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Pre-Employment Tests, Interview Skills & Hiring

By Dr. Michael Mercer
Mar 13, 2008, 14:18

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Avoid hiring psychopaths using pre-employment tests, key job interview questions, background and reference checks, and even their aura.


PSYCHOPATHS IN THE NEWS (& maybe in your company)


Recently, the news is buzzing about a high-level people who (a) preached a high moral standard but then (b) acted using a low moral standard.  This includes elected government officials and even some clergy.  Unfortunately, sometimes employees violate standards of conduct or laws, and this creates a big mess for a company.


Some of these trouble-making people are “psychopaths.” 




A psychopath

*  has no conscience

*  manipulates people

*  preaches high moral standards, but lives low moral standards

*  charms people

*  seduces or acts inappropriate in that regard

*  threatens other people in terms of their (a) well-being or (b) physical safety


Psychopaths prey on people who give in to their manipulations, verbal hostility, or physical intimidation.  Their prey often do not tell managers or executives due to (1) fear of how the psychopath will treat them if they snitch or (2) psychopaths charming managers so much that the managers do not believe the “snitch” who reveals how the psychopath really acts.




It is crucial for managers to avoid hiring psychopaths.  Harmony promotes productivity.  Fear caused by a psychopath’s threats, hostility and manipulations destroy harmonious work relationships.  So, managers must not hire psychopaths.




1.  Pre-Employment Tests – especially certain test scores

From my research on pre-employment tests, there are specific test scores that may indicate a job applicant is a psychopath.  Specifically, psychopaths may get low or high scores on certain measures/scales in pre-employment tests:

*  low scores on two measures – (a) Truthfulness and (b) Following Rules

*  high scores on two measures – (a) Aggressiveness and (b) Power Motivation


Lesson:  Be cautious with job applicants who get such scores on pre-employment tests.


2.  Job Interviews

If you suspect a job applicant may be a psychopath, then you can ask questions to elicit answers revealing if the applicant threatens or intimidates people.  Reason:  Psychopaths get a huge thrill from intimidating through (a) real or implied threats, (b) verbal hostility, and (c) manipulation.


So, managers need to ask questions that let the psychopath proudly tell you about getting their way through intimidation.


Examples of such job interview questions:

a.  “Imagine two times you had difficulty getting co-workers or employees to use your very good ideas.  Tell me exactly how you handled them to get them to use your ideas?”

b.  Everyone has friction with co-workers or employees.  Tell me two specific experiences in which you needed to work with an employee with whom you had friction.”


After asking each question, listen for the job applicant boasting about implied or real threats, intimidating, anger, or ridiculing other employees.


Warning:  Another red flag is if the applicant smiles at you, and says anything like “You had better offer me a job” – with the implication of “or else” between the lines.


3.  Reference Checks

Call the job applicant’s ex-bosses at home, and ask for a “personal reference.”  Obtain specific examples of how the applicant “handled difficulties and friction with other employees.”  Listen for warning signs of threats, intimidation, anger, or ridicule.


4.  Background Checks

Fortunately, sometimes psychopaths bite the dust by getting convicted.  So, managers should uncover convictions for crimes that would concern a company, for example, stealing, fraud, DUI, or violence.  Also, check to see if their claimed educational degrees and diplomas are real, and not figments of their manipulative lies.


5.  Aura

Alright, I admit this is not scientific.  But, if your gut-feeling about an applicant says trouble is brewing under the applicant’s smiling, charming exterior, then listen to your suspicion. 


If something about a job applicant “does not feel right,” then you are better off finding a better applicant.   Find a job applicant who does well in all your prediction methods.  That includes doing well on pre-employment tests, interviews, references, and background checks. 


Yes, that also includes finding a job applicant who exudes a good aura.




Dr. Michael Mercer is the Hire the Best Expert.  Pre-employment tests he created help companies hire productive, dependable employees.  His 5 books include “Hire the Best & Avoid the Rest” and also “Turning Your HR Dept. into a Profit Center.”  Many companies also use his customized interview method.  Dr. Mercer delivers speeches and training seminars at companies and conferences.  You can get his free 14-page White Paper on “Hire Productive, Profitable, & Honest Employees” plus subscribe to his free Management Newsletter at website =


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