A candidate of mine, let’s call her Karen Jones, just went out on an interview for a marketing manager’s position. To my mind, the candidate was a perfect fit: professional, a track record of comparable performance, strong industry background and good academics. But she didn’t get the job. Elizabeth, the hiring manager and VP of Marketing, also thought Karen was very good. Her background in launching new products and setting up complex multimedia marketing campaigns were exactly what the job required. Karen was equally excited. She thought Elizabeth was someone she would enjoy working for, and the job offered new challenges. Both wanted to go forward with the next round of interviews. Unfortunately, this next round was with Bill, the VP of Engineering. Karen was a bit nervous when first meeting Bill, and I discovered later that Elizabeth had painted an overly negative picture of Bill just before the interview. Since Bill was the primary internal client and key interface with Marketing, he had a big vote in the candidate selection process. Elizabeth told Karen this, adding unnecessary tension to an anxious situation. Most candidates get a bit nervous at the beginning of each new interview, but Elizabeth’s prepping worsened the situation. Bill sensed this nervousness and was immediately put off. His immediate conclusion, based on this first impression, was that Karen didn’t have the personality to work with him and his team of engineers. The interview was basically over in ten minutes. Bill went through the next 30 minutes of the interview looking for facts to prove his initial emotional reaction. He used this information to prove his case with Elizabeth – why Karen was not qualified. Things like this happen every day. The best candidate rarely gets the job. The candidate who gives the best interview usually wins. This is one of the reasons I developed the POWER Hiring system. I wanted to anticipate classic problems like this, and prevent them before they adversely affected the hiring decision. The E in POWER stands for Emotional Control, and it was developed to address this specific and common problem. (My big mistake here was forgetting to talk to Bill about it before the interview.) Here’s why controlling emotions and their impact is so important: Most interviewers are heavily influenced by a candidate’s first impression. We all make emotional decisions in the first five to ten minutes of the interview. It’s what happens next that’s the problem – interviewers looking for facts to justify this emotional decision. Interviewing personality is not true personality. While true personality is critical to job success and cultural fit, it unfortunately can’t be measured during the first interview. First impressions cloud the interviewer’s judgment. We go out of our way to ensure that people we like get through the interviewing process. We ask them easier questions, and quickly start selling them on the merits of the job. We also go out of our way to preclude someone we don’t like from getting the job. We ask harder questions, and sometimes even talk them out of the job. More errors are made in the first 30 minutes of the interview than at any other time. We hire people who are great personalities, but can’t deliver the expected results, and we exclude candidates from consideration who are temporarily nervous. If you can force yourself to forget personality and look strictly for competency in that crucial first meeting, your interviewing accuracy will soar. During the first 30 minutes of the interview, determine if the candidate is capable of doing the work. Do this whether you like the person or not. Get detailed examples of major accomplishments that are most comparable to your job needs. Ask about the process used to achieve these accomplishments, and the environment in which they took place. Explore issues like the pace of change, the types of people involved, the tools and techniques used and some of the key challenges faced. After you do this for two or three accomplishments, then determine if the candidate’s personality fits the company’s culture. By measuring performance before personality, you’ll fundamentally change the whole assessment process. Candidates who were initially nervous will calm down and become their real selves. Candidates who were artificially friendly and enthusiastic will also reveal their true selves. You’ll also be able to observe much of the candidate’s true personality – the stuff that really matters – in their accomplishments. In Karen’s case she was a strong candidate for the job, but got temporarily nervous and sidetracked when she met Bill. It was an insurmountable problem. If I had led the interviewing session (a good idea for all recruiters), or if Elizabeth had intervened, we could have addressed the issue right away. We didn’t, and lost a great candidate. It’s a good lesson for us all – performance and personality are both critical to job success, but we should measure performance first. By measuring performance before personality, you’ll discover some great candidates who seemed pretty average when you first met them. (You’ll also discover some outgoing and enthusiastic people who are not qualified to do the work required.) Wait 30 minutes and measure performance before personality. Get your clients to do the same. It will change everything.
We dug deep to learn what job seekers want from an employer for 2021. While there are more candidates seeking work, there’s also more competition among businesses for the most qualified people. Get the leading edge with this free guide.