After 13 years of recruiting within the life sciences and working with all kinds of hiring managers, I have noticed that interviewers fall into one of 3 distinct categories. They are either looking for that 10/10 candidate that meets all on-paper requirements, looking for red flags, or looking for that perfect cultural fit. When interviewing, do you prioritize finding the technical over the cultural fit? Are you focused on seeking out reasons not to hire? In a perfect world, an interviewer would have a balance of questions homing in on all three of these crucial factors. From my experience, most interviewers heavily skew in one way or the other.
The Fit Finder
This interviewer knows exactly the skills they are seeking in a candidate. They come prepared to work through their list of “must-haves” hoping to find as much alignment as possible. The interview style may vary, i.e., targeted questions versus a more conversational approach, however the goal remains the same: check as many boxes as you can. 10 out of 10: Amazing! Move them forward. 8 out of 10. Let’s continue the conversation. Finding a fit-on paper is fantastic, however this interviewer needs to be sure to assess both soft and hard skills. Yes, this person can do the job, but will they gel with the team? Are their career goals in alignment with the company?
The Red Flag Hunter
This interviewer may have a more strategic approach to interviews. They still seek alignment on required skills and experience; however, they are primarily on the lookout for something negative: a reason not to hire. In many cases, this is a solid approach to weed out anyone who might not thrive in their organization. This interviewer needs to be careful not to jump to potentially false conclusions because of hyper-focusing on a little thing said by a candidate. Many interviews are derailed by miscommunications and hasty assumptions. Candidates should know to choose their words carefully during an interview, but at the same time interviewers should be willing to dig deeper and follow up on topics of concern before making a definitive assessment and writing someone off.
The Emotional Hire
This person approaches interviews in the same way as some people approach a home purchase. They might not know exactly what they want however they will know it when they see it; it comes down to a feeling. There are positives to this approach: the candidate pool might be broader with opportunities being presented to those who would otherwise not be considered. However, it is important not to sacrifice evaluating the necessary requirements for a role in favor of finding someone you’d deem a perfect personality or cultural fit for your organization. Sometimes, interviewers can be blinded by charisma and forget that interpersonal skills aren’t that important to the role in question, losing sight of the skills necessary to perform said job well. Essentially, don’t hire someone just because you like them.
It’s a good idea to think about how you have been approaching your recruitment and ways in which to modify interview questions and manage selection processes so you can be as confident in your hiring decisions as possible. If you’re the ‘fit finder’ or ‘red flag hunter’, perhaps consider having your top candidate meet the team they’ll be working with to assess cultural fit before making an offer. If you don’t know how to find that ‘red flag’, perhaps ask the person who is vacating the role or the direct superior what’s truly a dealbreaker to succeed. As you know, the goal is to find and retain top talent that will thrive in your organization!