Managers are bad at assessing job candidates in almost countless ways. But according to Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, a global expert on hiring and promotion decisions, two of these ways are especially egregious:
1. Managers, like all people, make snap judgments.
Neuroscience breakthroughs have revealed that “we make judgments about people much faster than we do about things,” Fernández-Aráoz observes. “Amazingly, in your first encounter with someone, the relevant areas in your brain are making your initial judgment (pro or con) in just one-twentieth of a second.”
2. When interviewing prospective hires, managers completely eschew structure and instead “just let the candidate tell his story.”
In his book Great People Decisions: Why They Matter So Much, Why They Are So Hard, and How You Can Master Them, Fernández-Aráoz offers an approach to conducting a structured, “behavioral” interview that will help. He provides examples of the kinds of questions that elicit the most useful responses.
The first goal of any hiring interview, Fernández-Aráoz says, should not be to decide whether you like the candidate or even whether he or she fits into the organization. It should be to determine whether the candidate is competent at handling the key tasks that, if he or she is hired, will be required to succeed. Before interviewing anyone, the recruiting executive must identify those requisite competencies and then craft questions that will help determine to what extent a given candidate possesses them.
Thus, the preparation for the interview is as important as the interview itself. “We have found that for a two-hour interview to yield meaningful information, it could take at least that much time to get ready for it,” Fernández-Aráoz writes.
Above are some of the questions Fernández-Aráoz asks in a sample search for a marketing director for a “fast-moving consumer goods company.” They are “focused on facts and behaviors, not opinions or generalities” and designed to assess the candidate’s possession of a specified competency.
In an interview with Graduate Management News, Fernández-Aráoz described one of the most common mistakes made by hiring managers: “Unconsciously, we tend to make people decisions using the same instincts that primitive man used in ‘fight or flight’ situations. His implicit criteria were similarity, familiarity, and comfort. But those are dysfunctional criteria for building great teams. . . . [Instead, focus on] complementary skills . . . and the ability to appropriately challenge each other.”