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Know - It - Alls

Q. I had to terminate an employee after only six months. He was great during the interview. He had all the right answers. Unfortunately, once he became part of the team, we found him almost impossible to work with. He had to be right all the time. He wouldn’t stop talking until he had worn you down and made you accept his point of view. How can I make sure I don’t make this mistake again?

A. Don’t feel bad. It’s very difficult to get the full picture of a potential worker even in a series of interviews. However, we can give you some tips to help you avoid this problem behavioral type in the future.

When a person is both very assertive and controlled (does not disclose personal information easily), we call that person a Driver. Drivers tend to be task oriented, demanding and competitive, bottom-line oriented risk takers. They work quickly and efficiently, making decisions on the fly. They will get the job done; however, sometimes at the expense of your people. Let’s just say that the truly successful Drivers have learned to be charming—not a bad employee to have in your corner.

However, when a Driver feels the least bit insecure, nervous or worse—thwarted in his/her efforts to get something accomplished, he or she can skew into one of several bad behaviors. The one you experienced is called the Know-It-All. The behavior is just as you described in your question, someone who is very smart and knowledgeable. However, he or she uses the knowledge more as a weapon rather than as a tool to add value.

The Know-It-All will wear you down with arguments. Alternatively, he or she might use knowledge as a security blanket to prop themselves up or protect themselves They will drone on, giving you much more information than you want or need. If you disagree with the Know-It-All, he or she will show you just how wrong you are. True Know-It-Alls tend to be very opinionated. If a Know-It-All has thought deeply about something and formed an opinion, he or she will believe it is right.

How can you tell if you are interviewing a Know-It-All? There are no hard and fast rules, but these are some clues for which to look:

He or she has all the answers: Think back to the interview. You said that the applicant had “all the right answers.”

The candidate takes every opportunity to show you how much he or she knows about everything: Did your unsuccessful employee answer concisely or did he give you way more information than needed? Did he use his answer to your question to segue to another topic on which to expound?

He or she isn’t open to other people’s opinions: Did he ever use phrases that allowed for a difference of opinion? For example, did he say, “This is just my opinion, but” or “others may see this differently, but?” Our guess is that he didn’t.

The candidate isn’t much interested in what is going on in other people’s lives: Did he ask you questions about the company, the team, or individuals within the organization? Was he curious about your answers or did he just use them as a jumping off point to talk more?

He or she isn’t a good listener: Normally, Know-It-Alls don’t listen well. First, they talk so much that they don’t give others time to join the conversation. When they do allow others a chance to speak, they usually focus more on finding a way to hijack the discussion rather than digesting what the other person is saying.

We are sorry that you had a bad experience. Many Drivers are hard-working, decisive, energetic folks that get things done. While some will exhibit Know-It-All or other bad behaviors from time to time, only a few will make it their everyday pattern. We wish you all the best with your next hire.

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