Love at First Sight: How first impressions can pull you off course in your hiring process

She captivated my attention immediately. When that happens in the hiring process, we start to lose sight of what we need and how the person will fit to those priorities.
Trinity captivated my attention immediately. When that happens in the hiring process, we start to lose sight of what we need and set aside the important decision points about how the person will fit to the priorities of the position.

Most every week I volunteer at our local humane society. When I started last spring, I expected to fall in love with every dog and cat I interacted with. To my great surprise, that just didn’t happen. Each animal has had their endearing characteristics, bringing hours of enjoyment to my life, but none has tugged at my heart in a way that I had anticipated.

Until this past week.

When I entered one of the cat rooms, I noticed this munchkin-sized grey kitty at the far end of the room. Her coat was sleek and she had adorable calico dots accenting her sweet face. She was wobbling from her hideaway space to the water dish. Immediately, I was smitten. The wobble got me. Yes, the wobble. I giggled to myself, thinking, “Oh, she looks like she’s enjoyed a few cocktails!” It was incredibly endearing. Having seen videos of kittens with benign neurological issues, I had a hunch it was something like that (as opposed to a vodka-spiked water dish). Still, it was the way she handled that wobble that I knew her personality was so much bigger than her pint-sized stature. Her confidence and spunk were large. From that very first impression, she had won me over, and nothing anyone could have said about her would have altered the tenderness I felt for her.

When we, as managers, are in the midst of a hiring process, the same thing can happen. We begin an interview with best intentions of objectively analyzing the candidate. Then something happens where a first impression binds us in some deep way. When we start to feel this sense of connection, chances are that all bets are off on any future objectivity in the process. We begin to mentally rationalize how the person will be the perfect fit and we lose sight of what the position requirements are. Instead of focusing on this person’s fit to the skills and traits, we are pulled off track to aspects about them that aren’t really critical to the success in the particular job.

My prevailing instincts were to swoop this little gem up and bring her home. But adoption decisions are like hiring decisions. The ramifications are huge if you get it wrong. To get it right, you need to stay clear on what the position requires and how the candidate fits in to those needs.

It’s ok to fall in love with a wobbly walk and charming calico dots. Just make sure you understand the whole picture, and are able and willing to provide long-term support to set the person up for success.

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2 comments

  1. Jane says:

    This is a great story – I feel like I’ve been living a version of it, thanks to FB. It’s the dog adoption sites and those photos. I have been so wanting another dog – the photos are captivating. I know that to choose a dog requires more than a picture, we would need to meet (not just me and the dog, but my live-in family and the dog) — we’d have to have the right “pack” dynamics. Then I remind myself about the reality of living with a dog — the whole picture of care, feeding, training, picking up after, as well as the adventures and relentless companionship. I’m sure that one of these days, when the time feels right I’ll have another dog. In the meantime, I enjoy the vicarious pleasure of knowing Grace.

    • Robin says:

      Jane, you are so right. The “fit” does depend on the whole team, doesn’t it? I know it would require a tremendous amount of effort to assimilate a new cat into this household. And while perhaps doable, a big commitment. Many managers bring on a new employee and leave them hanging, not helping the team understand each other. And that can create a real disaster, which is the last thing anybody wants, especially the participants. Knowing you like I do, I can completely see how you would be thorough in your approach. When the timing is right, a new dog will be so very lucky to have you as her person!

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