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Something tells me I shouldn’t hire this person…but what is it?

17 Apr 2014 by Sarah Leembruggen.

When considering whether we should follow a gut instinct in the all-important decision making process, the answer is a combination of yes and no. In an interview, you might have a sixth sense that someone is holding something back.  Other times, you may feel that the person sitting in front of you is a star in the making but have no specific reason on which to base this feeling.

These gut feelings come from what Steve Peters calls our ‘monkey’ in his book about mind management www.chimpparadox.co.uk/ —the area of our mind that is guided by our emotions rather than evidence-based facts.  This is driven by a primal need for survival and there are situations (e.g. the house is on fire, you need to make a fast exit) when this is very helpful. But there are times when your monkey can be your worst enemy.   He’ll tempt you to buy that bar of chocolate when you’re trying to lose weight or give you a perfectly good reason to skip going to the gym.  Less perceptibly, he’ll be operating when you react to someone’s body language and form unconscious judgements.

Don’t let him dominate your recruitment decisions.  If someone has their arms folded, it may not be a defensive gesture but merely a sign that they’re cold.  Your monkey will also find some candidates more attractive or likeable than others.  This is dicey territory!  If you’re not careful you can start asking questions to confirm your favourable opinion rather than find out what you really need to.

Conversely there’s the interview where we sometimes take an instant dislike to someone.  This is where our gut feelings really do lead us astray and we need to be mindful in interviews when this is happening so we don’t miss out on a great potential employee. 

The best interviewers stay neutral but strike a happy balance of remaining objective and dishing out a sensible helping of employer branding.  After all, you want everyone to be dying to work for your company when they walk out of the door even if you’ve decided they are not for your role.

What Steve Peters calls our ‘human’ part of the mind is slower to kick in, thinks in shades of grey and operates a balanced judgement. This is obviously a much better basis for our recruitment decisions. Just bear in mind that, while at times misleading, there is a time and place for your monkey to be very helpful.  In interviews listen carefully to your gut but be mindful of what’s happening.  Channel your human to find the evidence you need to back up what your monkey’s telling you.

Try these tips for ‘humanising’ your monkey and keeping your interview decisions rational:

• Note down answers and rate the quality of them – this means you will need to think ahead to what good looks like so you have benchmarks to judge against
• Interview in pairs so one person's (monkey) views don't dominate
• Prepare set questions or tests to uncover whether the candidate has the skills/experience you need
• Have more than one interview stage - gut feelings you have in the 1st interview can be probed with your ‘human’ hat on at the next stage with competency-based questions or tests
• Don't make snap decisions unless you really have to, there will be shades of grey and you need time to weigh things up

You’ll find more top tips on interviewing techniques on our website pages.  Feel free to share your thoughts on this topic with us, too!

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