Friday, February 12, 2016

Interview Tip: Beware of first impressions and your "gut" reaction

As a professional interviewer, I am always amazed that I still see managers and executives who say to me, “My gut tells me if someone is a good choice.”

Your “gut” is your unconscious making a decision for you. If you don’t use discipline, such as that found in a structured interview, you are falling victim to a known psychological fact: Your unconscious decides in less than three minutes if you like someone. If you are a seller, this is a critical insight. Sell yourself in the first three minutes. If you are the hiring manager, you need to pay close conscious attention to this 3-minute phenomenon.

What do YOU do in that first three minutes of an interview?

Average interviewers spend the initial interaction in “small talk”.  They rationalize this by saying they are trying to put the candidate at ease. I am always a bit skeptical about who is putting whom at ease, but the behaviors are the same. Small talk. Friendly banter. Ease into the interview.

Unfortunately, by the time you and the candidate are ready to “ease into the interview,” your unconscious has probably made a decision. From then on, the average interviewer is asking questions to give him/her a reason to justify hiring the person. The “gut” has already spoken…”I like (or don’t) like her.” I have seen some managers who say they only need to interview for about five minutes to know if the person is the right one or not. In reality, those managers indeed know if they like the candidate, but they have no idea if the candidate is the right one to hire.

Is it any wonder that I tell my clients, “My job is to find a reason that you should not hire the candidate.” I am trying to overcome their “gut” bias.

Go ahead and “ease into the interview.” Be gracious and friendly. But don’t make a hiring decision during this time. Fight to overcome your unconscious. Move from small talk into a structured interview with planned behavioral questions to introduce analysis, judgment, and discipline into the interview process. Overcome your “gut.” And, yes, this takes more than three minutes.

Dr. Duane Lakin is an industrial psychologist, professional interviewer and author of “Ten Ways Top Sellers are Different” as well as “The Unfair Advantage: Sell with NLP!”

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