"If there is something about the candidate you don't like during the interview,
you will like it even less if you go ahead and hire the person."
--HR Department Poster
Executive search publications and news headlines often talk about the war for talent, highlighting the enduring shortage of top candidates for leadership positions. While this puts us on high alert, this is old news to savvy observers who have been paying attention to the warning signs that fewer finalists seem to fit hiring specs.
Could this be why we are so quick to set aside a rare prospect over what was a seemingly minor (but unfavorably noticed) quality displayed during interviews?
Desire to Hire and to be Hired
We all have favorite anecdotes about vexing variances between on-the-job behavior and the splash a person made during interviews with hiring executives. These interviews can generate an unwelcome paradox.
First, in a desire to get hired, candidates move into self-promotion mode, having practiced their pitches until polished enough to appear natural. As a result, candidates may inadvertently realize their worst fears: They get the job, but regret the new role.
And then there are the interviewers who are anxious to make a good hire and fearful of letting good prospects get away. As such, they sweep little annoyances under the rug as deftly as possible so that all the inconvenient thoughts they didn’t like are out-of-sight and out-of-mind.
But then, aren’t we supposed to be understanding, flexible, considerate and open-minded about our fellow humans’ quirks? And, we don’t want to appear intolerant by picking at social, values-oriented and interpersonal gaffes or flubs. After all, most people are nervous when being interviewed.
Acting More Like Relatives
During the interview process, perhaps it would be helpful to apply the same intuitive frame of reference used when we choose doctors, friends or a potential mate. Why not apply the same type of thinking when hiring management team members?
A political lobbyist once said: “You help someone get elected and think you’ve made a friend, but then they start acting like relatives.” There lies the rub. Sometimes the people we hire begin acting like relatives carrying the same annoyances or issues we noticed during the interview process.
Use your familiar friend-making judgment when in an interview—whether you are the hiring executive or the candidate. Friends don’t try to fool friends. And friends have a mutual understanding of what does and doesn’t matter to each other.
Pay attention when there is something you don’t like in an interview. Is it a friend’s quirk or a pesky relative’s fatal flaw?