Wanted – Mature, Well-rounded Individuals
By: Alan Davis
During the astronaut recruitment program, a journalist asked the head of our psychological team, to sum up the soft skills requirement for astronauts. His response was immediate.
He said: “We are looking for mature, well-rounded, individuals.”
I asked him afterwards “Isn’t that what we are looking for in all candidates?”
His response was “As a matter of fact, yes it is!”
This exchange prompted the question, “How do you assess whether a potential candidate is mature and well-rounded?”
The answer is, first, to define the terms.
Mature is defined as (of a person) having reached an advanced stage of mental or emotional development.
Well-Rounded is defined as (of a person) having a personality that is fully developed in all aspects.
It is a mistake (and close to impossible) to develop interview questions directly based on maturity and well roundedness. The answer is to break down these complex definitions into the human behaviors, which together make up these traits.
For example, you would not ask the question at an interview: “Give me an example of when you’ve displayed maturity or well-roundedness”. However, you can ask the question: “Please give me an example of when you exercised sound judgment or superior communication skills.”
An interesting aspect of the astronaut selection, and one that we do not normally assess, is that of compatibility with others.
It is clearly important for an astronaut candidate to be able to live in confined quarters with a peer group from different nationalities and cultures. The way the compatibility issue is measured, both in Canada and the US, is by the selection team, made up of existing astronauts, spending considerable time with the candidates.
This is time-consuming but necessary because an interview situation, especially a panel interview situation, is an artificial environment in which to assess a candidate’s performance and personality.
Spending time with the candidates, morning, noon, and night, in different formal and informal situations including mealtimes, is a much more realistic proposition.
By the same token, determining whether candidates for a position in the workforce are sufficiently mature and well-rounded is going to require some digging, albeit not to astronaut levels! Which brings me back to the question above: “When did you exercise sound judgment or superior communication skills?”
The most important capability in almost all positions for which we recruit is that of communication. And we have more than one way in which to judge that capability.
You can ask for examples of where your candidate has achieved extraordinary results by employing superior communication skills, but you can also, at the same time, make a judgment of how the candidate exercises communication skills in the evaluation process itself.
First, written communication skills can be judged by the CV and cover letter. Because these are often prepared by a third party, a supervised written test can become a part of the interview process. In my experience, this is rarely done in North America, but is relatively common in Europe.
Then, of course, there is the interview itself. As important as the questions and answers themselves, is the communications skill and confidence revealed in the process.
We dig for, and evaluate, many characteristics and behaviors in the interview process. One of the most meaningful, in my experience, is this business of communications competence.
I have found it to be fundamental in the make-up of anyone considered to be “mature and well-rounded.”
Alan Davis is a veteran in the recruiting business with over 30 years experience of
recruiting a wide range of positions from accountants to astronauts, from engineers to executives. He started out as a recruiter and for the last 25 years has managed his own search practice, Alan Davis & Associates Inc. located in Hudson, Quebec. His firm is a member of Cornerstone International Group of which he is Chief Marketing Officer. He is a pioneer of Strategic Recruiting (Building the External Talent Bench) as well as Competitor Talent Mapping, which allows employers to cherry pick the best talent available. Alan is a regular conference speaker and a frequently published author on recruiting and selection topics.
Hudson, QC: 450-458-3535