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Understanding the Four Thinking Conditions when Interviewing Candidates

If you’re familiar with the expression “people don’t change,” think again. Many hiring managers can attest that people often do change between the time they were interviewed and the first day they start the job. The confusion can lead to catastrophic results.

What may seem like a classic case of bait and switch is typically due to four “thinking conditions” that determines our biases, our judgment, and how we interact with others. We are all constantly in one of these thinking conditions, depending on the situation:

Condition 1 – Relating Discussing and reviewing with others requires lots of energy to consider different points of view and input. This comes from interacting and talking “with” others, not “at” others.

Condition 2 – Reflecting Thinking on your own where time and energy is used as well as input from others. We often use this to make careful, thought-out decisions.

Condition 3: Responding Thinking on your own, but unlike reflecting, using little or no energy and time when considering alternatives. This is our most normal, daily thinking.

Condition 4: Reacting No energy or time is used when addressing a situation (critical or otherwise) under stress. Very few thinking modules are used, therefore we react to something that must quickly be fixed or addressed before considering other factors or issues.

How to Apply the Thinking Conditions to the Interview Process

When applied to the hiring process, understanding a candidate’s thinking conditions can be a challenge and a reward. So how can a hiring manager gain insight to identify the best candidate? Here are a few tips:

  • Fortunately, it’s safe to say that most people are in condition 1 during an interview. They come prepared to answer questions, are deliberate about how they answer and the words they use. In other words, they are putting their best foot forward.

  • Asking behavioral interview questions will help reveal condition 3 and condition 4 thinking. The candidate will likely answer the question in condition 1 mode, but their answers will show the thinking they used in those situations. For example, ask them to tell you about a time they had to handle a difficult sale to close. The way they answer the question and the words they choose will be very deliberate (condition 1) but the content of the answer will show their response and reaction thinking (condition 3 and 4).

  • It is common for candidates to use a different thinking condition while interviewing than in the day-to-day job, which often explains why managers claim the person they interviewed is so different than the person who showed up to work. This is due to the fact that candidates usually interview in deliberate mode (conditions 1 and 2), but as employees, show up to work in an automatic mode (conditions 3 and 4).

By keeping the four thinking conditions in mind during the interview process, hiring managers can avoid having a stranger show up for work!


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