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Are You Really Hiring The Best Candidate?

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By Veronica Barber

My sister, who is a biomedical sales manager in New York City, was telling me about a young professional her company hired in 2016. The applicant had a less impressive resume than her fellow candidates, was late for the interview, and didn’t interview that well. However, in her closing remarks, she “sold” the hiring team, and ultimately convinced them to hire her.  

When the team was discussing who to hire, they kept coming back to her closing statements. They were so impressed with what she said that they were sure she was the best person for the job. I personally don’t recall what she said at the end of the interview because it’s not important, and here’s the reason why.

They hired her based on her ability to close the deal.

And then . . .

Fired her months later based on her poor performance!  

The moral of the story: if the team based their decision on the entire interview process, they would have never hired her!

Hire Decisions Are Emotional

Often, we gravitate towards those who are most like us. When a candidate talks about the things we believe in, we emotionally connect and feel a sense of kinship. Similarly, when employees participate in the hire process and are deciding who should be their next “boss”, they often make subjective decisions. It is much easier to seek out what you “want” instead of what you “need”.  

Employees tend to seek comfort and familiarity, and ultimately choose the “safe” alternative. Even as hiring managers, we look for the candidate who will “fit” in with the group, meaning someone who thinks and acts like us. This is what we’ve been told to do, right?

Culture-Fit Is Important, but Not an Absolute

Much has been written about culture-fit and values-based interview techniques. While this is an important part of the interview process, it should be approached in a general way with the following considerations at the forefront of decision-making:

  1. What we believe is important, but how we achieve it can be vastly different: A candidate may cite examples of being caring, fiscally responsible, responsive, respectful, a team player, etc. But often, our approaches may be worlds apart. Sometimes, new ideas and approaches are exactly what the organization needs, while at other times the approaches may be so different that they are incongruent with the organization. This will only cause frustration for everyone.  

    During the interview process, it’s helpful to ask very detailed questions. For instance, “Give me an example of how you developed a team to be highly collaborative. What did you do to bring this about?”

  1. Understand how different personalities interview: Values and personalities go hand-in-hand. Introverts want to work with other introverts, and they value alone time. Extroverts love to think out loud and value conversation. Some people like to make quick decisions and move-on, never revisiting prior decisions. Some employees like to gather all the facts or make detailed plans, while others rely on their intuition and simply act.  

    When interviewing, we often gravitate towards those candidates who are most like us in terms of our personalities and values. However, research tells us that diversified teams often are the most successful. By seeking out candidates who think and act differently than us, we might be making the team or organization stronger! The key is to be aware of personality differences during the interview process.  

    Visionary personalities generally use concepts or abstract ideas and don’t give tangible detailed responses to questions. Feeling personalities tend to talk about the “people” and how they were affected, whereas big picture personalities often give organizational/structural examples. Process people will give detailed process responses. Extroverts will sometime over talk!  

    When you guard yourself against gravitating to the person whose personality is most like yours, you’ll be better equipped to assess each candidate in a fair and open-minded way.

  1. Develop a scientific approach to hiring decisions: Before you advertise your next vacant position, develop a matrix of what you’re looking for. I have often used a three-category approach: skills, knowledge, experience.  

    By identifying what you’re looking for in each category you will be more focused when reviewing the resumes, and can then select a much smaller group of people for first interviews. It’s important to find a balance between what you need and what you want, and to understand the implications.  

    If your company is struggling financially, you might want a finance-oriented person. However, what you may need is a process-oriented person, or even, perhaps, a person who values employee-engagement! Employees may want a “boss” who will be their friend and let them do whatever they want, whereas you most likely need a manager who develops trust and respect with all but also holds people accountable.    

    Once your matrix is developed, utilize it with each team member participating in the hire process. Avoid feedback that focuses on why one candidate is better than the others, but instead focus on which candidate best meets all your criteria. Sometimes, our intuitive selves lean toward one candidate.  

    Having a scientific process allows us to understand why we are gravitating towards someone – and often it’s because of value and personality similarities, which may not be what the team or organization needs – another homogenous teammate.

  1. Don’t Be Fooled by the Sales Pitch: Hiring employees is not unlike hiring a consultant or vendor. Some consultants/vendors are fabulous at saying all the “right” things. Sometimes their marketing materials are so impressive that you believe they are the best company to hire.  

    Sadly, I have witnessed great marketing and poor results too many times. Don’t be fooled by this. Take the time to get thorough references, and ask the tough questions. But most importantly, be skeptics during the interview and look for consistencies of words, experiences, and behaviors. Hiring the employee who “grooms” you during the interview might simply be a manipulative, overselling and under-delivering employee who you’ll ultimately have to terminate and then start the process all over again!

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