The economic crisis is finally leaving the Eurozone, and a breath of hope is enveloping our country. Timid signs of recovery have emerged, and the possibility of investing in technological innovation and new resources to be employed is no longer a utopia.
Those who work within the selection processes must know how to choose wisely who to hire: all too often it happens that new recruits perform well in the first few months only to have a downturn in terms of motivation and commitment to the company.
We know that in the field of Human Resources, the first step is usually a careful evaluation of the information available on possible candidates. Currently, this analysis, once limited to CVs, is largely enriched by the information available on the web within the various social networks. This fact calls for serious reflection on a survey that is much more exposed than in the past to the risk of a misleading assessment due to the presence of data that could deviate considerably from reality. The factor linked to social desirability, always lurking in any form of self-presentation, in fact finds a very large and completely new space within these communication tools.
Ideally, a selection interview should be able to generate the best meeting point between the needs and interests of both parties. In reality this does not happen, or still happens too rarely, because even at selection tables people lie. Research carried out by EIA (Emotional Intelligence Academy) in the UK, highlights these findings. A quarter of job interviewees lie when writing their CV. The most common distortions and omissions are those concerning:
The numbers relating to these small or big lies are increasing, a fact that is not surprising in a market that, accomplice to the crisis, requires candidates to distinguish themselves and stand out in an increasingly competitive and selective scenario.
In some cases, concealment is limited to mere exaggeration, often compensated for by the worker quickly adapting to the new job. In many other situations, however, we are faced with genuinely false and incorrect behaviour and statements. In these cases, the new recruit may be genuinely unsuitable for the job, and his or her incompetence may result in considerable damage to the company in terms of wasted time invested and money lavished, as well as affecting the lives of other potential candidates unfairly discarded during the initial selection process, even if they are objectively more competent.
For several years now, the notion of competence has extended the field of investigation from specialised training linked to studies or previous work experience, to the so-called transversal competences that seek to identify and understand, within a broader vision, the candidate’s motivations, values and behavioural orientations. Lying on these aspects is more difficult if those conducting the selection are prepared to grasp aspects of an emotional-behavioural nature.
In more general terms, it should be reiterated that the selection interview should never be experienced as a challenge, and this applies to both sides of the table. The asymmetric game aimed at proving who is better, who wins and who loses, does not pay and exposes to the risk well summarised by the statement that: “companies hire for skills and fire for behaviour”.
The time is ripe to start thinking that the knowledge we have can help us change the culture that accompanies selection activities. The tendency for candidates to provide untrue data, which we mentioned earlier, is basically nothing more than a response, certainly not a correct one, to a widespread perceptual distortion that leads to misrepresenting the meaning of this activity.
Countering this tendency is possible starting with a commitment to improving the skills of those responsible for managing selection activities. The ability to observe and the sensitivity of those working in the sector must improve, in order to extend the investigation to the sphere of emotions and motivations. Valuing therefore in the management of the interview those aspects linked to emotional intelligence that play a decisive role in the balance of the assessment process.
Today it is finally possible to use a scientific methodology to facilitate this demanding task, an instrument capable of detecting the indicators of a possible lie. The studies underlying this methodology stem from the work of Paul Ekman, an American psychologist, professor emeritus of psychology at UCSF (www.ucsf.edu), and a leading expert in the study of emotions.
Prof. Ekman’s research on lying led to the discovery of micro-expressions, mimicry related to emotions that manifest and vanish in the space of a fraction of a second. Based on this knowledge, Ekman recently developed the ETaC (Evaluating Truthfulness and Credibility) method to support the assessment of credibility. This technique combines the use of targeted questions with the observation of five communication channels:
These skills in observing and conducting the interview significantly increase one’s ability to assess credibility and detect possible signs of lying on the part of one’s interlocutor. Those who are trained to pick up on these signals have a very effective tool at their disposal; they can extract valuable information related to emotions that their interlocutor is not aware of manifesting, and verify them instantly through targeted questions. Skills that it is important to know how to handle ethically, with full respect for the person and their privacy.
Unmasking a lie is a stimulating challenge for our intellect, so much so that it can lead us to take dangerous shortcuts. Possessing a method helps us to steer our intuitive capacity in the right direction. Conan Doyle also seems to be moving in the same direction when he entrusts his most famous character, Sherlock Holmes, with the following words: “It is a capital mistake to theorise before you have the data. Without realising it, one begins to distort facts to fit theories, instead of fitting theories to facts.”