Canine or Feline? What You Can Tell About a Potential Employee

Scout at 12 Years

Another great article from my fav Cesar Millan inspired today’s blog.  He points out there are many things that factor into a person’s decision to get a dog.  People will look for certain traits associated with a particular breed or want a certain size of canine.  Some people may spend a lot of money with a breeder, but others might run down to the animal shelter and pick a little cutie in need of a new home.

When you think about it, a person’s choice of animal companion and how they go about making that choice can give you some insight into the person’s personality traits.  Asking candidates whether they prefer a dog or cat and what their favorite breed is and why could be a great question to ask in an interview to help determine whether or not that candidate is a “cultural fit” with the organization.

What would the candidate’s choice of canine or feline potentially say about him or her?  Here are some things to consider…

Choice of Dog

If candidates select a purebred dog, they may be indicating that they are thoughtful decision-makers.  Choosing a specific breed takes a lot of research and time.  People who gravitate to a certain type of breed are comfortable with the idea they know what they are getting in terms of appearance, behavior, size and temperament.

Owners of purebred dogs tend to be planners by nature and tend to have very distinct questions they want answers to before making a decision.

On the other hand, going to the pound to pick a pooch means the person doesn’t really know what he or she will get.  Size or appearance may not matter and so these people are very laidback and like to go with the flow.  Candidates who select mutts may tend to take more chances and make decisions on emotions, rather than facts.

Now, if a candidate selects a large dog, we may find this person enjoys outdoor sports and activities, as large dogs need more space and exercise than small ones.  Large dogs also make a large mess, so people with large dogs may be more tolerant of chaos.  Small dogs are easier to take care of and tend to be associated with people who would rather take a walk than take a mountain hike for exercise.  Small dogs also tend to be pampered and treated as children; this could be an indicator of a nurturing person.  People who sleep with their pooches tend to be affectionate and soft-hearted.  If the dog sleeps outside?  Well, that candidate may lack empathy.

How About a Cat?

Kiri at 10 Months

The University of Texas at Austin did a study in 2010 demonstrating there really is a difference between people who choose dogs for a pet and people who choose cats.  Psychologist and researcher Sam Gosling, a leading authority on human personality, stated:

“There is a widely held cultural belief that the pet species—dog or cat—with which a person has the strongest affinity says something about the individual’s personality.  My research suggests there are significant differences on major personality traits between dog people and cat people.  Given the tight psychological connections between people and their pets, it is likely that the differences between dogs and cats may be suited to different human personalities…”

Gosling interviewed 4,565 volunteers about whether they were dog or cat people and then administered an assessment based on the Big Five or Five Factor Model dimensions of personality.  A comprehensive, empirical, data-driven research finding, the Big Five factors are often called OCEAN:

Openness to experience – inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious. Tendency to appreciate art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience.
Conscientiousness – efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless. Tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; planned rather than spontaneous behavior.
Extraversion – outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved. Energy, positive emotions, and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others.
Agreeableness – friendly/compassionate vs. cold/unkind. Tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.
Neuroticism – sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident. Tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability.

Kato at 10 Months

Forty-six percent of the respondents described themselves as “dog people” and only 12 percent identified as “cat people.”  Interestingly, 28 percent said they were both and 15 percent said they were neither.  Gosling found that those who see themselves as dog people are more extraverted, more agreeable and more conscientious than cat people.  This is some of the same things Milan was talking about. Gosling also found that people who choose cats tend to be more sensitive, but also more open to experience.

So, what can we tell about a candidate who picks a dog or a cat?  Actually, some things about his or her personality after all.  We do make judgments about personality based on behavior – and picking a dog or a cat is indeed, behavior.

I’m going to add, “which do you prefer, a dog or a cat, and why?” to my arsenal of interview questions.  Based on the above, what do you think you could tell about my personality if you were interviewing me?


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