Friday, December 23, 2011

Personality Types, Self Awareness and the Interview Process

i recently submitted this document to my supervisor just because many of those thoughts where perculating in my head after my recent job interview. right now as things stand this document will only go as far as my supervisor although i am considering sending it to another supervisor and my director as well.

Personality Types, Self Awareness and the Interview Process

I recently was a part of an interview process to board for an SP3 position in the Job Centre and I left the experience with the thought that the process favours particular personality types or people who process their environment a particular way.
Under Myers-Briggs I am an ISFP which means that I am a reluctant leader who relies on loyalty as a means of motivation, I persuade by tapping into other’s good intentions, I offer more praise than criticism and I rise to the occasion and adapt to what is needed. I’m very much about relationships in the workplace and working cooperatively and flexibly with compatible people. All of that means that I’m a bit of a schmoozer who infuses joy into his work and acts to ensure others’ well-being. I pay attention to how people are treated and I do my very best to use what power I have to make some change for the sake of justice.
It does me little good to try and express WHAT I do at work in a given scenario because I’m all about WHY I do it. In the interview process the department is interested in acquired skills and the strength of my resume while I’m mostly interested in my passions and motivations within my work. My acquired skills and the strength of my resume are secondary and unimportant from where I stand. In an interview I would want the department to know what others say about me, what my supervisor thinks of the job that I do, and what testimonials to my work are in place. In a sense, my relationships are my resume and the people I have served are the result of my acquired skills.
It’s difficult for me to discuss the WHAT of my work, it’s like a foreign language. In an interview someone of my personality type would need to focus on relationship issues, cooperative and flexible approaches to working together, and the passions and motivations for doing whatever job I do. I didn’t get any chance to express those thoughts in my interview and I believe them to be viable and integral thoughts that must be expressed. I bank on my likeability at work, I engage people and I get them to trust me, I give them hope and I dispense hope on a regular basis so that I can help an individual to a better place. For me to spend whatever period of time in an interview talking about acquired skills doesn’t let me inject humanity into my discussions and my most recent board left me thinking that the interview process was very sterile and cold.
Most of my self-awareness work over the last several years has been by using the Enneagram as a tool for my study. The Enneagram is a spiritual exercise that looks into personality types and trends of coping that people employ. I won’t get too indepth in what I say here but I will say that in the Enneagram study I am a Type 9 (there are 9 types in total). The 9 is well versed and capable at many things and he is at his best when motivated into action. He’s steady, stable, genial and accommodating but at his worst he’s so laid-back that it looks like he’s done or is doing nothing while being completely content with his inaction. A 9 is at his best when he’s spurred on by something and for me I’m at my best when I’m ambitious and creative in my approach to solving problems. When a 9 is motivated he’s a world changer.
Now having said all that I’ll be a little more general as to how the Enneagram relates to my discussion of the interview process. The Enneagram categorizes the 9 types into 3 categories of relating to the world. There is the Head, the Heart and the Gut. I fall into the Gut way of relating to the world. I’m spontaneous, imaginative, sensitive and very creative. A major question when I’m dealing with participants in my job has little to do with whether or not they’re eligible or not, it’s more related to “do I believe you? Does your story hold water with me?” because if I believe a person I know that I can move mountains to advocate, teach and defend their rights.
The interview process didn’t/doesn’t allow much freedom for an intuitive or sensing approach to the world since it’s only focus is a regurgitation of facts as it relates to acquired skills. It provides an advantage to those who relate to the world from a Head space since the process requires someone to regurgitate a list of buzz words. If you can mention more words that ring bells on the scoresheet then an individual succeeds. It also seems to create a bit of a “groupthink” phenomenon. The same type of individual succeeds because they hit all the buzz words and we end up with the same sorts of thinkers or world relaters at the top of the department as they succeed.
As a 9 I find life for myself when I’m motivated, when I’m ambitious. I want very much to talk about my motivations and my passions because I want to nurture what gives me life. The interview process does next to nothing for me in that area because I cannot process my relationships with participants, co-workers and other agencies in a detached way. I tell myself to be likeable but professional at the same time. I want to be engaging but respectful of people’s needs at the same time. Some studies have been done recently talk about the sorts of things elderly people remember when they look back at their life and one of the main responses has been that they remember how well or how poorly they were treated by service agencies whose only job was to help them with their life goals. I never want to be the sort that someone looks back and says that they were treated badly or unfairly by me, but I also have to guard against taking matters too personally within my own personality type.
In a job like ours that is so up-front with the public I truly believe that personality and energy needs to be an integral part of the job. How believable is the caseworker when he or she is dealing with the public? How supportive is that person? How does that person motivate someone who does not want to move, to move? It has to be more than the pointy end of the stick when dealing with people.
So, what can I recommend within the process? What’s the point of rambling on about personality types and how to affect some change in the process? I do want to make some suggestions about how we could do it better although I don’t know if all the suggestions are workable or practical. It would require more legwork on the part of an interview board to accomplish what I’m suggesting here.
1) Consider Myers-Briggs testing for employees as part of learning plans, annual employee appraisals or at the point of application for boards. The purpose of this is not to screen out individuals for jobs based on their personality types but rather to explore a more varied questioning that allows other personality types to succeed more often.
2) Consider requiring some sort of self awareness exercises as part of personal growth within the workplace. I have found the Enneagram to be very helpful for me and I have a few contacts that could be used if an optional seminar could be arranged.
3) Weigh the opinion and evaluation of the direct supervisor more than or equal to the presentation in an interview so that learning styles and working styles can be taken into account. Have management more versed in personality typing so that they can understand better the effective ways employees relate to their world and their jobs.
4) Ask different questions in an interview. Every personality type relates to the world differently so the questions asked need to allow an individual to express themselves in the way they’re most accustomed to. Instead of so many “what” questions try to ask a few “why” and “how” questions. Someone with a Gut energy like myself will want to discuss motivations and passions as well as skills and strengths. I’m confident that you’ll see some different folks shine as they relate those things that they’re passionate about in the work they do. In order to accomplish something like this management would have to know more about an individual’s personality type BEFORE the interview happens.
5) Encourage ambition in your employees. Encourage creativity and support it strongly in anyone showing it. Dare to let people think of ways to solve problems with an eye that may not fit the stringent box set out by the Act and policy. I just think that this approach encourages employees to inject more humanity into their work and I know this gives me LIFE.

Respectfully submitted,

Ian Fergusson

1 comment:

Rebecca Koo said...

I find this so interesting and if I did not need to put my kiddos to bed would read on. I am familiar with Myers-Briggs (I am your extroverted counter-part) and less so with Eniagram (but have heard of it and a little bit about it). I love what you have written here. Such a great look at differences and how they practically play out in one of life's arenas. Love your writing. YOU come across in it, which I think is so great.