How to hire with your head and leave your gut out of it

A Director at a leading Ad Agency wanted to hire a new Operations Manager to take over the day-to-day running of the business. She reviewed over 100 CVs and conducted a dozen interviews before deciding to hire Adam, a bright, confident MBA graduate who looked cracking on paper and gave a winning performance in interview. 

Weeks later, the Director realised she’d made a terrible mistake. Adam caused disruption and division in what was previously a highly productive workplace and it cost the Director time, money and stress to get rid of him.

“In the interview, I was wowed by Adam’s credentials, knowledge and confidence,” the Director told Ruby Magpie. “But I only saw one side of him. I completely missed this whole other side and got a rude awakening when he started work.”

So the Director hired with her gut, not her head, and was fooled by a misleading first impression. She was wowed by how many boxes Adam ticked, but didn’t rigorously evaluate his abilities to motivate and lead her staff. 

Founder of Ruby Magpie Suze Cook has talked to many business leaders who admit that they’ve made a bad hiring decision at some point in their careers. So how do you avoid this? When faced with scores of potential candidates, how do recruiters narrow the pool without making gut decisions that could be bad for business? 

In our experience, there are 3 things you can do to become more selection savvy...

1. Unsee the pseudo cues

Try to distinguish between real and pseudo cues. Pseudo cues are the things that grab your attention but are irrelevant to the job. They include the way someone looks, dresses and speaks. Interviewers can get subconsciously hung up on these things. Yes, following the right dress code is important, but a Hoxton beard or gold-tipped shoes shouldn’t influence a hiring decision. To coin a cliché, it really is only skin-deep. 

Another pseudo cue you need to be careful of is “smart talk”. Many candidates are skilled at sounding confident and eloquent, and having interesting ideas and a good vocabulary, but their talk is often a substitute for action. You need to look past the smart talk and draw out the substance of what they’re saying. Otherwise you’ll end up seduced by crafty chameleons who turn out to be lazy and unreceptive in the office.

Once you’ve learned to be careful of the pseudo cues, hone your perspective to pinpoint 


2. Focus on behaviours, not traits

Look past all the pithy adjectives that litter cover letters — “hard-working”, “analytic”, “enthusiastic”, “creative”, “team player” etc. These are traits that most candidates will say they possess. Instead, ask candidates to explain why they are all these things. And don’t just take note of the accomplishments they reel off; listen to how they’re describing them. Are they emphasising personal achievement or team success? How do they talk about their colleagues, subordinates and others? Do they credit them at all? 

Ask them about their failures. Do they blame them on a barrage of excuses, or demonstrate self-reflection and the ability to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them? 

You might also consider doing a more comprehensive interpersonal or behavioural analysis as part of the interview by getting candidates to do a presentation or some other kind of test. 

3. Consider an intermediary

Business leaders are short on time, but cutting corners in the recruitment process can do more harm than good in the long run. This is why businesses turn to intermediaries for help. They enlist recruitment consultancies like Ruby Magpie — specialists in separating the wheat from the chaff and making sure your hiring decisions are on the nose. 

Backed by managerial experience at Microsoft, marketing agencies and recruitment consultancies, Suze Cook founded Ruby Magpie in 2010 to look for “sparkly, shiny” candidates (hence the name “magpie”) to pair with clients in the marketing industry. Her years as a talent scout mean she’s well versed in sorting out the substance from the style, while her background in the marketing industry helps her understand your business and know what questions to ask.

If you’d like to know more about how Ruby Magpie can make sure you sidestep the trap the director fell into, contact us on 07875 366 221 or and let’s have a chat.