We all know that when a candidate misses some technical skills that they can be learned, right? In most cases anyway. So, now many candidates are also being checked for their social skills. Questions like “Could I go out for a beer with him?” or “What’s her personality like?” are quite common. Interview lunches or casual drinks in a bar are now more and more an integrated part of the hiring processes to answer those questions. And I quite like this “softer” approach.

Nonetheless, I believe that there is something much more important to pay attention to when you hire someone. It’s got nothing to do with skills or personality whatsoever.

Here is what I mean.

Imagine Bob has just arrived at work on an early Thursday morning. He opens his inbox and sees that new applications came in overnight. He wants to filter them straight away because he doesn’t know whether he’ll have time to do it later.

Bob opens the first email and reads the candidate’s message. It sounds nice so far. He opens the attached CV. He briefly crosschecks it for the criteria which he has present in his head. It’s looking good.

Bob sees that the candidate has been job hoping quite a bit these last five years. He doesn’t like it much because that means to him that the candidate doesn’t really know what he wants. Then he sees that the candidate only speaks Spanish on conversational level and not fluently as required. In his mind, Bob is about to mentally put this candidate on the rejection pile.

So far, Bob could be anyone of us, no?

Bob is making an assumption on a candidate based on static information he sees on his screen. For me, today, that’s like throwing away a new dessert – without testing it, just because you don’t like the packaging. What’s the point?

Now, I know that this is not uncommon. I used to act exactly like Bob. The pure amount of applications nowadays is overwhelming sometimes. And it forced me into this process that everyone else was following. And it was okay for me to anchor my choices during a such process mainly on criteria and opinions.

What I have chosen to change though is to reject candidates without having spoken to them just because their profile does not seem to be 100% right. That doesn’t mean that I force myself to speak with everyone, no. And I still do reject applications without having contacted the candidates.

What I have changed though is how I approach the process and how I interact with the candidates I want to get to know, even those whose CVs don’t seem to be brilliant. If there is a curiosity about their profile, at least I want to speak to them. Even if it is just for a quick call to test their language skills.

I want to feel the connection between the candidate and me, so testing the language skills is a good “official reason” for the call, but it wouldn’t be the main one.

I want to know whether there is something where we both connect or not. It might be just by listening to their voice for the first time. Maybe they come across as shy at first, but they passionately talk about their latest project.

I want to know whether I could be around that person at work. What does it feel like when I interact with that person? Do I like her/him? Am I comfortable around her/him?

And this is nothing that I can find out by reading their CV or Github profile for the second time. It’s based on a feeling. Very subjective, of course, but I don’t mind. I want to feel good. So, I like to surround myself with people who make me feel good and I now take the same approach when selecting candidates.

So, if I were in Bob’s team sitting around the lunch table with a potential new colleague, I wouldn’t focus so much on what the candidate tells me. I would focus on how he says it.

Now, you are more than likely to do this already on a subconscious level. And maybe sometimes your mind overwrites a gut feeling.

If this article made you curious to try it out, please do so. From my personal experience, there is nothing better than experiencing this more consciously for yourself.