Oh, Those Words We Take for Granted

By Adam Robinson,
December 9, 2013

This is a guest blog post written by Dr. Stephen Laser. Dr. Laser is the Founder and Managing Director of Stephen A. Laser Associates, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in individual assessments for corporate, municipal, and public safety clients. The firm’s clients include Fortune 500 companies, international corporations, and over eighty municipal fire and police departments. For more information, please visit www.laserassociates.net.

It’s amazing how many times during the course of an interview with a prospective job candidate, interviewers simply let pass answers that really deserve greater attention and further probing which will clearly uncover valuable information.  For example, here’s a sample of four common terms that are used by many job candidates that are surely worth probing: ‘challenging work,’ ‘the right company culture,’ ‘corporate politics,’ and ‘micromanagement.’

Candidates readily use these terms and hiring managers dutifully record them into their interview notes. But do you really know what the candidate is talking about? 

Challenging Works and The Right Company Culture

‘Challenging work’ can mean anything from a variety of tasks during the course of the work day to high visibility projects or assignments that place a person in front of senior management, thereby enhancing a candidate’s chances for promotion.  ‘The right company culture’ probably covers an even wider range of responses that bears further exploration.  For some people that means low employee turnover, for others it’s promotion from within.  Still, other candidates are looking for a collaborative setting that encourages teamwork as opposed to people operating independently with little opportunity for interaction.

Corporate Politics 

On the other hand, concerns about ‘corporate politics’ can be a real red flag.  The term refers to everything from departments which operate autonomously, thus encouraging fiefdoms and silos to such blatant examples for politics as the CEO’s sister-in-law is now the new head of HR. Candidates sensitive to politics are often looking for excuses for why they have not been as successful as their peers in terms of pay and promotions.  It is very important when a candidate mentions ‘corporate politics’ that interviews probe hard to get specificity. 


Finally, ‘micromanagement’ is one of the most frequently mentioned terms during any interview.  Whenever the topic of desired supervision or least desired management style is raised, you can bet that ‘micromanagement’ will surface.  Each year I personally interview anywhere from 400 to 500 candidates, and when the topic of a preferred style of boss is raised, you can bet ‘micromanagement’ will be mentioned by most candidates.  Incidentally, this is true regardless of the level of job from executives to sales, professionals, and other types of prospective employees.  What is interesting, of course, is how a candidate responds when you ask for a definition of ‘micromanagement.’  Most job candidates will talk about daily phone calls and emails to one example of sales candidate who told me indignantly that he will not tolerate a boss that demands to hear how he is doing every quarter! 

Clearly, there are many more common terms heard in an interview that bear an equal amount of attention. Can you make a list of them and share with the other readers of the Hireology blog?  It will certainly make for interesting reading.  Just remember, don’t let any term worth probing escape your notice. Go ahead and ask for a definition in the person’s eyes or at least some kind of clarification of the term. Believe me you’ll be surprised by what you hear.

About the Author

Adam co-founded Hireology with the mission to help growing companies make better hiring decisions through data and better technology. Adam is passionate about entrepreneurship, donating time to a number of organizations that support the entrepreneurial cause. Adam completed his undergraduate study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and received his MBA from DePaul University in Chicago, IL.

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