What brings certainty to your hiring decision? Is it an ideal candidate profile? On the resume, did they go to a good school? Did they show a steady job progression steadily being promoted at the right kinds of organizations? In the interview, did they dress appropriately, have a firm handshake, smile and confidently look you in the eye?  Were they good looking, personable and well spoken? In the reference checks, did their references speak in glowing terms about their work? Sounds great so far, right?

Except research shows that none of these factors are very predictive about whether your candidate will become a great employee.

Consider another candidate who worked their way thru community college, gained experience and developed business acumen working in a variety of industries, took responsibility for their results and outworked everyone else on their team. If they were the hard working results-getter and not the smooth talker, they might be perfect for your open job. They might appreciate the job more, and they might even stay in it longer.

In short, the best person for the job just might not fit your mental picture.

Now let’s consider the “rules of thumb” we all use. I’ve been told that you can judge people by:

  • Their shoes – are they spit polished and new, or ratty and worn out?
  • How clean is their car. Is it dirty and disorganized or immaculate?
  • Their hair – is it tidy or unkempt?

This is also total rubbish. I was so busy with work this month that I did not maintain appearances very well.  Despite (because of?) having a series of important meetings, I was not keeping up with my normal errands. Just in the past week I’ve finally taken my car to the car wash, finally gotten a long overdue haircut and found someone who does a fantastic shoe shine. But what if I had a job interview last week?  Would I have been a materially better candidate if I neglected my client responsibilities in order to maintain appearances? Obvously not.

An interview is just a snapshot in time devoid of context.  Therefore these “rules of thumb” are not valid predictors of anything.

Remember – if you don’t force yourself to look at what really matters in hiring, you can easily be blinded by all this superficial nonsense.  (By the way, the typical interview is only the 9th best way to predict job performance).

If you would like to spend less time on the irrelevant, superficial aspects of interviewing, and more time understanding the deeper elements of what will make someone successful, download our Employer Guide to Interviewing.