The Truth About Hiring Likable People

At my company, we’ve been through several accountants in the last few years. Each new hire seems to undergo the same cycle:

    • We finally make an offer to a candidate we love.
    • Everyone’s stoked. The new recruit had a great interview, and we all loved him or her.
    • Within days, we discover the accountant doesn’t mesh with the rest of the company and/or doesn’t have basic accounting skills (How did we miss that?).
    • It takes months to get the person out of the job, and several more months to find a replacement.
    • Repeat.

Why has it been so hard to hire and retain decent accountants who work well with our team? Is it because we’re bad at hiring? I don’t think so. Instead, we’ve fallen into the same trap many companies fall into. I call it “The Great Interviewee Trap.”

You know what I’m talking about. The candidate is likable, friendly, and easy to talk to. In fact, people are often told their interview skills are even more important than their actual qualifications, so they focus on those. That’s great advice for a candidate who is qualified, but what happens when companies are blinded by those interview skills and hire someone who’s not right for the job? That wastes time for both the new hire and the company. Here’s how to uncover if your likable potential hire will become a quality hire:

      1. How to Get Behind the Mask. At my company, we’ve learned the hard way how difficult and expensive it is to make so many bad hires. Now, we have a collaborative system that helps interviewers see past charisma and into the truth of a potential hire.
      2. Know your company. The most important thing an interviewer can do before hiring is to know his or her own company inside and out. What are your core values? What traits does your team usually appreciate and work well with? If you take the whole business into consideration — rather than just your personal affinity for an interviewee — you’ll be more likely to find the candidate best suited to the job.
      3. Conduct phone interviews first. While it’s not true for everyone, most people will be more charming in person than on the phone. These initial discussions are a good, but imperfect, gatekeeper. Personality assessments can also provide a good initial look at how a person might fit within your culture.
      4. Consider the job description. It seems so simple, and yet interviewers often forget to consider the job description before offering a job. One of our core values is education, so we don’t expect everyone to be perfect in their fields yet. However, they should have the core competencies to complete the job from day one.
      5. Find a true culture fit. Fitting into the culture of the company is so much more important than just being likable. Send the candidate articles or descriptions that shed light on what your company’s culture is all about. Bring in multiple employees during the interview process to see how a new hire interacts with them. These interview reactions are data points to record in your recruiting software. If several people like the interviewee, you may find a better fit than if no one meets him or her beforehand. By the same token, see how the candidate responds to your environment. Does the interviewee seem motivated by the energy of your team?
      6. Gauge the candidate’s mobility. Ask yourself where you see the interviewee in the company in three years. A stellar employee knows how to replace himself so he can move upward. Does this person have that kind of potential?

As the workforce gets savvier about landing jobs, it’s important for recruiters to get better, too. As charming as someone may be, it’s the interviewer’s job to see past that and hire the best person for the company. Trust me — it’ll save you a lot of money.


Matthew Gordon Matthew Gordon is President and CEO of The Gordon Group, a holding company that primarily managesGraduationSource and Avanti Systems USA. Gordon strives to foster positive corporate culture and empower young minds. Photo Credit IZquotes.

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