Don’t Hire Based on Qualifications

October 18, 2018

Don’t Hire Based on Qualifications

Do you filter résumés based on the level of degree, years of experience, or geography? Have you created an interview template to ensure consistency around one or two theories of good interviewing? Do you use a personality profile to predict future success?

When you’re making a new hire, more often than not you’re trying to fit them into easy boxes. However, new job candidates aren’t appliances or furniture—they’re people, and they can’t be easily separated into convenient categories.

Hiring is one of the biggest challenges for businesses of any size. It’s one of the most unpredictable and dynamic problems to solve because people don’t fit into boxes, and in the hiring process we try to force them into boxes: their qualifications.

That’s a big mistake.

What if you knew you were missing the right candidates because you were too busy filling out the boxes? Would you change the way you approach attracting and hiring people? 

(I’m going to say “yes” for you.)

People, Not Qualifications
You’re hiring people, not qualifications.

The first questions you ask in all interviews should be personal. When I do hiring, I want to know who someone is, what they love to do, and learn where they want to go in life. 

I couldn’t care less if the answer has anything to do with my business or the position, and neither should you. Your initial goal in the interview process should be discovering what makes the person sitting in front of you wake up in the morning. 

This conversation has to be genuine. If it’s not, you’ll get nothing but shallow answers for shallow questions.

The way most people do hiring is broken: you meet your top candidates, you ask them to walk you through their résumés, and before you know it, half the interview is over. What did you learn about the person? That she’s articulate? She’s qualified to do the job you’re hiring her for? Her work history?

Take it a more personal route. Say something like:

“In the event we work together, I am going to help you get where you want to go. Whether that’s within the company or something completely different, I will work to support you.”

Then ask questions about how the person can bring their passion into work.

The interview time shouldn’t be for testing qualifications—it’s really about getting to know each other, your passions in life, and your shared interest in making a difference. The less scripted, the better. By staying fully present in the conversation, rather than trying to check off a box, you’ll discover an even deeper understanding of whether you’re a good match for each other.

Off the Script
The trouble with interviewing off script is that we were never taught to trust our interviewing instincts. We were taught a school of thought (or, worse, many schools of thought) about interviewing candidates.

We’re told it’s a formal interview with lots of rules and specific questioned we need answered.

Even the people who go off the script aren’t allowed to do so without repercussions. They tell managers what they want to hear versus telling them the truth. If they said what they thought, it would sound something like this: 

“I don’t follow the stupid policies about hiring or scripts. Yeah, I take notes during interviews, but that’s just to make management happy.”

Now for the truth! Hiring right is an input—culture is an output. If you don’t get quality inputs, you’re in deep trouble. And the only way to get quality hires is to hire people, not qualifications.

Interviewing is a process of relationship-building and storytelling. Within the dialogue you have with candidates, a great interview will explore the many layers of your candidates’ experience in all facets of their lives. That might include some business stories.

But if you’re hiring the right way, you’ll be talking about each other outside of the business context, too.

The key to hiring the right person is knowing what “hiring the right person” even means. The easy part is finding someone who can execute the day-to-day work. The hard is actually learning about someone as a person and discovering a deeper understanding of their ability to expand, both professionally and personally. 

This is the primary problem with all hiring: employers are perpetually dissatisfied with employees, and employees are always dissatisfied with employers.

You have to know who you are before you can hire the right person. If you go into the hiring process looking for a list of qualifications, then you’ll only add to that cycle of dissatisfaction. Break the cycle. Stop hiring for qualifications and start hiring people.

The Authors: 

Guy Pierce Bell is a writer and speaker.