Trick or Treat: Hiring Can End Up Being Either

Hiring the right talent can be tricky. You want the candidate to fit into your organization’s culture and you also want someone who can be effective on the job. Ideally, the person you hire will be a top performer and with your organization for a good period of time. The tricky part comes in when you consider all these variables and factor in how human beings make decisions.

In his best-selling book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell discusses how people are wired to make decisions and often make them in the blink of an eye. An adaptive mechanism goes off called the adaptive unconscious to allow for faster decisions; this mechanism limits the multitude of variables you could possibly consider. Turns out we can collect too much data and suffer from analysis paralysis. In learning to survive, humans have adapted themselves to look at a more limited number of factors so that we can act more swiftly. If we are skilled at knowing the best variables to select for, we can do well in hiring. If we look for the wrong things, we can make an expensive mistake. In our work with organization on hiring and selection, here are some of the common selection problems that hiring managers make:

  • Hastiness or operating from a sense of urgency that overrides good decision making. Hiring someone too quickly to fill a gap that suddenly got bigger with business growth is a frequently mentioned reason why organizations hire the wrong person. Hiring someone in haste winds up making more work for everyone, not to mention the backlash that results from picking someone who fails in a leadership role.
  • Replicating ourselves. Sometimes people want to find someone that reminds them of themselves. Picking “another you” is a common strategy to find someone you think you can count on. Unfortunately, this practice usually backfires in the end. Organizations need diversity to inspire creativity and innovative thinking. Besides, it’s hard to judge accurately whether or not the initial traits you see in a candidate really are similar to yours or to those of someone you admire.
  • Going mostly by “gut feelings.” Not collecting the right information or
    enough information to know if the candidate really has the competencies and motivation essential to the job is a common error. Intuition always plays a part in business; however, gut feel alone can send you down the wrong path. Be clear on the competencies and expectations of the position in question and investigate how the candidates you meet fit or don’t.
  • Asking questions that don’t give you any usable data. A favorite example of this is when some interviewers ask pseudo psychological questions like, “What animal best symbolizes your personality?” or “What are three adjectives that you would use to describe yourself?” The interviewer has no clue as to what to do with the answer and wastes precious time on questions that don’t give you the right data.
  • Not assessing the right culture fit. One of the mistakes that many of our small to midsize clients have made is hiring someone from a big public company who is used to having lots of resources available, only to find that the new hire can’t get used to the more entrepreneurial environment where s/he is expected to be proactive, resources are less plentiful, and there is less structure in place to guide actions.

Awareness of the pitfalls helps us to better understand our own personal hiring short cuts. To learn more about how to hire and select, click here.

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