During some magical interviews, the hiring manager and candidate seem to “click.” They talk easily, have many things in common, and the hiring manager feels an emotional connection to the candidate.
Rather than providing comfort, this “connection” should raise red flags. After all, we have a positive bias for people similar to us.
Any job candidate has a vested interest in being liked by the hiring manager. In this context, appeal and charisma become means to an end. This is particularly true for extroverts who specialize in being gregarious and likable.
Our positive bias for people similar to us can also, unconsciously, create other biases such as gender and racial bias. It is a tendency to be aware of and guard against during the hiring process.
While being liked is certainly not a negative on its own, it is generally not a good sign when an interview moves quickly from a discussion of job requirements to more personal, entertaining topics.
The focus of an interview can become lost while savoring the social connection of the conversation. When this happens, the question of the candidate’s fit for the job in terms of temperament, coachability, and emotional intelligence can become lost.
A manager can easily mistake this likability for capability; unfortunately, that is a fallacious conclusion! By preparing for each interview with a list of characteristics for “fit” and focusing on questions that will elicit such information, managers can avoid this entertainment trap.
A related challenge is the manager’s own need to be liked. Leaders can mistake feeling good in an interview for positive candidate qualifications. When candidates praise the hiring manager, who they have just met, it can be a way of currying favor rather than showing genuine admiration.
When we hear something that we enjoy hearing, we tend to assign positive bias to the source. This is understandable. But those hiring managers who are vulnerable to this kind of adulation will often make choices based on the wrong set of criteria.
Ultimately, liking a candidate and being liked by a candidate should be only very small considerations in the final hiring decision.
THE TAKEAWAY: Although it’s okay to hire someone you like, it’s important not to hire a candidate because you like them. Beware the trap of likability!
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