Anyone who has spent time interviewing potential employees over a number of years has likely encountered ‘the Promoter’. They are the kind of person that always presents very well, they are easy to get to know, likeable, communicate readily and leave a good first impression.
• Talking about themselves, they are big on positive personal narratives
• Describing their successes, giving detailed stories of achievements
• Speaking off the cuff, an unstructured meeting where they can go freelance on impressing you
Promoters STRUGGLE WITH
• Talking about their weaknesses
• Describing situations where they or their team have failed
• Structured interview questions requiring answers giving detailed specifics.
Typical traits of an interview with a Promoter:
• It can be tough to get to the bottom of what they did themselves vs. what their team did
• You are never entirely sure if there is substance behind the spin
• You walk away liking them, but find it hard to pinpoint why
• Interviews go on much longer, and it is more difficult to keep to a structure.
Promoters naturally tend to give you the positive spin on every situation regardless of the outcome.
Don’t get me wrong, we are not saying that Promoters aren’t great employees. They have many fantastic traits….. in the right role!
The trick to interviewing a Promoter personality is cutting through what they want to tell you, and focusing on what you really need to know to make a decision.
Prepare structured behavioural questions
A carefully planned behavioural or competency based interview delivered by an appropriately trained interviewer, followed up by a reference to confirm the details, is the only way to truly make an informed decision.
• Before you start, identify the specific job related competencies you want to target and structure behavioural questions to focus on these
• Drill down so you understand what they actually did themselves. Use probing statements such as “What were you responsible for?” What were you required to deliver yourself?”
• Be persistent and don’t be afraid to pause and wait for them to consider their response. Approach the question from different angles if you need to.
• Develop a rich picture of the situation described, what was required of the candidate in that situation, how they responded and what they achieved.
• Ask general, open-ended questions
• Let Promoters give a general answer to a specific question. Stop their answer before they get carried away and ask for a
• Don’t stop drilling until you have your answers!
Delve into the negative to reach a positive.
Promotor’s naturally focus on the positive, and it is useful to pose some of the behavioural based questions specifically towards a negative situation for example; “Tell me about a time you failed to deliver XYZ…” This is often where a Promoter will stop and can be somewhat lost for words. Commonly, they don’t want to recognise failure to achieve a strong outcome as something that was in
In some situations this ‘blind spot’ can cause problems with accountability, particularly when employed in management positions.
Whilst it can be uncomfortable for inexperienced interviewers to persist in these circumstances, once the Promoter starts talking about a negative experience, it is usually where you will see them at their most open and frank. That’s when it can get very revealing.
Don’t be afraid to keep asking tough questions, Promoters can make great employees, but first you must cut through the spin to truly understand if they are a great fit.