Blind Interviews – Start with the Basics

A fascinating story by Noel King of National Public Radio’s Planet Money explored the use of ‘blind interviews’ during the hiring process.  Can we find the very best candidates for our company by relying on blind interviews or could there be unintended consequences?  Should we use voice-altering software to hide the sex, ethnicity or regional accents of a candidate all in the search for just the right person?  How do you hire new people who will be the engaged, entrepreneurial employees you want – the people who can excel at their work, will fit in and buy into your brand and vision?

Let’s start by considering the case of Barb, a topnotch financial professional. I worked with her years ago when she was the chief financial officer for a midmarket software company. What are the upsides to hiring Barb? She’s smart, she’s organized, she’s analytical, she’s proactive, and she’s results oriented. Barb also understands the mission of her company, and she has just about all the entrepreneurial attributes that you’d want in any chief financial officer and was a totally engaged employee.

However, when Barb decided to look for a new opportunity, she found herself in a difficult situation because she didn’t have experience with one financial software package that was prevalent in her marketplace. (Her company had used another package.) Company after company passed on Barb because headhunters, recruiters, and human resources departments were unable to see past that gap in her resume. Barb eventually landed a terrific job, but think about all the companies that opted for someone with the “perfect” resume and therefore missed out on all the critical, cultural, and entrepreneurial attributes that Barb had to offer.

Most successful companies do realize that cultural fit is just as important as specific technical or professional skills. A hiring manager I used to work with called this the “get it” factor. The candidates he hired needed to have the technical competency to do their job, of course, but they also had to get the mission, get the purpose, get why they’re on this planet, and get why the company is even in business.

An efficient way to identify the right candidate for your company is to think in terms of three goals. First, make sure the candidate is qualified; second, assess the candidate’s cultural fit; and third, make sure you’re educating the candidate.  Then you can decide if it is time to make an offer.

There are a number of new and exciting concepts to squeeze bias or worse yet, prejudice out of the hiring process.  Ideas like blind interviews and voice altering software should be explored, but first make sure you have the basics down – qualify, assess cultural fit and educate.

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