changed after the live interview. You are having trouble pinpointing exactly why you feel this way. While your team starts throwing out industry terms like “purple squirrel,” you smell a rat.

What went wrong? For starters, that in-person meeting left you feeling skeptical, at best, if they can actually back up the skills they touted. These are a few of the responses you’ve probably experienced that got your spidey senses tingling.

BTW, your gut is probably right if you’ve checked more than one of these imposter boxes:

  • They avoid offering specific, relevant instances to answer your behavioral questions, even after you‚Äôve really dug in and expressed what you wanted from their answer. It probably means‚Ķ
    • They don‚Äôt have any experience regarding the skills you are inquiring about
    • They‚Äôre trying to artfully take credit for another team member‚Äôs positive behavior or achievement, or
    • They‚Äôre deflecting in hopes of changing the subject.
  • They can‚Äôt answer a question about weaknesses or failure without sharing the blame or mentioning someone else‚Äôs contribution to the miss. But don‚Äôt worry, it will become all about them when you flip the script and ask about achievements. Basically, they are only high-team when it benefits their case‚Ķand if we are talking talent DNA, tack on high-faking good because this is a classic sign.
  • They leave a large gap of unemployed time on their resume, or they have multiple start and end dates that are less than 2 years apart that they just won‚Äôt address. Yes, there are some great reasons why people take time off from their careers, but we have to consider the alternative here and cross our t‚Äôs (this is your team we are talking about!). It could mean that they were terminated for unfavorable reasons, so they left the position off. Background checks can help clear up the details if you suspect dishonest termination.
  • On the other side of the coin, they claim to be contract work warriors. In this gig economy contract work absolutely exists, but if they have been on their career path for a while and still only seem to be scoring short-term ‚Äúcontract‚Äù roles there may be another story behind those employment stints.Try a simple solution like cross-checking their resume with their LinkedIn with a specific focus on consulting or LLC gigs, which could indicate that they aren‚Äôt bluffing about their past. Or if you really want to get to the bottom of it, call the companies listed that raise your red flags and ask about specific projects mentioned. The worst they can do is confirm your suspicions about foul resume play and failure to disclose misconduct or underperformance.
  • They can‚Äôt offer professional references for you to contact. Plain and simple ‚Äì they‚Äôve barely or never done the duties that the job entails and they don‚Äôt want to give themselves up. That or they don‚Äôt have a past associate who can attest to the skills or roles on their resume. You‚Äôll hear ‚ÄúThey are no longer at our previous organization,‚Äù or ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt have their contact info anymore‚Äù but that‚Äôs the beauty of hiring in 2019 ‚Äì almost everyone has a LinkedIn account. You‚Äôll notice the nervous sweating when you insist on taking down just the reference‚Äôs name and the past employer that spurred the connection.

Just to re-emphasize, none of these points are great indicators of a strong new addition to your team, but there are always exceptions to the rule. Keep drilling for meaningful details and your candidate might actually surprise you with the specific, golden response you were looking for. If that doesn’t end up being the case, you may just have an imposter on your hands.

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