How to Hire without getting Fooled by First Impressions

Adapted from Harvard Business Review

How to Hire without getting Fooled by First Impressions

Distinguish between real and pseudo cues. An example of a pseudo cue is the halo effect that may surround candidates due to physical attractiveness. People subconsciously feel attraction to a good looking interviewees, and this pseudo cue positively biases their evaluation of the candidate’s unrelated skills.

Unsee the pseudo cues that grab your attention but are irrelevant to the job. Take past data on who has succeeded and failed in the role and analyse each person’s characteristics in a regression.

Which independent variables e.g GPA, major, extracurriculars, interview answers predict success or failure?

Also need to avoid the pseudo cues that we hear. The first impressions we hear can mislead us because we overvalue “smart talk”. Smart talkers are skilled at sounding confident, articulate, and eloquent, having interesting information and ideas, and processing a good vocabulary. In local colloquial, it simply means, “all talk, no action.” We do not want to select people who are glib but not necessarily substantive.

The following guidelines may be helpful.

Focus on behaviours instead of traits

For example, if the interviewee describe themselves as a team player, do they actually credit others when discussing their work? Listen for what is unsaid, particularly whether they credit their colleagues, their subordinates, or anyone else.

Listen for learners

“Tell me about a failure”. Do they chalk the failure up to their lack of fit in the area, bad luck, a hard task, or other excuses?

Listen for the candidate who identifies factors that they could change and control in the future. This is the candidate who is capable of self reflection and learning.

Listen for Conflict Management Skills

“Tell me about your least preferred coworker”. Listen for whether they reduce the person to a one word label e.g micromanager or reveal a more complex view of the situation e.g we disagreed about how to get the job done because we were trained in different ways.

Labels are quick but final, leaving people with few solutions to work with the other person. The more complex interpretations allows people ways to productively negotiate with each other.

Look for Nonverbal Cues

Look beyond what the candidate is saying. How are they saying it? Example such as not listening to you, invading other’s space and sneering disguised as smiling.

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