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From: The Rheumatologist, August 2011

Hire the Best Job Applicants Based on the Number Rating They Give Themselves

Psychologists say healthy self-esteem and work ethics are inextricably linked. Whether children are nurtured by circumstances and people who supported their self-esteem or damaged by those that don’t, the way in which they come to perceive themselves plays a big part in how they interact with others throughout their lives.

Achievements and Self-Esteem

Numerous studies have demonstrated the correlations between high self-esteem and educational achievements and between low self-esteem and addictions and social delinquency. One study about programs that were designed to raise the level of self-esteem showed the incidence of delinquent behavior in schools declined as students began to think more highly of themselves.

According to the National Association for Self-Esteem, “Educators, parents, business, and government leaders agree we need to develop individuals with healthy or high self-esteem characterized by tolerance and respect for others, individuals who accept responsibility for their actions, have integrity, take pride in their accomplishments, who are self-motivated, willing to take risks, capable of handling criticism, loving and lovable, seek the challenge and stimulation of worthwhile and demanding goals, and take command and control of their lives.”

Doesn’t this perfectly describe the kind of person you want to hire and work with?

While how we see ourselves affects performance—especially job performance—it isn’t necessarily how others see us. It is how we expect others to see us that is even more important in hiring. The best employees have both high self-esteem and realistic views of their job skills, which brings us to an essential interview question, which has the following two parts.

Part 1:

Tell me about the best [position being applied for or the person’s last position] you’ve ever worked with. What made this person stand out?

Ask This Because ...

The qualities we admire in others are often the same qualities we feel we lack. Most people who have a good self-image respond to this perception of lack by working to gain or strengthen within themselves the qualities we admire. For example, candidates who admire people who develop close personal relationships or manage their time well likely believe they need these skills, at least to a greater degree than they have them.

Part 2:

“On a scale from zero to 10, with 10 being perfect, how would you rate yourself as a [last job title or position being applied for] compared to this person? What qualities do you think you need to develop to become as good as he or she is?

Knowing how applicants rate themselves tells you how they will expect their coworkers, managers, and your customers to rate them. Since your front-line employees are your patients’ first and most important point of contact with your practice, their job skills and how they see themselves greatly influence the quality of service your patients receive.

The best employees have both high self-esteem and realistic views of their job skills.
The best employees have both high self-esteem and realistic views of their job skills.

What to Listen For

Listen for the answers applicants give about what makes them whatever number rating they give themselves and the education, training, or experience they think would make them a higher number. Did you get an idea of their willingness to work on getting better and to develop a plan to do so?

In one sense, it doesn’t matter what number an applicant gives in response to this question because the underlying question is, “What makes you that number?” For example, say an interviewer were to ask an applicant to rate her selling skills and the applicant gave herself a seven. The interviewer then asks what makes her think she’s a seven and the applicant says it’s her abilities to understand customer needs, handle objections, and her willingness to pick up the phone and talk with people and help them solve their problems.

At this point, a perceptive interviewer would ask, “If that makes you a seven, what would it take for you to become an eight?” (It’s important to note here our imaginary interviewer did not ask about the candidate’s weaknesses, but about what it would take for her to improve—which is how you should handle it, too.)

This question easily lends itself to subset questions such as, “You said one of the things that makes you a seven is your ability to understand customer needs; give me an example of how you’ve done that.”

Isn’t This Behavioral Interviewing?

If you’re thinking this last question sounds a lot like behavioral interviewing, you’re right. Using achievement-based interviewing and evidence-based selection tools does not mean eliminating behavioral interviewing altogether. It does require supporting and strengthening it—and this question provides a great way to do that.

As this line of questioning evolves, it becomes about competencies, as in, “How would you rank yourself at: Problem-solving? Working as part of a team? Working on projects that require (fill in the blank) skill?” And the follow-up question, “When I speak with your supervisor and co-workers, do you think they will rate you the same way?”

Occasionally you will get someone who tells you, “I’m a 10.” A good response is, “Well, I understand everyone is a 10 as a person, but we can all learn to do our jobs better. If you were looking at doing your job even better, how would you rate yourself?” If the person still says, “I’m a 10,” don’t hire this person because the applicant has just told you there’s nothing else he or she can learn.

This article was contributed by Mel Kleiman of, the ACR’s online job database partner. For more information about careers in rheumatology, visit the ACR’s Rheumatology Career Center at


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