A common mistake leaders make when hiring is bringing someone on board because they like him or her. While liking a potential team member is certainly a plus, it is not an accurate indicator of character, competence or team chemistry. In fact, most of us have seen employees who were once likeable become far less so as we discovered weaknesses through performance we should have uncovered during the interview process.  Hiring experts have long estimated that the number one cause of hiring errors is making emotional decisions during the interview process.  Perhaps this sequence sounds familiar:

  1. Early on in the interview you decide you like someone based on personal biases, appearance, personality or stereotypes.
  2. At the “I really like this guy” moment you begin to lose your objectivity and cease seriously assessing the candidate.
  3. After losing your objectivity you’re no longer tough in your assessment of this person and begin looking for a way to include him or her on the team.
  4. You find ways to exaggerate the candidate’s strengths and minimize their weaknesses.
  5. The interview has now devolved from a fact-finding proposition to a casual conversation, a good ole boy get-acquainted session, or worse, a sales pitch.

As human beings, we’re easily swayed by the factors outlined in point 1, causing us to give an unqualified, unfit candidate far too much benefit of the doubt. This is why using a pre-employment assessment can help you tremendously. The right assessment will dig beneath the veneer of a candidate’s best interview behavior and detect areas for concern you should investigate further through a second interview, or that may cause you to eliminate the person from consideration altogether; saving you untold dollars, momentum, morale, culture damage and personal credibility. While assessments aren’t perfect, they are an ally in helping you to eliminate hiring errors. Over the years, I’ve heard confessions from numerous managers who “went against what the assessment recommended”, hired the person anyway, and soon lived to regret it.

We are especially prone to developing blind spots concerning a candidate’s weaknesses when recruiting people into our business that we know, or that we think we know.  They may be a friend, a friend of a friend, or an associate you do business with. I fell into this trap several years ago when recruiting Ed from our bank, and compounded the error by ignoring the frightening -46 Ed scored on our pre-employment Anderson Automotive Profile because I liked Ed, and mistakenly assumed that I knew him better than our assessment. The two biggest concerns our assessment red-flagged after evaluating Ed’s twenty-four personality traits were:

  1. He would be un-coachable.
  2. He would be selfish and unconcerned about the welfare of other teammates; a “law unto himself.”

 In other words, according to Eric Samuelson who runs our Anderson Automotive Profile division, we could expect Ed to be late to work, not help others out, and to never take ownership of the company’s mission. Ultimately, he’d be a hired gun who looked at us as just a “job” rather than a career, and would probably keep looking for something better—all the while he was collecting our paychecks.

Considering LearnToLead’s five core values, and how serious we are about team members living up to them, our profile’s assessment should have stopped me cold in my quest to hire Ed.

For example, one of our values is teamwork, which we define as: The good of the team will come before the personal agenda, comfort zone or ego of any one individual. Obviously, someone with Ed’s assessment results would be a dreadful fit for our value that the good of the team comes first.

Another of our values is integrity: We will always do what is right; not what is easy, cheap, popular, or convenient. And we will do so without excuse and regardless of the cost.  Naturally, someone so prideful as to be un-coachable would not have the character necessary to live out this value in our workplace.

Urgency and attention-to-detail are two more of our values. Thus, it should have been a no-brainer that if Ed were late to work, as Eric predicted, he’d make a mockery of both.

The Ed I did business with at our bank and thought I knew for the past three years, and who did great during the interview process, proved every dire prediction of the Anderson Automotive Profile true in short order after we hired him. To make a long story short: He was late three times in one week and I fired him. Needless to say, I haven’t second-guessed my namesake pre-employment profile in the three years since I let Ed go. Consequently, I haven’t hired a poor cultural fit since his dismissal.

 I still like Ed. He’s a nice guy with a professional appearance and well-spoken manner. He simply isn’t a good fit for our culture, proving once again the words I’ve preached for years but had to eat for the last time three years ago: Like isn’t enough

Note: If you’d like to protect your dealership from hiring errors—and the “Ed’s” of the world—  take a peek at how the Anderson Automotive Profile works,

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Tags: Anderson, Dave, Lead, Learn, Learntolead.com, To

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Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on May 28, 2013 at 6:40pm
A wise gm taught me that a positive personality assessment doesn't guarantee success but a bad one nearly always predicts failure
Comment by mattsmolik on April 8, 2013 at 10:49pm
Personally, I really like your fifteen interview questions. I now go into a first interview trying to fire the potential candidate it may sound harsh to some but it will save you and your team time and money in the long run Thanks Dave
Comment by Ernie Kasprowicz on February 15, 2013 at 4:22pm

I like how you started this post by using the term leaders, as opposed to, say managers.  Leadership is a skill that requires knowledge and continual development.  Leaders also need to have the ability to be followers; they follow a plan or process. Incorporating a profile assessment and following it will help obtain and retain top quality people within an organization.

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