The higher you go the more acting you will see

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 3 and 4, 2012

Talking with: Ulrich Jordan, former Chief Human Resources Officer, Targobank

The hiring managers are often ill prepared to select candidates, says Ulrich Jordan. A candidate's tie then may decide whether he will get hired. And in the end a clone will get selected.

What is the secret in making the right people decisions?

As the hiring manager it is important to know myself pretty well – my hot buttons - what I like and dislike in the candidates I see. That will help avoid mistakes. Many HR managers do not spend a lot of time figuring out what skills exactly they are looking for. What values and ideas the new employee should possess. If I don´t have a precise picture, I should not go into the hiring interview.

What could happen, if you don´t do that?

A lot of recruiters have a tendency to hire clones of themselves. For example I like to not waste time in getting my work done. At the beginning of my career as a manager I was not so happy when the more analytical members of my team said:"Let´s give this thing a little more thought." I had to learn that these people were helping me to learn. If everybody behaves like I do, I increase the risk that I will fail. It is like in soccer, if you only have great midfielders on your team, you will lose. It is the right mix that will produces success.

Is it the HR managers´own fault, if they don´t hire the right people?

I have to really be serious about selecting the right candidates. If I have not defined a set of criteria, I will form a first impresssion in the first 15 seconds of the interview. And then use the remaining 59 minutes and 45 seconds to confirm my self fulfilling prophecy that the person across the table is either the right fit or not.

So the first impression often decides?

It is too bad but that is what I have often seen. There is nothing wrong with a first impression. I have to be conscious about it. It has helped me to write it down at the beginning of the conversation. The art of interviewing then means to stay open about whether the candidate confirms that first impression in the course of the interview. Or if she does not.

How should you deal with these first impressions then?

I have to decide how important they are for the work I expect the new employee to perform. Managers often make intuitive decisions based on irrelevant things like a badly tied necktie. If I can separate these impressions from what really counts regarding the job profile I am taking a big step towards making the right hiring decision.

What is the best preparation for the interview?

I need to have a clear picture of what I want a candidate to bring to the table - both from a skill and attribute perspective. What experience am I looking for? What achievements should the successful candidate have? What crisis situations should she have mastered? And – because there are no supermen and superwomen out there – what are must-haves and should-haves in the job profile?