Is Your Candidate a Prima Donna?

Think back to the time you were interviewing for your job. Remember how it felt, waiting for phone calls, re-reading your emails 15 times before replying, and preparing for interviews? It was A LOT of work, and you never knew what the outcome would be. You constantly had to be putting your best foot forward to secure a good impression with a prospective company.

As a recruiter, I talk to all types of candidates in all walks of life. Along with the variety of candidates with whom I interact, I experience a variety of different attitudes and personalities. Especially because the candidates I speak to are usually unhappy, unemployed, or both, they are usually very flexible and willing to put forth great effort to be considered for a position. However, there has been a time or two where the candidate has been nothing but inflexible, demanding, and difficult. I call this type of candidate the “prima donna.” This candidate has one thing in mind, and that is, “What’s in it for me?”

Prima donnas have a strong sense of entitlement and feel that they deserve special treatment because of their skills, training, and/or expertise. While confidence in one’s abilities is crucial to success, prima donnas are people who have an exorbitant level of that confidence. Not only will they make unreasonable demands of you, the employer, but they will also most likely not get along with the rest of your team, causing even more problems. So how do you spot these people? Here are a few indicators that will tip you off during the interview process:

1) Questions. When interviewing for a job, it’s important for a candidate to ask questions along the way. Not only do questions help demonstrate candidates’ inquisitiveness and interest in the position, but also it helps them to determine whether or not they are a good match for your position. However, it is important to notice the types of questions your candidate is asking. While money is obviously important, if your candidate’s first question is, “How much does this job pay?” or “What does the benefits package look like?” or “How soon could I be promoted?” that is an indicator that the candidate might be a prima donna, thinking only of his or her own gain.

2) Listening Skills. When you have a conversation with candidates, how are their listening skills? Do they cut you off before you finish asking a question? Do they ramble while giving answers to questions, extensively elaborating on all they have to offer your company? If they do either of these things, it may indicate that they are more interested in what they have to say than what you have to say.

3) Flexibility. This one is not so easily spotted right away. A good way to know if a candidate is a prima donna is if he or she is not flexible, to a reasonable extent, during the interview process. For example, if an interviewer needs to reschedule, how does this candidate react? Does he or she get infuriated or give an understanding response? If asked to complete some type of assessment, does he or she react with an “I’m so far above that sort of thing” attitude, or comply easily? The way candidates react when asked to be flexible and accommodating is indicative of their attitude.

A prima donna with an extreme sense of entitlement may actually be a narcissist. For a clear picture of what this can look like in the workplace, check out this article from ComputerWorld.

Now that you know what to watch for, don’t ignore the signs. If your candidate is asking self-centered questions, is a poor listener, or demonstrates inflexibility, chances are, he or she is a prima donna. If you notice these red flags, remember that interviewing isn’t the time to be as generous and understanding as it is selective! Pay attention to your instincts, and you’ll make a better hire.

Click here to read a true story about someone who did trust her instincts to prevent a huge hiring mistake.

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