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You’re More Likely To Hire Someone You Like (And That’s Fine*)

In Oregon, you get a pretty reliable indicator that election season is almost over: A voter’s education guide that is the size of the phonebook a week before you receive your ballot in the mail. I am not joking when I say that I received booklet one of two total in the mail on Friday. Oregonians love to put a few thousand measures on every ballot. It is really fantastic.

You also know it is closing in on the end of election season when pundits from all over start talking about who American’s would rather have a beer with. It is a great conversation because there is no real wrong answer and it seems entirely irrelevant to the process of vetting a president. People can get red in the face arguing about who would be better at the bar. And they can get red in the face arguing about the relevance of the whole comparison. Really, all I care about is who is buying my next drink.

The interesting part about this is nobody ever wants to admit they’d make a decision on the most important office in the country (the world?) based on whether they would be somebody they’d drink a beer with. After all, if that’s all you need to do to become president, I think the least I could do is start practicing my bar etiquette for my run for president in 2016 (the first year I am eligible).

Call me crazy but I think whether or not you’d have a beer with someone does have something to do with how you vote and it isn’t completely illegitimate either. The people I’d like to have a beer with are generally interesting, intelligent and have generally agreed upon views and values. We obviously don’t agree on everything but that’s what makes the conversation interesting. I’d like to believe we are both intelligent enough to be considerate of differing views and yield when incorrect.

How many times have you sent several candidates to a hiring manager thinking that it would be a no brainer and they come back with someone different than you were thinking? Nobody wants to admit that they hired the person because they liked them better but it is obvious that is exactly what transpired. Yet, several months down the road, there has been better than expected results with the new hire (even more than you would have expected with the no brainer).

This is where we get into the idea of hiring for “fit.” You’ll take a candidate who is less perfect if they are a better fit in the organization. And really, when we talk about fit into the organization, we talk about fit with supervisors. As you probably know, people more frequently quit their supervisor than their job. If you can eliminate the supervisory conflict at work, your retention should be better (at least according to the theory). And as a supervisor, you may be considering the personality. It is likely you are also going to consider whether or not your future employee will be a good fit for the organization or that they will not make your life difficult by not being competent enough to do the job. You may like to have a beer with your employees after work but you don’t want to be doing it with incompetent employees or people who don’t share your commitment to the project.

From an HR standpoint, we obviously want to strive to balance this with other evaluation methods but I don’t think you can dismiss it out of hand. If a supervisor comes to me and says “I know this person is more qualified on paper but I just really like this other person much better.” I think if you explore this idea more, you may find there are a lot of solid reasons behind this typically flimsy response.

* I feel like I had to add this star to be accountable to my readers. Some people use the “I like them” excuse to promote a homogeneous culture. Some also do it as code to enforce a glass ceiling. That is not cool, not at all. This is why I say to ask more questions when someone says they like a candidate over another.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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