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Determining if an Applicant Can Contribute Autonomously

There are many mistakes inexperienced interviewers can make, but among the most common is looking for a positive attitude in applicants. While a positive attitude is a great trait, focusing on this aspect too much can mask the most important trait both managers and employees need in order to create a productive environment and meet department goals. What is the most important trait? The ability to work autonomously.

Falling into the myth that candidates with likable, positive personalities will perform just as well on the job as in the interview is all too easy. However, there are clues to look for and questions to ask that will help any HR professional determine if an applicant will be able to thrive with little direction at a company.

When an employee does not have the capacity to work autonomously, it can cause a chain reaction of negative consequences. First, they will be harder to train. They will need more direction and may not be ready to go at it alone compared to those who can do additional training and research without much supervision. Second, the additional training and even time spent after training nurturing and managing these employees will take more time out of your team leader’s schedule.

Rather than focusing on first impressions, take notes on the responses and reactions to these questions during interviews.

  • Ask the candidate about their workflow in previous positions. Don’t accept vague answers—push for specifics about how they work and their processes.
  • Ask them how they were able to improve their workflow over time.
  • Determine their previous reporting system and ask how often it was followed. Were they strictly managed? Did the manager seem to give them more responsibility and autonomy over time?
  • Show them the current workflow in the team you are hiring for. You may even want to let them speak to someone currently in the department. Then, ask how they think they would work in this environment and if they have any ideas on how to improve it to gain more insight into their ideal workflow.

An additional requirement for interviews that will help you determine if an applicant can work autonomously is requiring the completion of a small sample project. For example, when hiring a marketing assistant, request a sample press release. This will allow you to see what kind of questions the applicant may ask and how comfortable they feel working on their own.

Do you have any great tips for interviewing? We’d love to know! Share your tips with fellow HR professionals on our Facebook page.

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