Beware of the narcissist! Should you put up a sign with this message on one of your office doors? Hopefully not. It would be comforting if one could simply write a few tips on how to avoid hiring narcissists, how to easily recognize them based on five or three signs, and how to neutralize them if they were mistakenly hired. Unfortunately, this is not the "Modern Woman and her household" magazine, but rather the advice column for human resources professionals. A typical topic of women's magazines is: "How do I find him, how do I keep him, how do I know if he is cheating on me?" An endless topic, especially because it starts from false assumptions. It is not primarily about "how?" - but, as in the selection process, about "who am I actually looking for?" The "how" will follow naturally. (Competent and experienced? I'll find that in the competition. Young, hungry, and adventurous? At the university or in a Nightclub. 😉)

An inappropriate comparison? No. Because often, the new employee in the executive suite, like the new partner, is supposed to solve a problem that has nothing to do with him. Should he "pull the cart out of the mud?" Or "finally take a tough stance?" And "get this difficult team in line"? And just like the modern housewife, experienced human resources professionals also fall into the trap and end up with a narcissist.

Which is not surprising - he is the shining hero. The knight on the white horse. Extremely polite, even gallant to women, jovial to men. What you think is a very pleasant behavior at this moment is tactics. From the narcissist's perspective, the end always justifies the means, and he feels almost superior to you - at least in his perception. He masters the art of presenting all the qualities you want to see, and he is untouchable in this regard.

But. (Finally, right? You were afraid it would go on like this!) Author and management trainer Victor Lipman hits the nail on the head: "If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is." And because you are a human resources professional and not blind with love and desperation, you can heed this advice and listen carefully to the prince.

He can pretend to be whoever he wants, but there is one thing he cannot do: speak respectfully about others and other people's successes. His topic is: HIM.

If you have the budget, be sure to select candidates through an assessment center. Four to six eyes see more than two, and several ears hear better. In addition, especially the group dynamic formats in assessments have proven to be helpful - because in a one-on-one interview, the narcissist will shine anyway, but if he is supposed to selflessly help someone in a team game, he probably will not do it - or he will later claim the team's success for himself.

If you don't have the budget, you can at least conduct interviews with two people and prepare appropriate questions: For example, the "Slack" author collective suggests the following three questions:

"What personal beliefs did you revise last year?"

"What was the best (and worst) advice you ever received?"

"Tell me about a time when luck played a role in your life!"

For all three questions, the candidate must reflect on the past and explain his thought process - your second person in the interview can make note of particularly "revealing" statements. You will be surprised when you read these afterwards in peace!

However, the last question shows whether the candidate has a perception of external influences that is not due to narcissistic "grandiosity".

Josh Tolan of Spark Hire also suggests asking about mistakes made - and what the candidate could have done better. Equally revealing is the question, "What skills do you not yet have?" The narcissist will reference the question of what he could have done better externally - for example, identifying an enemy in the company earlier, otherwise he is surely without fault. And, as the second question will show - he already knows and can do everything.

Benedikt Hell and Nadine Schneider from HR today rely on psychologically based, structured interviews and recommend asking for specific details about success stories - how were these unique successes achieved? Who was involved?

Asking questions and listening. Take a moment to consider if it sounds "too good to be true." Above all, please ruthlessly examine yourself to see if you only want to take the narcissist in the white knight's armor because you need to solve a problem. That's a bad deal. Even if the problem goes away, the narcissist remains. 

Read more about narcissistic bosses here.

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