Apples and Oranges

Yesterday you interviewed a candidate you were certain was 100% perfect for that job and sent her along to the hiring manager for what you knew would be a slam-dunk interview with an offer sure to follow.

Fifteen minutes ago, the hiring manager called and his feedback was lukewarm at best. “She was okay, but I don’t think she’s really right for us.”

Now you’re scratching your head, wondering, (1) how you could have so badly misjudged the candidate or (2) if Mr. Hiring Manager got up on the wrong side of the bed today.

Before you seriously question your ability or send Mr. Hiring Manager a new pillow, consider a third option. Maybe you and he were comparing apples and oranges and the remedy might be to agree on your shopping list before you venture out to the market.

What we’re talking about is the potential for a failure to connect when you and the hiring manager are evaluating candidates using either different criteria or dramatically disparate interview methods. It’s not terribly uncommon to discover that your skills and strategies as a screener and interviewer may be very different from those of the hiring manager with whom you’re working.

This is a situation that requires a reactive remedy and a formula for proactive prevention. The reactive remedy might include a number of questions to diagnose the specific problem. They might sound like this:

  • Tell me about what you thought worked in Mary Doe’s background and skills?
  • What skills or abilities do you think Mary was missing?
  • What did Mary say or do that made you feel that she wasn’t right for the role?
  • What were the two or three most positive things that stood out about Mary’s skills?
  • What were the two or three biggest concerns or deficiencies that you noted about Mary’s skills?

Your goal is to gain a clear and specific understanding of where the hiring manager felt Mary’s skills and abilities fell short. Then use that information to source better qualified candidates or uncover what the hiring manager is evaluating that may be different from what you are examining. You might do that if the hiring manager is unable to identify any specific skill weaknesses or if his answers tend to be about Mary’s “personality” rather than her ability.

It’s important to note that personality, or “fit” can be a very important part of the equation, so you wouldn’t want to disregard that feedback. It is critically important, however, to understand what personal characteristics are going to be factored into the final hiring decision so that you can evaluate those areas in conjunction with an applicant’s functional and professional skills.

The best strategy in this situation is a proactive approach. A few steps will help ensure that apples are compared with other apples.

  1. Be sure that you and the hiring manager spend some time at the beginning of the process in agreeing on the specific skills, abilities, experiences, and characteristics are required for someone to be successful on the job.
  2. Let the hiring manager know up front whether you are using behavioral interviewing strategies or more traditional methods.
  3. Ask what type of interview(s) the candidate will experience when he/she meets with representatives of the hiring company.
  4. If the hiring manager doesn’t have a strategy in mind, be ready with a plan that helps keep the process on course. Recommend questions and work with the hiring manager to develop a list of key criteria that are must haves, nice-to-haves, big pluses, and deal breakers.

There will always be times when a candidate and the hiring manager won’t connect for what seems like an indefinable reason. Minimize the pain and frustration of those occasions by ensuring that your skill and characteristic “shopping lists” match.

-Paula Roy

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