youhadmeathelloAlthough not as dramatic as the iconic scene in the movie Jerry Maguire, this scenario plays out, weekly, in interviews throughout the country. The model candidate walks in perfectly dressed, has a professional resume and answers each question like a polished politician. Who wouldn’t want to hire this individual? On the surface they appear to be almost perfect.

Fast forward 12 months. The numbers don’t match the person. The projects never quite get finished on time, and the model candidate, now employee, seems to hold a blackbelt in business Kung Fu, deflecting any accountability and you are frustrated! What you need are results, not excuses.

As you contemplate what to do, your mind returns to the reason you hired the model candidate in the first place. That first impression was awesome and you were almost giddy that you had the opportunity to bring this person on board. As you reflect more deeply, however, you realize that you might have rationalized some responses given to the questions you asked. Those ‘red flag’ moments were reduced to a light shade of pink as you really wanted this candidate to work out.

Well, it appears that those red flag responses were just that – RED! And, if you’re honest with yourself, you didn’t follow up with deeper level questions into the areas that now confront you. You might not have wanted to insult the model candidate with tougher questions or you rationalized they weren’t really neccessary. What you’ve experienced is a form of bias.

Most of us understand bias in more of a negative way. I don’t care for _______ fill in the blank; the suit, the haircut, their appearance, the body language, the company they came from – you name it. When this happens we mentally shut down and find ourselves asking tougher questions to justify eliminating the candidate from consideration.

Many hiring managers have passed on highly qualified candidates due to their personal bias and others have hired less qualified candidates that presented well. In either scenario, the results are less than perfect.

Recruiting the best is difficult, especially if you’re only using subjective data; personal opinions, interpretations, points of view, emotions and judgement. You wouldn’t make other important business decisions this way so why allow bias to creep into one of the most important decisions you’ll make; hiring someone for your team? So, what can you do?

Add some objective criteria such as analysis that is fact based, measurable and observable. Here are some ideas that can help you.

  • Define Key Accountabilities for the role: This is a crucial step. Most roles have five to six key accountabilities that, if done well, lead to strong performance. So, what does the person have to DO to be successful? Why does the job exist? What results will be expected and by when? Defining key accountabilities is your first step to increased performance and productivity!
  • Implement and use assessments: Assessments, like Job Benchmarking, allow you to use the power of the behavioral sciences and technology to give you objective data that is fact based and measurable. Benchmark the job then compare candidates to the benchmark with a Talent Assessment.

job-benchmarkingUnderstanding competencies, behaviors and motivational drivers increase your chances of matching the right person to the role.

When interviewing:

  • Know your triggers: What sets personal bias in motion for you as you interact with candidates; weak handshake, un-shined shoes, not quite put together – or perfectly dressed, affable, and a great conversationalist? How do these triggers affect your perception of the candidate? Understanding these triggers will alert you when they attempt to hijack your interview.
  • Wait 30 minutes: Lou Adler, author of ‘Hire With Your Head‘, gives sage advice in this area; “Don’t make any judgements on the candidate, good or bad, for the first 30 minutes of the interview.” By sticking with your interview plan and waiting 30 minutes before judging the candidate, you will have better control of your bias.

Don’t let bias get in the way of hiring the best and brightest. By implementing these suggestions you’ll be better prepared to hire the best and less prone to making a knee jerk reaction that could cause you more frustration. As Vern Law used to say, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, and the lesson afterward.”

Jim O’Hara is the President of Kellen James, an Advisory, Diagnostics and Search Consultancy that helps companies hire more accurately, manage more effectively and grow more efficiently.