Stop Selling When Interviewing Candidates

When I was a recruiter, interviews started off with a little overview of the organization.  I’d tell them a little bit about what it was like to work for our company and also cover information about how the interview and hiring process worked before launching into questions.  

I often had the chance to sit with hiring managers interviewing candidates as well.   The difference in how the hiring manager handled the first part of the interview related to information about the company was always interesting.  Some said very little if anything about the organization or their department and/or team, while others gave a dissertation on it all.  Some bragged and bragged about how great it was to work at our company, others gave the good, the bad, and the ugly about what the work and the environment was like. 

Turns out, there is a way to do this and a way not to if you want to hire the right candidates.   According to research by Jennifer Carson Mar and Dan Cable on the effects of selling on interviewers’ judgements,  it’s not so much on how the candidate portrays him or herself in the interview, it’s about how the interviewer portrays himself or herself and the organization. 

Amy Cuddy describes the findings of the study well in her book Presence

“The more the interviewers were focused on attracting candidates, that is the more they wanted to be liked, the less accurate they were at selecting candidates that would do well after being hired in terms of performance, good citizenship, and core values fit. 

The takeaway is this.  Focus less on the impression you are making on others and more on the impression you are making on yourself. The later serves the former.” 

So, if you want to hire people who will perform well, get along well, and share the values your organization espouses, stop selling, and be authentic. 

I wonder if the implications of this study extend to other areas of HR?  When do we need to sell and when do we not? 

When do you turn on your selling style and turn it off at work? 


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Mary Ila Ward