When I coach individuals in their career searches, one of the characteristics I listen for is what I call “head trash.” This is a collection of thoughts and ideas, both objective and subjective, which have accumulated over the course of your career and can result in self-limiting behavior. For instance, people who are turned down for a multiple jobs may start to believe they are not good enough for a specific position, and refrain from applying for their dream positions in the future, even if they are actually qualified. I have also found that head trash begins to collect with executives, leaders and entrepreneurs over the course of their careers with regard to one of their favorite of all activities – hiring new talent. Leaders who have had a few bad hires in the past tend to believe that this is all that will happen in the future, and such thoughts can begin to negatively affect business.
Let’s discuss this phenomenon a bit by discussing some different types of “head trash” which tend to accumulate Perhaps by identifying and collecting the “trash” you can wrap it up nicely and get rid of it to clear your way for productive hiring.
- Gender or cultural bias. As much as you would like to believe that you don’t hold any bias (positive or negative) around a particular gender or culture – you do. Why do you think the reality show – The Voice is so popular? It forces the judges to evaluate solely on talent and not on visual bias. You might think you have had better luck hiring women in the past, or tall men with dark hair, or East Asian professionals because that is your heritage. All of these biases are flawed. Without regard to the name on the resume, look at the track record of the applicant and what they can do for you – not what color their eyes are.
- Generational bias. This is a big issue right now. Our younger professionals often lack the confidence to hire someone more senior than themselves. Our experienced workforce is feeling threatened by younger, more technically astute talent. Reconsider – please!? If you are early in your career, hiring someone more senior makes you look really smart and confident – and you won’t have to work as hard to train them! If you are more senior, hire an early career professional who can help you tool up on technology so you can keep up!
- Personal attributes. I’m talking about communication style, physical appearance, social grace – those personal qualities that might bother you, but aren’t really a big deal. Does having a visible tattoo impact this person’s ability to talk on the phone with customers or complete data models effectively? Does a light stutter or lack of good eye contact really mean they can’t write quality software? You will open your talent pool up to new options if you can relax your own biases and be more inclusive, looking at the big picture with regard to the candidate rather than nitpicking each personality trait.
- Educational attributes. This bias can go in two directions. Some hiring managers will ONLY hire from top rated institutions, believing that 100% of the graduating population has a specific set of qualities to offer. Some WON’T hire from specific institutions for the same reasons. The fact is, the person, combined with their family values, environmental exposure and education all combine to make them an individual. I have failed with Harvard grads and I have failed with CU gradsequally. There are plenty of considerations that go into picking a school, and not all of them have to do with how intelligent a person is. Don’t let the choice of school be the only reason you decide for against a candidate.
- Experiential attributes. Not everyone who started their career at Google is a Rock Star. Not everyone who has been fired in their career is a loser. Look at the whole person, not just their resume, and seek to understand the story. If the candidate looks good except for one glitch in the resume, delve deeper into the background, and ask the tough questions if necessary. Nine times out of ten when I get a candidate on the phone and ask them to tell me their story, it’s a very different explanation than the conclusions I drew from reading their resume – and I do this for a living!
To summarize, something in your past has caused you to be cautious or fearful about hiring. Try not to hold your candidates responsible for a past misstep. Everyone you meet is an individual in their own right – and shouldn’t be blacklisted because they share a single characteristic with someone who failed you in the past.
Take out the trash and start with a clear head – Happy Hiring! For more information on hiring great talent – and getting hired – visit us here.