I worked in search for more than 40 years before transitioning into coaching. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that job hunters were on good behavior when they were interviewing.
However, it took a few years for the light to go off that employers were also on good behavior (or outright lying) to the people they were interviewing.
In the course of my career in search and now as a coach, no employer ever said to a job hunter something along the lines of, “I took over the group a few months ago. My predecessor was fired and her predecessor was fired. It doesn’t take a genius to realize my butt is on the line.”
No one ever tells a prospective employee, “The person whose job you would be taking left because of me.”
Even future peers lie. No one I worked with ever told a potential hire, “Your future boss is an a-hole,” or “Dang! I’m in over my head and I can use help!”
Everyone, hiring managers, HR, potential colleagues all have these happy smile button faces pasted on and tells everyone, “We’ve got a terrific team . . . smart, funny . . . did I mention we’re like family around here?”
The problem is that given that they are on good behavior . . . and so are you as the hiring manager, how are you assessing people for fit?
You can’t because each of you is trying to impress the other, putting on an act, being on good behavior and trying to impress the other. It’s kind of like dating except, unlike dating (or at least my memory of dating) there comes a point where “the act” disappears and people are more honest and open with one another, that never happens during interviews unless one side or the other (usually the job hunter) is an imbecile.
So, explain to me how you assess for fit.
I know someone is going to write about how their firm administers some version of behavioral or industrial psychology test that has helped them test for fit. There’s only one problem, although the test you gave may be validated, it is not re-administered to your employees or team. Remember they learn, grow and change (hopefully for the better) and these are the people that the potential hire is going to need to fit with and you are using data that was valid at the time they took the test and may no longer be an accurate representation of them.
“When you’re a teenager, you think you can do anything, and you do. Your 20s are a blur. 30s, you raise your family, you make a little money, and you think to yourself, What happened to my 20s? 40s, you grow a little pot belly. You grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud. One of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. 50s, you have a minor surgery. You’ll call it a procedure. But it’s a surgery.”
As Billy Crystal points out so humorously, we change over time from our experiences. I used to have long hair, a moustache, wear “a man bag” and what at the time was nicknamed “A Shaft hat.” I’m a wee bit different than different times in life. If you tested me at the time I joined my last search firm and when I left, those are two very different men.
Now imagine your team. They are changing, too, and you are not re-testing them to determine who they are today vs. who they are when you are hiring this well-behaved phony sitting in your conference room.
Let me go one further step. Most hiring managers are hiring imbeciles guided by bias and emotion. If they are so good at interviewing and evaluating people, why is it that more than half of hiring managers have “buyers’ remorse” within 12 months of hiring someone? CareerBuilder goes so far as to say 3 out of 4! Take a look around your office. 3 out of 4 of you shouldn’t even be there!
So, let’s be honest with ourselves and start by improving the quality of interviewing. Start with HR and progress to the people on your team and tell them the skills you want someone to have and how you want them to evaluate for them.
Once they get to you, be conscious of your biases and when you hear that voice in your head saying one of those stupid things it has said before to convince you to hire or not hire someone, politely thank it and tell it how often it has led you to the wrong person.
And forget fit.
Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2019
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1300 episodes and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice.” He is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council. “No BS JobSearch Advice Radio” was recently named a Top 10 podcast for job search. JobSearchTV.com was also recently named a Top 10 YouTube channel for job search.
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