Join MySLAS Social

Zeroth Level of the Interviewing Continuum: Personal Self Assessment

By Daniel J. Eustace, Ph.D.
University of Connecticut

"I will prepare and some day my chance will come."
– Storyteller Abraham Lincoln


At every single stage in your career management process, missteps can be made that derail your chances for success. These missteps prevent you, or at least delay you, from being offered satisfying positions that enable you to be productive and lead a balanced and enriched life. There is unanimity among many professional career consultants that overlooking or shorting personal self assessment is among the most common sources of delayed success and repeating failures.

The self assessment, then, is the zeroth level of the interviewing continuum. In physics, chemistry and engineering, the zeroth energy level is the lowest possible energy of a quantum mechanical system, the energy of the ground state. Thus, the zeroth level of the interviewing continuum is knowing yourself – your skills, your personal traits and behaviors, values, your fit for cultural norms and your emotional system. You need to know yourself and be able to reflect that image to others in interviews as a value proposition both in the moment and projected out in time as revealed in your personal history and experiences.

Doing this self assessment, or self inventory, is the most successful way to land a job. For general job hunters, completing a self inventory leads to an 86 percent success rate in landing a position. On the other hand, a mere 7 percent success rate occurs for just mailing or posting your resume. The assessment enables you to better target what you are looking for, more accurately describe to others what you are seeking and help you shine in interviews.

Your self assessment involves devising tactics to explore, define yourself for yourself and others, and ultimately match up strengths, attributes and preferences with career opportunities. Your self assessment should include five categories.

1. Values and Strong Talents (Strengths)

Values are your foundation, the principles by which you live. These relate to personal beliefs of what is important, making life meaningful and influencing your decisions. An instrument by Lynne I. Sullivan, LIS Consulting, extolled ‘making a case for your values‘ which creates score rankings for achievement, contribution, affiliation, security and environment.

Strengths are our attributes. Your strengths and your talents are unique and the greatest room for growth is in the areas of your greatest strengths. It has been said that the secret of success is to find your strengths, reinforce them with practice and learning and then find a role that draws on those strengths every day. So often we focus on our weaknesses instead of our strengths. Individuals also can relate what they believe are personal character strengths in this category. Some examples are calm under pressure, ‘my word is my bond' integrity, authenticity or creative problem solver.

2. Personal Behavioral Style

These preferences relate in a reciprocal way how people respond and treat others and how they wish to interact. Commonly, people find comfort in behaving like we do. We conclude and make judgments about others based on behaviors we observe in them. A Sullivan behavioral styles instrument uses David Morrill and Roger Reid's model for interaction preferences assessing as amiable, expressive, driving and analytical.

Other related behavioral assessment tools examine your personal work style and explore situations, conditions and outcomes in which you perform your best. Is it being autonomous? Seeking advancement, challenge or adventure? Is it stability, work in teams, high rewards or high standards of moral and ethical behavior? There are many work style components to assess.

3. Organizational Culture Fitness

It is often not obvious to less experienced professionals, yet the norms, beliefs, habits and collective behaviors of organizations, or ‘how things get done around here,' affect and influence whether you like being part of an organization or not. The organizational culture has been portrayed in movies about IBM, working in the government, military or for that matter, The Office.

There are differences between larger and smaller firms, between research and development and manufacturing divisions, between affiliates in one location and another. Similar to personal behavioral styles, there is legitimacy in matching with a corporate culture that fits your experiences and your preferences. Some common elements expressed as ends of a spectrum include exciting, long hours vs. routine, predictable timelines and hours; having skilled experts in departments vs. people wearing many hats; rewards based on merit and achievement vs. team-based or contractual rewards.

4. Skills and Interests

Often, skills matching is the extent to which many job seekers approach career management. They will identify keywords for technical or management skills and, like the skills section of Linkedin profiles, include every one that applies or can apply. Job seekers focus on specific skills, years of experience and level of expertise, yet this is only one segment of a skills assessment. The so-called hard skills stay the same from job to job. In addition to hard skills, there are soft skills and wise skills.

Soft skills, sometime called people skills, change according to circumstances – patience, abilities to persuade, negotiate and organize. The Hard Truth About Soft Skills: Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They'd Learned Sooner by Peggy Klaus is a very good book on this topic.

You are expected to be competent in hard and soft skills. What can differentiate two strong candidates, however, are your wise skills. Some examples of wise skills are being allies for others, knowing the importance of face-to-face communication, time management, goal-setting and committed networking to name a few.

5. Emotional Intelligence

Recognition is growing in the workplace for a field of psychology that involves personal awareness, how we interact with others and observing and managing those interactions. Daniel Goleman has been a leader in this field known as emotional intelligence. He notes four emotional competences: personal awareness, self management, social awareness and relational management.

A brief framework for these four competencies includes:

• Self awareness – what do you feel in certain circumstances and what are your tendencies in them?

• Self management – how to you use your awareness to develop and display the behaviors your desire?

• Social awareness – how well do you observe and under stand how to respond to the emotions of others?

• Relationship management – how well do you hone your emotional skill set to manage your interactions with others?

The Myers-Briggs Technical Instrument (MBTI) is helpful in defining our particular preferences in comparison to 15 others. MBTI is often used in helping improve team behaviors and performance, since it allows team members to know their individual and their teammates' preferences and suggests ways that lead to smoother interactions. It is an international tool that has been translated into more than 20 languages and has been analyzed for different cultures.

Five for your Future

The above five facets need to be considered in your career management self assessment to prepare you to explore the career marketplace and present yourself effectively. Each of the five elements is important, and I believe they can be conducted in any order.

About the Author

Dan Eustace serves members of several societies, local sections and ?universities by sharing behaviors, emerging ideas and best practices for managing careers. He retired from Polaroid and ExxonMobil and serves the UCONN Chemistry Department as an adjunct professor. Eustace has held staff and management positions in battery development, complex oilfield chemical development, terrestrial solar cells, high tech film manufacture and environmental protection, industrial hygiene and chemical safety. He serves SLAS as a career consultant and workshop presenter. Connect with Eustace on LinkedIn.

July 1, 2013