Problems with Traditional Hiring Approaches

The “traditional” approach to hiring can take any number of forms but generally includes ideas like:

  • Hiring people you know
  • Hiring referrals
  • Extensive interviewing

Unfortunately, in most cases, these are very subjective processes and tend to focus on selecting for reasons that are not tuned to finding the BEST teacher candidates regardless of where they come from.

What most leaders don’t know, yet should know, is what happens in the traditional hiring process.

The traditional hiring process is, at best, a crap shoot—leading to the right decision to hire a person who will significantly add value to the organization less than fifty percent of the time.


Objectivity Hijacked

The problem lies in our human nature and in the way our brains work. The process begins to unravel at the start. The interviewee walks through the door and the interviewer(s) stand and greet him/her with a handshake and look into the eyes. At this point, most objective reasoning about this applicant on the part of the interviewer is over. The limbic brain, the emotional center of the interviewer’s brain, has taken over and the interviewer has created emotional filters in his/her brain through which physical and verbal information from the applicant will be processed. The interviewer’s emotional part of the brain has just hijacked his/her objective part (neo cortex).

Another way to understand how our emotions can get the best of us in interviewing is by considering how influenced we are by an interviewee’s dominant personality traits.

Personality vs. Character

Susan Cain in her best selling book, Quiet, reveals how in the early 20th century our society moved from a focus on an individual’s character to a fascination with personality─placing an over emphasis on traits of extroversion.

Organizations began seeing extroverted employees as more valuable than introverts. Today, the extroverted personality is seen as one of the main attributes of a successful employee. Stephen Covey in his blockbuster book, The Seven Habits of the Most Highly Effective People, drives home the point that we have moved from measuring a person by his/her character to measuring people by their personality traits.

This personality focus has had a major influence on traditional subjective-based interviewing. It is the interviewee who comes across as an extrovert who ignites the positive emotions of the interview panel─allowing the emotional side of the brain to take over. Whereas, an introverted interviewee leaves the interview panel feeling empty and not emotionally excited. There is no question that an extrovert has the advantage over the quiet, thoughtful, and perhaps shy, introvert. However, is this focus on personality the best way to hire people?

Extrovert vs. Introvert

Susan Cain clearly spells out the strengths and limitations of extroverts and introverts and how both have potential to positively impact an organization. Talent is not dependent on personality traits. Often the thoughtful, quiet introvert has more basic talent than the high-energy extrovert who makes us feel good in an interview. Our subjective conditioning (and bias) to most value extrovert traits often blinds us to seeing the talents of the more introverted interviewee. There is no doubt that a bias for extroversion blinds us in interviewing a person for a job and that this bias comes from a “culture of extroversion.

This hijacking of our thinking brain is at the heart of many of our hiring decisions that turn out to yield, at best, mediocre performance, and, all too often, disastrous results. Mediocre and bad hires are costly decisions both in terms of expense and more importantly in terms of student experience and success.