We all want to hire great people. The biggest danger of the hiring process is a twofold result of this goal. We either perceive a candidate as wonderful, only to find out they’re not the right fit for the job after all (false positive), or we reject candidates who would have been a great fit (false negative). Both hinder our company’s ability to move forward productively.
Laszlo Bock, former Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google describes this phenomenon in his book Work Rules! He says, “Based on the slightest interaction, we make a snap, unconscious judgment heavily influenced by our existing biases and beliefs. Without realizing it, we then shift from assessing a candidate to hunting for evidence that confirms our initial impression.” Here’s what you can do to avoid that.
- It’s Not All About You. Remember that you’re not the only one interviewing. Good candidates also have the most offers on the table, so it’s equally important that they’re impressed as with you as vice versa. Bock reminds us, “Remember too that you don’t just want to assess the candidate. You want them to fall in love with you.”
In tandem with this rule, know when to be quiet. It can be easy, especially after many interviews, to emphasize information about the company and the position rather than focusing on the candidate. Letting them fill the negative space can reveal a lot about how much they’ve prepared.
- Have a Control Group. Have a base line set of questions that you ask everyone. That way you have an even playing field for candidate comparison. Mixing up the questions each time might keep things entertaining for you, but it puts some candidates at an advantage or disadvantage over others. These questions will provide a foundation, and additional, personal questions are bonuses.
Bock says he’s often been told the Google interview questions are bland. This, he claims, is strategic, “the questions give you a consistent, reliable basis for sifting the superb candidates from the merely great, because superb candidates will have much, much better examples and reasons for making the choices they did. You’ll see a clear line between the great and the average.”
- Questions Aren’t Enough. Especially in the dynamic contemporary work world, simply asking questions doesn’t give enough information about a candidate. It’s important to see the candidate in action to really assess their performance. Using scenarios, tasks, or activities gives better insight into their work process and ability to perform under pressure. It will also illustrate whether they fit with the company’s work style and culture.
- Have a Checklist. Have a checklist of must have qualities, and would-be-nice qualities for the position. Comparing every candidate to this checklist provides a consistent standard of evaluation. It’s easy to get distracted by the “extras” like an impressive alma mater or project portfolio, and forget to look for the core position qualities. Having this list handy keeps all the essentials at the forefront. This also makes a great jumping off point for questions.
The hiring group at Google uses a similar process. Bock says, “A concise hiring rubric addresses all these issues because it distills messy, vague, and complicated work situations down to measurable, comparable results.”
- Sweat the Small Stuff. Did the candidate dress inappropriately? Have a typo on their resume? Were they rude to the receptionist? These seemingly small details can reveal a lot about a person’s character, and their fit for a company. Don’t rush to judge, but don’t brush off a collection of small offenses either.
Hiring is a high-pressure job. But these foolproof tips can help maximize your interview and avoid make false negative or positive judgments about a candidate. It works for Google, and it works for BSG.