Is an Assertive Candidate Good or Bad?


That candidate made a great first impression. Firm handshake. Lots of eye contact. Direct, confident responses to your questions.

They’re obviously assertive, but what you’re wondering is:

“Will he be a great hire – or turn into a management nightmare?”

There’s a fine line between assertive and aggressive. Here are a few tips to help you figure out which your candidate is, before you extend an offer:

Know the difference. An assertive individual allows others to feel safe while still expressing his views; an aggressive individual seeks to get their way regardless of others’ feelings. An assertive person respects others’ perspectives (even if he disagrees) and is willing to compromise when necessary; an aggressive person railroads, discounts and dominates.

Look for red flags during the interview. Pay attention to subtle clues:

  • Controlling or redirecting the conversation
  • Interrupting
  • Condescending or dismissive comments (either directed at you, or when speaking about others)
  • Dominant non-verbal behavior: glaring vs. appropriate eye contact; alert/tense body language vs. relaxed posture; forceful/loud speaking vs. a confident, yet respectful, tone

Ask behavioral questions. The best way to predict future behavior is by looking for past evidence of it. Here are a few questions you can adapt for your needs to gauge assertiveness:

  • “Conflict is a part of work. Tell me about a time you disagreed with someone and what the result was.” The candidate should provide evidence that they had self-control (i.e., didn’t get angry), respected others’ opinions, communicated effectively and worked with the other party to achieve a successful resolution.
  • “Give me an example of a situation where you had to be assertive when working with others.” An aggressive candidate typically finds it hard to distinguish between confident, proactive behavior and pushiness. Look for evidence the candidate was firm and clear, yet still was concerned with the other party’s feelings.

Conduct a thorough reference check. A reference check is an important step in ensuring hiring success, helping you to determine if the candidate has been honest, possesses the skills to do the job, and will mesh (not clash) with your corporate culture. Make sure your process is consistent, comprehensive and intentional (i.e., you ask questions that will reveal if the candidate is merely assertive or downright pushy).

Is that assertive candidate right for the role – and your culture?


PrideStaff can help you make the right call, taking the guesswork and risk out of hiring. Our On Target fulfillment process eliminates chance and inconsistency, helping you to receive better quality candidates each and every time. Contact your local PrideStaff office today to learn more.