Descriptive Language

I was talking with a candidate today discussing tactics of interviewing.  The chap was modest & reluctant to positively frame answers about his skills & experience.

Before you jump the gun – answers need to be authentic, genuine & comfortable for the candidate.  I am not condoning exaggeration or lying! Never works.

What struck me after the conversation was the adjectives he used to describe himself came across as:

  • Less than complementary to a 3rd party listening, underplaying his competencies
  • Also limited his own view of himself.

When I reframed his answers using different descriptors, he was more comfortable.

The classic example of a limiting descriptor is “pretty”.  As an example – “I am pretty good at stakeholder engagement”.  What does this mean? How do you quantify “pretty”?

If I get an answer like that I ask – Can you rate your stakeholder skills, between 0 & 10, with 0 being bad & 10 being excellent?

Candidate:  Often, they come back with something like “an 8”.

Me:  So, you have strong/excellent stakeholder skills?

Candidate: “Yes I suppose I do”

Big difference between “pretty good” to “strong”.

It matters to the people you meet & most importantly you.



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