Interviews with 120 hiring managers at elite investment banks, law firms, and management consulting firms revealed that hiring managers tend to pick people who’d make good beer buddies over the most qualified candidates according to a study from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Professor Lauren Rivera, who conducted the study, quoted one manager as saying “We want people who fit not only the way we do things but who we are.”
One legal hiring manager rejected a qualified applicant because “I’m looking at the interests [on his résumé]—lacrosse, squash, crew [laughs]. I’m sort of giving him a personality type here, and I don’t think he’s going to fit in well here. . . we’re more rough and tumble. . . . I’m going to let him go,” writes Forbes. Another hiring manager rejected a candidate who expressed an interest in eighteenth-century literature and avant-garde film because he seemed too “intellectual”. In other words, “they hired in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners,” writes Rivera.
“One candidate was rejected for being too intellectual. Another for assuming a personality type based on his interest of lacrosse and squash”.
We tend to hire people who are similar to ourselves and who we can get along with easily because it feels comfortable. We are often drawn to the candidates that tend to be more agreeable and try to please us — you know, the people pleasers. It’s tough to say no to someone who mimics your every move, agrees with your every word and coincidentally enjoys the same hobbies as you. Heck, maybe you’ll be best friends too?
However, to really grow your business, it is much more important to recruit the strongest, smartest, best candidates you can find, even if they might seem a little “weird” to you.
Here is how hiring someone different (and better) than yourself will help you grow your business:
Making hiring decisions mostly based on likeability can be very dangerous. Imagine your company full of new hires – they all look like, think like, and even act like you, the boss. In this situation, employees are not challenging each other and not asking enough “why” questions. The result is Groupthink:
“Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions. The dysfunctional group dynamics produces an “illusion of invulnerability” (inflated certainty that the right decision has been made). The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking.”
While it’s really fun to be in a company of people you like and get along with — people who are similar to you — making hiring decisions based largely on likeability is clearly not good (and might even be disastrous) for your business.
It feels great and even productive when your team is always agreeing and doesn’t have any conflict. However, “what feels good may not always reflect the performance of the team. In fact, teams with a very stable membership deteriorate in performance over time because members become too similar in viewpoint to one another or get stuck in ruts,” according to research by Stanford Professor Margaret A. Neale.
According to Neale, hiring someone who is different from the group will get the team out of the run and actually increase productivity:
“When the newcomers were socially similar to the team, old team members reported the highest level of subjective satisfaction with the group’s productivity. However, when objective standards were measured, they performed the worst on a group problem-solving task. When newcomers were different, the reverse was true. Old members thought the team performed badly, but in fact it accomplished its task much better than the homogeneous group.”
For optimal results in your business, make sure to hire people who are different from you and the other employees at your company in some critical way, such as level of education, way of thinking, or area of expertise.
Build an A+ Team
The best thing you can do for your company is keep hiring people who are not only different but specifically better than yourself. Guy Kawasaki has some great advice on this point:
“In the Macintosh Division, we had a saying, ‘A player hire A players; B players hire C players’ — meaning that great people hire great people,” he writes. “On the other hand, mediocre people hire candidates who are not as good as they are, so they can feel superior to them. (If you start down this slippery slope, you’ll soon end up with Z players; this is called The Bozo Explosion. It is followed by The Layoff.) I have come to believe that we were wrong–A players hire A+ players, not merely A players. It takes self-confidence and self-awareness, but it’s the only way to build a great team.”
Like Guy Kawasaki mentions, it takes a lot of self-confidence and self-awareness to hire people who are different and better than you are. As humans, we gravitate toward people who are most similar to us. This is why it is so important to have a more measured approach to interviewing. The Cream.hr pre-hiring assessment test is a great way of seeing candidates a lot more subjectively by focusing on candidate qualifications over likeablity.
Though testing is important to creating an A+ team, you should consider other pre-employment factors in the hiring process as well.
Have you hired based on likeability? What was the outcome? Tell us in the comments below.
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