Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Kelly White

If you genuinely like people, the hiring process can be fraught with danger. During an interview, you may find yourself focusing on what you like about the person instead of their skills and accomplishments, ultimately hiring them and then having them turn out to not be a good fit.

First, having a hiring process (and following it!) that includes a Talent Profile can significantly reduce the chance of making a hiring misstep.

Approaching the interview by assuming a candidate isn’t a good fit until the data proves otherwise is a way to reduce confirmation bias in the process. To coin a catch phrase, they are guilty until they prove they are innocent versus they are innocent until proven guilty. While this might sound a little extreme, it is one way to reduce the subjective nature of liking someone upon first contact. The brain is programmed to find evidence to validate our thoughts, so if at the initial meeting we like someone, our brains will continue to provide evidence of that, which leads to confirmation bias. The interview process ensures that data is gathered to support the skills, requirements and culture fit for a good hire.

It may sound extreme but to shift our mindset, we need to identify with strong analogies to help us when we encounter a candidate and immediately fall in love with them.

Why does this matter? Hiring talent that is in the top 1-5% of people with their qualifications is the goal, but the reality is that 95-99% of candidates “are not the one.” It is easy to make a bad hire when you are thinking they might be the one before you have gone through the full hiring process.

Another way to think of this is called “Neutral Point Of View” or NPOV.

NPOV is a term that applies to encyclopedic writing and means unbiased. NPOV in the interview process may show up as poker-faced or non-partial. Consider yourself a researcher. You are gathering information on a candidate and making an unbiased analysis of their characteristics to determine if the research matches the talent profile. In order to gather unbiased research, a certain stance must be taken throughout the entire process.

How will you know if you are violating NPOV? Here are some things to watch out for during the interview:

  • Are you talking or asking questions? If you hear your voice more than the candidate’s voice, you are breaking NPOV.

  • After the pre-screening session, you say “I know they are the one.”

  • You find yourself telling someone how much you like them or the candidate is perfect before the process is complete.

  • You chit-chat with the candidate and talk about mutual hobbies.

  • You are talking about yourself and your interests instead of asking the candidate questions about themselves.

The goal of the interview is to gather more research about the candidate. The candidate should reflect on their personal and professional experiences from questions that are asked and that require examples, actions steps, and the learning associated with their experiences. When using a neutral point of view while gathering and evaluating this research, the odds finding and hiring the right person for the job significantly increase.

To discuss hiring or job search needs, click here to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation session with the T3 Talent team.

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