It is a fact that we all make up our mind about somebody within the first 5 to 8 minutes of meeting them. Whether this is face to face, by Skype or on the telephone, in an interview in particular, human nature causes us to make up our mind about a potential future hire really quickly, generally based on their personality and their ability to form a good first impression with you. If that person is a natural ‘introvert’ or ‘extrovert’, this personality trait could give you a first impression which misleads you about their true suitability for the role in question.
Unsurprisingly, we are all different, and most people are familiar with some sort of professional personality profiling exercise, and the different elements of our personalities that these can highlight. I would bet that very few interviewers even consider how ‘Personality Type’, and specifically how meeting an ‘introvert’ or an ‘extrovert’, can cloud initial judgement when interviewing a candidate. This is where the use of a behavioural profiling tool can give you the ‘heads up’ on what type of person you can expect to walk through the door and plan your approach to the interview accordingly.
Behavioural profiling tools measure multiple aspects of each candidate’s behavioural traits and motivational needs which can be explored further during subsequent Assessment Interviews.
The profiling tool we use here at Executives in Africa identifies four key areas:
- Whether someone is highly confident and assertive or more collaborative in their approach;
- Whether someone is naturally analytical or socially orientated (often described as introvert or extrovert)
- Whether someone works at a quick/urgent pace with a need for variety or is an individual who works best in a stable, consistent environment and finally;
- Whether someone is tolerant of risk or if they are driven by the need to be precise and do things by the book.
Critically there is no right or wrong answer for each element of personality. If we are honest, not many of us really consider how each trait applies to work situations or analyse in enough depth what the required traits are for a particular role at that point in time which will likely deliver the best results. By accurately understanding the natural personality traits of a candidate and their key motivation needs, we can understand who the person is and what type of environment is likely to set them up for success.
For example, you would not want to necessarily hire a Finance Director who demonstrates a high risk element to their personality, especially at a time when the business is going through a cashflow squeeze; most business leaders would want someone who is more driven by the need to be precise and who is a little risk averse. That might sound obvious, but it is not always apparent when you interview someone with certain personality traits, and here is the danger;
An ‘extrovert’ personality can often mask other natural traits which might be critical to success in a role.
Extroverts are naturally very comfortable meeting new people, they are comfortable networking, they come across as confident, are socially poised, enthusiastic and are real talkers. Let’s consider a natural extrovert Finance Director candidate; First impressions are likely to be good, mainly because they are an extrovert, and as a result you will be in a positive mind-set throughout the rest of the interview. However, they might be a real risk taker as well, which you could overlook because they are so likeable and can therefore mask this fact easily in interview, and you might as a result end up hiring a Finance Director who leaves your business exposed through lack of attention to detail!
Conversely, a quiet, private and introspective person might take a bit more time to feel relaxed and ‘warm up’, getting the interviewer to switch off from first impressions. However, if made to feel at ease in the early stages of an interview, this candidate could then open up to reveal an individual who is commercial, thinks through decisions fully without rushing into things, and is diligent. Potentially this person might be the better ‘fit’ overall to the needs of the job. Interestingly, just because a candidate is naturally quiet and private it does not mean they are unable to be a commercial business partner, to work closely with the business, liaise with business managers and provide them with relevant information. In fact, they are often better listeners, and will build strong trust relationships which can be very beneficial to a business.
So how can you avoid making the wrong hiring decision based on first impressions when taking responsibility for critical hires of individuals who will be responsible for delivering significant results for your business?
The simplest answer is: ‘Actively work during the interview to disavow your first impression.’
As a Search Professional, interviewing is a significant part of what I do for a living – day in, day out hundreds of candidates every year, and I have done so for over twenty years. That’s a lot of interviewing experience! I am trained to see behind first impressions and uncover the true capabilities of each candidate. Conversely, a Business Leader in your organisation will interview and recruit, on average, only 2 to 3 senior managers every year. Some may be naturally good at interviewing, but most are not.
Professional Recruiters are trained not to be blindly influenced by first impressions, but to question candidates in such a way as to seek specific evidence for the required skills and to understand how people actually respond and perform in work situations. Business Leaders are rarely trained in advanced interviewing techniques such as behavioural, evidential or competency-based assessments, yet they are often given the decision-making capability on key hires, without necessarily having the competence to do so. Because they are Business Leaders, not Professional Recruiters. Their expertise is to deliver business results, not to accurately assess a candidate and it is fairly likely they will fall into the trap of making up their mind in the first 5 minutes based on instant ‘likeability’ of the candidate.
My second piece of advice therefore is to; ‘Make sure you are using and respecting your HR expertise’.
Many companies have extremely capable professional Recruiters in their HR Departments. You should take Talent Acquisition strategies seriously and respect their area of expertise as they respect yours. Your talent team will hopefully be trained at looking past first impressions and be expert at seeking the overall fit of a candidate to a role. Listen to them if they tell you to ignore the fact the candidate they have set you up to meet is a little quiet but that they believe they are a strong overall fit to the position you are trying to fill. They won’t want to waste your time interviewing candidates they don’t think are right if they are good at their job. You both want a good ratio of interviewing to hiring so work with them.
Alternatively, just as you would outsource taking important legal advice or certain accounting activities to relevant Professional Services firms, my final piece of advice is to ‘Consider outsourcing Critical Hires to an expert in that area’.
At Executives in Africa, we have run over 500 Retained Executive Searches across 37 countries in Africa, taking full responsibility for mapping, identifying, proactively head hunting and assessing candidates for senior management positions. We are experts at this, and we have a track record of getting it right. Our Research Associates and Search Consultants are all trained and experienced at looking past the ‘extrovert’ or ‘introvert’ personality to ensure you are getting the skills you need to deliver success in your role. Invest in getting your hires right and seeing past first impressions.
To discuss your thoughts on behavioural profiling or to hear more about how we can support middle, senior and executive level hires in your business, please contact Sarah Fitzgerald, Managing Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a suitable time.