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Thinking Outside the Glass: Answering the Question, “Is the glass half empty, or is it half full?” From a Wider Perspective

Is the glass half empty, or is it half full? This tricky question is usually encountered by applicants during an interview for a job vacancy. Recruiters often use this question to gauge how applicants look at general situations. As a former recruiter myself, I understand the reason why this is used by hiring managers to get a big picture of whether the applicant sees any situation from an optimistic or pessimistic point of view.

The danger in arriving at the presumption of an applicant’s mindset from this question, however, is that it is biased towards being positive so the answer you will get most of the time is that it is half full to represent the likability of the person. Who would want a pessimist to be a part of the team, right?

In my opinion, it is not important to hear from the applicant whether the glass is half empty or half full. That will not substantially mean whether they are optimistic or pessimistic. I mean, who cares?

I think the most realistic answer to this is neither half empty nor half full, but “It depends on where you are coming from.”

You see, when a person sees the glass as half-empty, it is possible that they saw the glass first as full. Meaning that they came from abundance and circumstances led them to scarcity in one aspect – financial, social, psychological, spiritual, among others. It is not accurate to say, however, that they are pessimistic and possess a scarce or fixed mindset.

Conversely, when a person sees the glass as half full, again, it is possible that they saw an empty glass first. Meaning that they came from nothing and in one aspect of their life, they are experiencing prosperity. It is not advisable to conclude that the person will always be positive as well.

The bottom line is for interviewers to have a balanced perspective when it comes to throwing these kinds of questions to interviewees. This is not to say that the question must fully be excluded from your arsenal of inquiries, but follow-ups are vital in obtaining a more vivid perspective on the applicant’s state of mind. There is no correct answer for this question as well because it is intended to serve the purpose of the speaker. Now, coming from a wider perspective, is the glass half empty, or is it half full?

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