Hiring managers. Picture this scenario. After months of looking, you finally found the perfect candidate for your open job. You’ve interviewed them, really like them, and think they are head and shoulders above everyone else you interviewed. Their technical skills are exactly what you need, they understand what it takes to get the job done in your environment, and they asked smart questions. You could easily work with them. You are ready to make an offer, but first the candidate needs to interview with your boss, Frank.
So they go meet Frank. He’s pretty busy, so they only get 45 minutes and Frank takes a couple of calls during that time. It takes you 2 days just to get Frank on the phone, by which time he’s forgotten the candidates’ name. When you ask what he thinks, he tells you that your perfect candidate is “just so-so.” Nothing specific, he was just “unimpressed.”
Has this ever happened to you? Were you ever able to understand exactly why you and Frank formed different opinions? Were you ever able to reconcile your differences? In many cases the answer is no. A vague “I’m unimpressed” from the boss is enough to derail most interview sequences – after all, do you really want to risk hiring someone your boss does not like? What if Frank is right and it does not work out? Then you get ALL the blame.
In most hiring situations, people will legitimately form different opinions about a candidate. Each of us brings our own unique perspective to interviews, and we are all influenced by our past experiences. But when you have not decided on your hiring criteria in advance, you will almost always disagree with the opinions of other people. The key is deciding – in advance – what you will look for, and then using that framework to reconcile what you learned from your interviews.
At the start of our searches we gather together every stakeholder – every single person who has a “veto vote” over the hiring decision. You may think that’s impossible, but it’s not. We insist on it – and you can too. In the conversation, we listen to everyone’s “wish list” and then we reconcile what exactly we’re looking for, and on what criteria we plan to evaluate each candidate. What are the “must have” strikeout criteria, and what are the “nice to have’s.” What are the key drivers of results in the job? We resolve the differences, so all the interviewers are looking for the same thing. Then we put it in writing, so when different people meet the candidates, they still have a common framework to make a decision, and everyone is focused on the key factors that drive results. For example, you may legitimately disagree on how you rank the candidate’s subject matter knowledge, diplomacy or attention to detail, but with this approach, at least you are talking about job-relevant specifics. You want to avoid debating vague impressions (usually about the job seeker’s self-confidence) or their presentation skills – like being “fast-on-their-feet” or how snazzy they looked in that interview suit.
Job seekers can tell when your management team is aligned and all looking for the same things. It’s very comforting, it shows you work well together and you took the time to think about the job – so it makes your job appear less risky to the job seeker.
Conversely, when job seekers sense disagreement between interviewers, their alarms go off. Any internal disagreement in your management team creates risk and uncertainty for the job seeker – and reduces your chance of getting them to consider your offer.
So take the time upfront to agree on what you are looking for – you’ll speed up your search process by several weeks, you’ll look smarter when you interview, and you’ll be more likely to attract the best candidates. Oh, and you’ll make much better hiring decisions.