Hire for Strengths vs. Lack of Weakness


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Hire for strength rather than lack of weakness.

That quote from General Colin Powell rings in my ears whenever I am interviewing to fill a position at the company.  Particularly if the last person in the role had some, well shall we say – performance challenges.

I spend a lot of time talking to clients about the horns and halo effect.  You know, someone walks into the interview and you immediately like them.  You like the way they dressed, you like the way they shook hands, you like the way they communicate and present.  So sub consciously or consciously, you have decided you like this candidate.  And you spend the rest of the interview finds nuggets that support your first impression that they are a great candidate for the job.

Or conversely, when you first meet them, they seem shy, introverted, clearly nervous – with a clammy handshake.  And by the way – those are the ugliest shoes you have ever seen.  So now, when human nature takes over, it seeks out nuggets that support your first impression that they are an awful candidate.

Well, that’s the horns and halo effect.  Not taking all the information into account, and just focusing on the things that support your bias.

But, it turns out that’s not the only bias you have to watch out for when interviewing.

Let’s say your marketing coordinator, Stacey, just left the company.  And it’s a good thing too, because you were on the road to a very difficult warning process with her.

She was a really poor communicator, had challenging interpersonal skills, and to top it off, couldn’t seem to make it anywhere on time.

…the problem is – you’re so happy not to see the failures Stacey had that you’re willing to hire James for his lack of weakness rather than his strengths.

So she is finally gone, and you are looking for a replacement.  And in walks James.  He was on time, could clearly communicate his thinking, and seemed friendly and approachable.  You start thinking, this James guy could be the one.  So, you send him along to the rest of the interviewing team.  They come to the same conclusion – he’s easy to get along with, is prompt and communicates well.  So, he’s in!

What if I told you, you have absolutely no idea if James is the right fit – because you haven’t explored how he can contribute to the company achieving it’s marketing goals.  You just like him for what he doesn’t  bring.

All the issues you had with Stacey, aren’t issues with James.  And while that’s a good thing, it only gets you to par.  His communication skills, promptness, and approachability is the minimum level of expectations for that job.  Can he grow your social media presence, streamline your marketing efforts, introduce a new process or avenue that will get more eyeballs on your product or services.

You see, the problem is – you’re so happy not to see the failures Stacey had that you’re willing to hire James for his lack of weakness rather than his strengths.

But that may not get you where you need to go.

Before you jump into any hiring process, you have to make sure you have level set your thinking.  Especially if you’re coming off of a really bad (or good) experience with the last person.  It’s so easy for your vision to get clouded by what just happened.

So, one of your employees just told you that she’s pregnant.  Feeling overwhelmed, with no idea where to start?  After all, HR just got dumped on your plate.  It’s not your zone of genius, and you don’t want it to be.

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Maybe you so loved the Zander, that no one will seem good enough – again, because you are comparing them to the heightened version of Zander that you have in your head.  No one can live up to that idea – I bet not even Zander.

And on the opposite side, maybe you were so aggravated by Stacey all the time that anyone that doesn’t aggravate you seems like a great fit.

So, make sure you sit down and take a good look at what you want accomplished in this role.  Write down what skills will get that done; and be specific about the goals.

Then, as you are screening candidates, keep those goals and skills at hand.  And yes, you still want someone who does aggravate you – but they have to do and be more than just that.  A lot more.

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