April 1, 2016
Do you know how to identify narcissists during the interview process?
Paula looked great on paper. She had an MBA and had held two department manager jobs, both with prestigious companies.
She dazzled you and the rest of the selection team during two rounds of interviews. She answered every question succinctly, articulately and with a sense of humor.
When asked, “What puts you in the job market?” Paula gave a reasonable answer: “My calling is turning around problem departments and companies. Once they’re running smoothly, I’m ready for my next challenge.” Your company urgently needs someone who can take charge of a problem department—exactly Paula’s stated forte.
It bothers you slightly that Paula doesn’t want you to check with her current supervisor; however, she gave a reasonable explanation. “If you decide not to hire me, I’ll still need to work there. He’s the kind of man who feels betrayed when one of his team looks for a new job.” Also, she gave you two references from others in her current company, both individuals whom she personally hired for prominent positions.
Unfortunately, you can’t fully check references from Paula’s prior employer either, as the individual who supervised her had a heart attack and left the company. Paula’s former peers have also moved on, most during the same time period she departed.
You put your worries aside and hire Paula. Three months later, you realize you’ve hired a charismatic narcissist.
Narcissists see the world through a lens of “me,” yet easily land new jobs and then rapidly rise through organizational ranks because they excel at selling themselves.
If you hire them, you pay the price. They expect applause and react angrily when they don’t get it. They manipulate others to get what they want. By the time you figured Paula out, she’d hired two incompetent sycophants for key positions. Then, you have to figure out how to manage people who are problematic once you’ve terminated her. This means you have to know how to manage people. You couldn’t believe how stupid you’d been in allowing Paula to hire the two individuals who’d been her job references.
If you want to avoid ever hiring narcissists, you need to learn to recognize them. Here’s how:
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test (MBTI) can be a great tool in providing deeper insight into your candidate’s personality and whether or not it’s a good fit at your organization.
© Lynne Curry, author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM, 2016