Stop showing candidates your A S S umptions

Are you making premature assumptions about applicants or candidates? Here’s a few common categories focused on finding the right fit. Do you see anything potentially wrong with these ways of assessing talent?

Personality Predictions

Once a person’s hard skills are confirmed through visually examining on paper or on screen or verbally over the phone or in person, soft skills almost always become a more prominent factor. Many people place a tremendous amount of credibility in personality assessments. Whether using a physical set of questions from an instrument such as MBTI or DiSC, or an informal gut feeling about the right personality type, these predictors tend to play a major part in hiring decisions. Similarly, we constantly hear about cultural fit as if there is only a very limited combination of traits that qualify as acceptable. Where this gets dicey is most of us are not trained as psychics, mind-readers, psychologists or educated in administering or interpreting validated and reliable hiring assessments. Even more troubling is when someone involved in evaluating hard or soft skills determines that they can discover personality, motivation, work-ethic and so on from search engines and social profiles. I’ve seen many people post comments along the lines of having special ability to discern anything they want or need to know about a job candidate by viewing online content. See that guy/gal wearing a silly slogan t-shirt, laughing holding a red cup, s/he’s an unprofessional, sloppy boozer, right? How many times has someone made an incorrect evaluation of what you are all about based on a sliver of exposure to you? Or, how many times have you prematurely thought you understood someone based on a brief encounter or superficial information? For most us, there is more depth beyond any positive or negative first impressions we may reveal.

Generally Gastly Generational Generalizations and Generalities

Generation this or that does such and such. It’s a complete mystery to me why there seems to be such a preoccupation with lumping entire groups of humans into a category based on am 18-20 year span of time in which they happen to have been born. Even if doing so only based on positive descriptions of any particular demographic, it is entirely absurd to label millions of people as single unit. Next time you are inclined to listen to, read or pay attention to any content referencing generation so and so, please take moment to think about how relevant those generalizations and stereotypes are to your own individuality. If you were a job applicant would you want to be measured by our own merits or those of countless strangers that someone else decided you resemble?

Married Does Not Equal Mature

Once when I was inquiring with a few department heads about the characteristics of their most effective employees, they stated the married people with kids were most stable and reliable. They insisted that I only pass along candidates wearing a wedding ring. Further, they wanted me to attempt to figure out during my candidate screening conversations whether s/he had kids. My first thought was since when does a person have to demonstrate any level of responsible behavior in order to marry or remain married? Second, aren’t there plenty of examples of dead-beat, abusive or neglectful parenting practices? Clearly, procreating doesn’t require much skill or wisdom. Naturally, I elected to disregard that suggested selection criteria. Instead, I focused on job-related information to explain the position to prospects and also formulate corresponding interview discussion topics. Fortunately, my hiring managers were quite satisfied with those I put forth for their consideration and final decision making despite me never giving any thought to anyone’s family status. That is just one example, there are numerous other equally irrelevant traits used for screening and selection. 

Back Off On Back Door Reference Checks

No matter how likable or well liked any of us are, it is highly unlikely that we will hit it off with everyone we come in contact with during the course of our careers. Have you ever worked with or for someone that was a colossal jerk? How about someone that “just wasn’t that in to you” for no apparent reason before even giving you chance? When doing reference checks and a person shares something unflattering about your candidate, how do you know you aren’t dealing with one of those types? Obviously, most candidates are going to provide references of people willing to say positive things about them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t being truthful. If you happen upon an opportunity to gather information beyond the provided references, make sure you keep an open mind and don’t automatically assign more weight to contradictory feedback. There are some vindictive and vengeful people out there and it would be unfortunate to take action based on input from one that happens to have an agenda against your candidate.

Guessing Games and Gut Checks

It’s human nature to believe we are good judges of character, personality, skills, motivation and so on. Obviously, that ubiquitous concept of “fit” is based on that belief. We feel confident saying “I’ll know it when I see it.” Or, “eh, I don’t know… something just didn’t feel right about that guy/gal.” Hiring managers demonstrate this by saying “I need to see a few more before making a decision.” Some interviewers like to throw in “creative” interview questions to evaluate whether or not they’d like to have a beer with a candidate. While that might be interesting or entertaining to find out, it sure leaves a lot of room for false negative/positive reactions to influence the hiring process. Others base their assessment of a candidate’s past or future career decisions based on their own (unrelated) frame of reference. They may ask superficial questions about salaries, reasons for job changes, relationships with prior bosses and so on, and then form opinions without the benefit of the full context of the candidate’s experiences within any of those situations. How often are fully qualified and capable candidates ruled out over some insignificant subjective criteria over which they were deemed not a fit? If everyone was as effective at deciphering fit as they claim to be, there would be no such thing as a bad hire.

Whatever fit is or isn’t, make sure you balance what your gut tells you with what your gray matter tells you (or should be telling you). 

Views: 241

Tags: Corporate Recruiting, applicant, assessment, assumptions, bias, candidate, career, discrimination, experience, fit, More…hiring, hr, job, manager, recruiter

Comment by Amy Ala on October 17, 2013 at 1:53pm

Gah that's as bad as passing on candidates WITH kids because they'll have leave early / take time off for the little buggers! :) In my personal experience (I have 4 kids myself) I tended to work more and harder because they needed to EAT.

Comment by Keith D. Halperin on October 17, 2013 at 3:01pm

Thanks, Kelly. This goes back to my comment yesterday about heuristics- we've all got 'em, can't get rid of 'em, and they lead to inherent cognitive biases. I think the best thing  for a hiring manager to do is to try and be aware of these biases and take them into account.

 

Cheers,

Keith

Comment by Amber on February 3, 2014 at 10:37am

I had a manager tell me she hired me because: 1. Being a single mom, she thought I would work hard to support my family 2. Being divorced, she thought I could handle rejection and adverse situations. I guess not very PC, but turned out to be a lot of truth to it! 

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