Interviewing: The Quest for Patterns and Themes

May 14, 2010

Last week, two seemingly unrelated articles caught my attention. The first was an obituary on C.K. Prahalad, the management thinker best known for his work on core competencies. The article spoke of Mr. Prahalad's many ‘big ideas’ and noted his habit of traveling the world “prying useful information out of everyone he met…always looking for connections and patterns, hoping to predict change”. The second article profiled Dr. Henry Jarecki who gave up the practice of psychiatry to establish one of the world’s largest commodities trading houses. When asked to explain his seemingly unlikely career shift Dr. Jarecki said, “Actually, they are quite similar. Both psycho-therapy and business are about identifying patterns, in behavior or in markets. Once you find the pattern, you can transform a modest effort into a grand result”.

Interviewing can also be conceptualized as a search for themes that cut across candidates’ decisions and behaviors, academic and career choices, and the environments which have proven to be most and least rewarding. It is the search for patterns of behavior from which one can infer temperament, personality, values, and motivation and how these have, or have not, remained constant over time.

In an era when job-specific behavioral interviewing is the predictive instrument of choice, it is useful to remember that the chronological trip down memory lane remains a fertile complement in evaluating candidates. And notwithstanding whether your interests are creative thinking, psycho-therapy, commodities trading or interviewing, mining patterns and themes hold the promise of the most golden of insights .

About Author

Robert Hebert, PhD is Managing Partner of Toronto-based executive search firm StoneWood Group Inc. He can be reached @ rhebert@stonewoodgroup.com or at 416.365.9494x777