As search consultants, we are usually viewed as trusted advisors and extensions of the management team. So, knowing when to push back on a client, and when to just defer to the client’s opinion and judgment, is one of the trickier parts of our job. It’s a good example of when it’s more art than science.

Occasionally, pushback is warranted, such as when a client is too quick to dismiss a strong candidate after just one interview.

If you’re working with a recruiter, hopefully you’re only seeing strong candidates – those that are well qualified, available, and highly interested in your opportunity. Yet, you need to eliminate most of them from consideration. As you do, it’s important to remember that you’re not trying to hire the best interviewer; you’re trying to hire the best performer.

It helps to remember that the best performers aren’t always going to fit your pre-conceived image.

Think of the candidates that interviewed superbly, had great presence and seemingly all the tools, and yet surprised you by not performing. Besides being surprises, these were probably bitter disappointments, considering all the time and money it takes to find, hire, and train a new employee.

If you consider these hires through the “interviewer vs. performer” lens, their failures may become less mysterious. Continuing to look through that lens, think of some of the candidates you didn’t hire. Could you have judged them too quickly, based on just one interview?

It might be useful to ask yourself if you always interviewed flawlessly. Or did some employer give you a chance based on things she saw despite an imperfection or two? I know my answer to that question!

Undeniably, time is more valuable than ever, and the successful executive must protect that time ferociously. Nonetheless, you may want to think twice before eliminating any candidate that seems otherwise strong, but for a small number of answers or characteristics revealed in the first interview. It’s often wiser to view your concerns as items requiring further exploration. Instead of cutting the candidate loose altogether, follow “the four D’s:” drill down, don’t dismiss.

In a similar way, try to not allow vague subjective criticisms from your team be causes for a candidate dismissal. The classic line is, “Not the right fit.” Hold your team to a higher standard of objectivity. When facing a subjective judgment, press for specifics.

If you and your team bring this discipline to candidate evaluations, you’ll increase your odds of hiring keepers. You’ll also have fewer occasions to lament, “I don’t understand. He was fabulous in the interviews.”

 

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