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Ducks in a Row: Getting the Best from Interviews

by Miki Saxon


How many times have you interviewed candidates who performed superbly in multiple interviews, but not once they were hired?

Conversely, have you taken a chance and hired candidates who didn’t interview well, but turned out to be some of your most productive and innovative performers?

Have you wondered why? More importantly, have you wondered how to avoid having this happen or at least have warning that it might?

An article details new brain research that explains what may be going on even though it is focused on kids and test-taking.

It comes down to the genes and brain chemistry that regulates an individual’s response to stress.

The researchers were interested in a single gene, the COMT gene. This gene carries the assembly code for an enzyme that clears dopamine from the prefrontal cortex. That part of the brain is where we plan, make decisions, anticipate future consequences and resolve conflicts. “Dopamine changes the firing rate of neurons, speeding up the brain like a turbocharger,” says Silvia Bunge, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley. Our brains work best when dopamine is maintained at an optimal level. You don’t want too much, or too little. By removing dopamine, the COMT enzyme helps regulate neural activity and maintain mental function.

Here’s the thing: There are two variants of the gene. One variant builds enzymes that slowly remove dopamine. The other variant builds enzymes that rapidly clear dopamine. We all carry the genes for one or the other, or a combination of the two.

While you can’t condition the brains of your candidates to respond well to the stress of interviewing, you can provide an environment that allows the “worriers” to perform better and gives a clearer picture of the “warriors” true skills.

To some extent you can level the field by eliminating as much stress as possible for the entire interview process. For instance

  • take time to put them at ease;
  • avoid two and three-on-one interviews;
  • avoid interviewing actions that feel like judgments or tests;
  • make the process transparent;
  • inform them about the process; and
  • avoid surprises.

Lowering interview stress allows the “worriers” to perform better and removes the “warrior’s” edge.

Flickr image credit: Josh Gee Photography

One Response to “Ducks in a Row: Getting the Best from Interviews”
  1. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] Ducks in a Row: Getting the Best from Interviews […]

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