Is Emotion Keeping You From Getting The Best Talent?

Can you be completely impartial during the interviewing process?

My friend, Kevin Roberts, is CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, one of the leading agencies in the world.  He writes a blog that I’d encourage you to read regularly. A recent blog was on the subject of including emotion in business negotiations (Negotiate Using Emotion).  It raised a question for me about the place for emotion in job interviews.

 I don’t believe there is any way to completely remove emotion from the interview process and perhaps some emotion is good to have. But I’m concerned that too often it overwhelms the process and great candidates are passed over because the interviewer makes an early, snap judgment about a candidate based on “disliking” him or her.  It can color all the answers that follow.

 I find this is particularly true with extended panel members – those people on the interview panel who have not been an integral part of the process of setting out the job specs and the position description.  They often bring their own biases to the interview and evaluate candidates on characteristics that were never part of the search.  It’s a waste of the client’s money and everyone’s time.

Relatedly, panelists are too often swayed by a vocal member of the panel who has a particular reaction to a candidate on a “gut level”.  Sometimes this is the boss, but often it is a peer in the group that reacted to something he or she heard during the interview or a bias that existed during the interview, based on input from people outside the process.

 To try to manage this problem, I encourage our clients to formally set the criteria for the evaluation before the interview.  We provide each of the panelists with a template based on the agreed specifications for the job and encourage them to ask their questions to ensure that they, as representatives of the company, can grade the candidate on each element.  If the client wants to weight the criteria, we can do that in advance as well.  We encourage each panelist to grade each candidate and make notes on the evidence they got from the interview on which they based their grade.  By having to think about the evidence, I’ve found that grades can change.  People I’ve “liked” but couldn’t grade highly with evidence to support the grade have fallen below others that I didn’t “like” as well at the outset, but who proved their abilities in the interview.

We also suggest that the grades be written down before the panelists meet to discuss their opinions.  This may not prevent the loudest voice from swaying the others, but it helps.

If emotional elements are critical to success in the role, then you should be able to define them so that they can be part of the search process. There are lots of ways to be successful in a business, and it’s important that companies don’t lose out on great talent because they handle themselves differently than the person across the desk during a one-hour interview.  For example, just because a person is quiet you can’t presume that they are a poor leader.  Is there evidence that they have been very effective as a leader in their previous roles?  Perhaps their style is actually more effective.

Conversely, a little bit of wild and crazy might be just what your company needs – even if it makes you a bit uncomfortable.  Has it worked for your candidate at other companies in his/her past?

Net net, this is a business decision and if you’re going to let your “gut” be the key decider, you may miss out on a great deal of talents.