Candidate assessment: can I trust my gut instinct?
Has this ever happened to you? You interview a candidate and all goes well. You hire them with high hopes, only to discover that they can “talk the talk” but can’t ultimately “walk” it.
Looking back, you may ask yourself, what went wrong? Did your gut instinct fail you? Did you somehow overlook a better candidate?
After interviewing hundreds of candidates over the past 13 years, I’ve learned some steadfast key lessons that I now use to assess every potential new hire.
Here are 6 tips at the top of my list:
Beware of the “interview-trained” candidate: A lot of people are trained on “how to interview”. They know what to say, how to act, and how to respond to certain questions. But they may not necessarily be the best job performers. So look for consistency in responses – between phone and in-person interviews, and between first and second interviews, etc. Ask for detailed examples and context behind experiences. This will help you decipher what comes naturally to a candidate, versus what they may have practiced in order to impress you.
Stable work history may not always equal success: Sometimes candidates look perfect on paper. They have all the skills needed for the job and have a stable employment history. We may be tempted to see this as a prediction of future performance, expecting that they will stick around for the long haul. However, cultural fit trumps long tenure. If the new company’s culture is completely different from those of previous jobs, a candidate may jump ship prematurely.
A bias for socially apt candidates: In our people-focused business, sometimes hiring managers have a bias for socially apt candidates, interpreting their friendly disposition as an indicator of future success. However, personable workers are not necessarily the best performers. Similarly a well-spoken candidate who is fluent in English may not be as good a candidate as someone for whom English is as a second language. The net takeaway here: we must consider the needs and social context of the job we are hiring for, and guard against our own biases.
Hire for attitude: Skills are experience-based and quantifiable, attitude is not. Assessing attitude is not a technical exercise; it’s often an exercise for our gut instinct. But there are measures you can take to more accurately “guestimate” with your gut. Generally-speaking, candidates who demonstrate a hearty, positive approach to work and who are amenable to change – are most likely to be successful as new hires.
Pre-interview homework – the audit: Before speaking to any candidate, conduct an audit to determine what types of people have thrived in the past, in your company and in the position for which you are hiring. Who hasn’t worked out, and why? Analyze these past successes and failures in order to define who you need for the future. This exercise will help you build a checklist of non-negotiable personality traits. Add these points to your must-have list of job skills.
Qualify your gut instinct: Fit and performance go hand-in-hand, so when you’re interviewing, and something doesn’t feel right, listen to your gut. Then qualify it. When you pre-qualify who you are looking for personality-wise, in a job candidate (creating a check-list as noted above), it becomes much easier to assess that intangible “fit” in a more objective, tangible manner.
Refining these hiring nuances can lead to a much more efficient and successful hiring process – saving your company time and money in the long run.
Julie Labrie is the Vice President of BlueSky Personnel Solutions. After 13 years of recruiting top talent, she is a veteran in her field. Fluent in both English and French, Julie also provides bilingual placement and expertise. She works closely with both business/HR executives and job candidates, and can offer insights into the strategies, nuances and psychology of the hiring process.
Category: Hiring Advice, Recruitment Challenges