When people come to me and ask, “What’s wrong with me? I thought I was qualified for this job. Why did I not make the cut?” I always tell them not take it personally because the hire decision is not about them; it is about the hiring manager. What I cannot tell them is the secret: A hire decision is never objective; it is always subjective. A person hires someone he or she likes, all things being equal.
I have written about this before and needless to say that I was so pleased to come across a Harvard Business School article penned by Amy Cuddy. She said:
“Our first impressions register far too quickly for any nuanced weighting of data. Within less than second, using facial features, people make what are called ‘spontaneous trait inferences’”.
Her point is that people categorize others between two variables – warmth and competence – which accounts for 80% of overall evaluation of people. People are assessed as either warm or cold, which represent their intentions either positive or negative. Competence is the capability to carry out these intentions. Thus, positive competence is preferred than negative competence.
Applying it to the process of hiring, we prefer people who are “warm” to us and have an acceptable level of competence. Being the best-qualified candidate, spec by spec, is not the dealmaker. Being the best liked is. The good news is that the first picture that an employer sees of you is your résumé. If it is well written and reflects well your value proposition, the chances of being called for an interview are high.
For job interviews, I coach people how to establish rapport, make the connection, and try to be liked. However, there is a balance between warming up and being overly familiar. It is a turn off to be too cozy and going beyond the personal space. In a perfect world, the interviewer likes you the second he/she sees you and would then take the time to listen to the presentation of your competencies and qualifications.
Now here’s the catch, when called for an interview, there is a tendency for the candidate to think that smiling, being nice, and being able to recite his or her experience is enough. “Anyway, I would not have been called for the interview if I were not qualified.” To this, I say what I never tire of saying: the résumé takes you to an interview but it is the interview that gets you the job. It is a big deal.
To help candidates and train them for an interview, INSIGHT uses a videotaped analysis of an interview performance. Learning from it, they rehearse for as many times until they master the art. We put several hours into this process because we know how critical the interview is. Remember that like a sales call, the interview may be the first and only chance you get to close the sale. The interview training could turn out to be your best investment.