The Differences Between Interview Skills and Working Skills

Posted by Mitch Corlett on July 8, 2013

We have long said that interviews are long on showmanship and short on a candidate's proof of ability to do the job, and some interesting research reinforces our position. We tip our hat to Kazim Ladimeji at, who found three new studies suggesting that hiring nervous job candidates may not be such a bad thing. Let's break it down a little more:

The first, from Corinne Bendersky from UCLA’s School of Management, found that "extrovert traits that may them stand out from the crowd can fail in a team based situations. And the dull, uninspiring traits of introverts can make them effective on the job." It's easy for our biases to color our initial impressions of an introverted person, but actually thinking highly of the extroverts is also a problem for our long-term opinion of them - "at the end of the 10 week study/project period, the extroverts were seen to have lost status and to have contributed less than expected," while instead the introverts were "seen to have contributed more than expected and gained status as a result."

So would you rather have someone who seems nervous and is a less effective interviewer, or someone who provides a great first impression, only to let your team down in terms of their actual effectiveness? In a previous post we noted that the best candidate rarely has the best resume, and that people who are great at actually working get much less practice at looking for work, so when they are looking, they're much more rusty at the interview process and resume crafting than those people who jump from job to job and so by necessity are excellent at interviewing.

Corinne Bendersky's second related study actually found:

The general preconception is that the ... negativity of [introverts] will be a drag on the team and that the enthusiasm and energy of extroverts would boost the team. But, in the studies the contributions of extroverts were not as good as expected and the introvert performed beyond expectations in a team environment.

So again, who are you looking for? Someone who acts the part, or someone who performs well? We've previously written about how to interview senior executives to distinguish between the effective executive and the empty suit.

We're not saying that extroverts are a waste of time, and only introverts make effective executives or team members. In fact, the third study in the article found that ambiverts (those who combine extrovert and introvert traits) were the most effective salesmen. Instead, let's recognize our biases, and how remarkably easy it is to interview an outgoing, well-practiced candidate and think they're perfect for the job - even though they're really just great at interviewing. Remember, interviews are nowhere near the best predictor of job performance. When you are hiring for an important position, just remember that often the real innovators are the ones down in the trenches, getting their hands dirty. And the best one just might be that nervous job candidate you were ready to rule out.

Topics: Candidates, Hiring Managers