How to Look for Civility in Job Interviews

How do you make sure that you are hiring people who will not only be civil themselves, but also contribute to the work unit’s overall civility? And what questions might you expect in future if you are on the interviewee side of the table.

Last week I delivered a webinar for the US-based HRDQ—a great organization offering learning and training resources that now distributes our Respect on the Go toolkits. (You can watch the webinar here for free.) One of the participants inquired about civility-focused guidance for the hiring process. Since this is a question I get asked from time to time, I thought I’d share some tips.

  1. Describe a scenario where the interviewee would be on the receiving end of incivility. Ask how they would respond. A desirable candidate is one who would address things constructively—directly, professionally and respectfully.
  2. Ask for an example where the person was treated in a rude or discourteous manner by a manager or colleague. What was his or her internal reaction? What was his or her response on the ground? What transpired—did it go well or perhaps not—and why? What did they learn and how did they apply it? Explore the details. You’re looking for candor, and for an ability to reflect on their own reactivity and take mature action.
  3. Ask for an example of when the person had been themselves uncivil (you may want to provide a loose definition of the term, and emphasize that anyone can be unintentionally uncivil—let the interviewee feel it’s okay to “admit” his or her own flaws.). If they can’t come up with an example then they are either not human or not truthful. If they do describe a situation, explore the details and learning, and how they would apply that in your workplace.
  4. Did they ever work in an uncivil environment or team? What did they observe and experience? In hindsight, what part did they play in contributing to this environment either positively or negatively? You’re looking here for a capacity for insight about the effect that the incivility had on them personally, on the team, on collaboration, and of course on clients and stakeholders.
  5. Describe a situation where the interviewee would be a bystander, observing a colleague being uncivil toward another colleague. How would they respond? How would they analyze the situation? A desirable candidate is one who is able to listen to his or her inner canary, demonstrate insight into the complexities of the dynamics of incivility, and a capacity to move beyond their internal mental barriers to step up to the plate.
  6. If your organizational values include a “respect” value or the like, share that with the candidate and ask them to describe what “respect” would mean to them: Why is it important to them? How specifically would they live that out if they were to get the job? What would they do if they encountered behaviours that are not in line with this value? What have they done in the past?

There are numerous advantages to a civil work environment. Hiring the right people will save you lots of future headaches and challenging experiences.

As always, contact me directly, anytime.

This entry was posted in Blog, Harassment, Leadership, Miscellaneous, Respectful Workplace, Workplace Incivility. Bookmark the permalink.

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