How to Identify and Manage “Interview Chameleons”

March 28, 2016 at 10:52 AM Rob Stevenson

There's no way around it. Interviews are a bizarre and unnatural means of communication. An interviewer and interviewee – two people who have likely never met before – attempt to impress each other by selling their skills, their culture, and their successes.

The interview alone won’t give you the full picture of a candidate. The fact that it's an inorganic conversation means you are naturally going to get a curated version of someone. What happens when someone takes this too far?

It’s not uncommon for organizations to come across an interview chameleon in the hiring process, and a dishonest employee isn’t someone you want permeating your culture. Let’s take a moment to define these candidates, and how to identify them.

What “Interview Chameleons” Are

An interview chameleon is a candidate whose behavior and outward character shifts from interview to interview. While some degree of variance is natural, there should be a reasonable level of consistency and integrity. At Entelo, this surfaces when we assess for authenticity – are you who you say you are?

How to Find Them

One clear example of the interview chameleon in action is how they treat interviewers of different levels of seniority. Did they exhibit the same decorum and respect when meeting with an individual contributor as they did with a VP? If there's a tone of disrespect or disinterest with a more junior teammate, that attitude may persist and create a toxic working relationship.

Another way to sniff this out is in the candidate's own description of their success. Does their story about key successes change from person to person? If their success story isn’t consistent, this may suggest a desire to impress the interviewer instead of honestly portraying a time they overcame a challenge or achieved a goal.

This issue came up in a recent episode of our podcast. As Vivek explains below, this experience brings into question what the candidate may be hiding.

The best way to assess for gamesmanship or disingenuous behavior is to compare extensive interview notes. Without detailed feedback, it won't be possible to know if the candidate was being inauthentic or if the interviewers were merely tasked with different areas of evaluation.

Have you experienced this phenomenon in your own hiring? How do you go about identifying it? See you in the comments! 

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