There is a style of interviewing that we encounter frequently that leads many companies down a hiring path they should avoid. I call it “Proof of Thesis” interviewing and here is how it works.
The hiring company publishes a job description on a major job board or, heaven forbid, in a printed newspaper. The hiring company refers to the published job description as a “sales ad.” It is not, but that is a topic for another post.
Phone calls are generally discouraged. Email copies or resumes are passable. Complex and frustrating navigation through an online applicant tracking system is preferred. So the applicants respond and resumes pour in to the hiring company.
Some form of a superficial sort occurs that simply separates the absolute “no’s” (based solely on their resume) from the doubtfuls, possibles and probables.
The latter pile is passed on to the hiring manager for his or her expert summation of the salesperson’s abilities. Although the process has many weak links, this point is usually the weakest. Here’s why – the hiring manager forms a biased opinion of the candidate often without knowing it.
Biases are a part of human nature therefore they are difficult to neutralize. Since this is the case, we use a hiring process that limits the impact of these biases. Yet, we still see them appear at times.
The most common spot for these biases to occur is just before the initial interview. It is at this stage that we present candidate information which includes phone screen results, assessment results and the candidate’s resume. It is almost astounding how often we encounter hiring managers who review the resume and make broad generalizations about the sales candidate.
Generalizations include statements such as:
“They cannot sell products.”
“They cannot sell services.”
“Their experience isn’t relevant to our sale.”
“They won’t be able to learn our (fill in the blank).”
There are a host of other statements we often hear. The statements may be true, but why not discuss such topics with the candidate? Unfortunately, the bias continues during the interview which is problematic.
We have experienced this fact first hand. A hiring manager makes a biased generalization about a sales candidate and then attempts to prove that generalization during the interview. Hence, my phrase “proof of thesis” interviewing. The superceding goal of the interview is to justify the preconceived bias.
This approach is compounded by companies that use the interview as the first live filter. The hiring manager has a tendency towards false positives – essentially viewing a weak candidate as strong. Conversely, the hiring company has probably filtered out strong candidates in the resume-sort step.
The solution here is to rely on structured interactions with the applicants to view their sales abilities live. Take the appropriate steps to be as objective and open-minded as possible. All hiring, to some extent, comes down to a subjective decision. The companies that take the steps to minimize these biases enlarge the talent pool from which to successfully hire.