Remember that you are being evaluated by everyone

One of the things that was really important to me during campus recruiting was to try to get as many data points on each of the candidates before we extended them an offer.  Anyone can put on their best foot forward with a senior interviewer like me, but they tend to let their guard down with people that they view as peers (or even superior to).

That’s why I made a big push to include as many junior analysts involved throughout the entire interview process - as interview buddies and candidate greeters, but also as part of the interview debrief.  I wanted to hear from them if they had additional background on the candidates and also if the candidates treated the junior analysts differently than the interviewers.

During our interview debrief I always remarked, “Remember that everyone in this room has a voice - however, some voices carry more weight than others (exaggerated cough, cough).”

This policy of mine actually saved us from making a horrendous hiring decision.  One year, we brought in a promising candidate with the educational and leadership background that we were looking for.  I personally interviewed this candidate in addition to our lead Director of the campus - and we were both so impressed by him that we were both actively “pounding the table” for him to get an offer and determining where he would be the best fit in the firm.  We had already gone well past the point of whether or not to give him an offer.

That’s when one of my candidate greeters raised her hand and said, “You know, I think he is very rude and condescending.”

Another one of my greeters then chimed in and said, “Yeah he was really short with me when I first tried to engage him in conversation and then he just kind of ignored me the rest of the time.”

A third greeter looked at both of the previous greeters and proclaimed, “I don’t know what you all are talking about - he was pretty cool with me.  We had a really good conversation.”

The conversation in the room then devolved into a back and forth with half the people who thought this candidate would be a great fit and the other half thinking the exact opposite.  In all my years of campus recruiting, I had never seen a candidate with such a dichotomy of opinion.  A lot of the time, candidates were either a strong yes or a strong no.  Even the ones that we were on the fence about wouldn’t generate such heated discussion.  That’s when I took a step back and tried to determine if there were any patterns I could make out of this situation - and I noticed something odd.  

That’s when I interrupted the heated discussion.  “OK I have a theory about this candidate.  If you’ll notice - all the people who are pounding the table to give this guy an offer, including both his interviewers, are men.  All the people who have a bad feeling about him are women.  So here’s my theory - I believe this candidate might have an issue with women in the workplace.  But this is only a theory - we have to give him the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.  Now if it turns out that my theory is correct, I don’t care how good this candidate is - he’ll never get an offer from me because that is not someone I want as a colleague.”

So I unfolded my plan.  We would invite this candidate back for a recruiting happy hour later that evening and for the final round of interviews the following day.  At the happy hour, we made sure that every single woman on our recruiting team approached him specifically.  I actually spent quite a bit of time with him as well - talking about his family (he had a young daughter) and talking about sports.  The feedback on him was consistent across the board - he blew off every single woman at the happy hour and was very engaging with all the men.

For the final round of interviews, we had the most senior level female practitioner on our team (a Senior Manager, about to make Director) interview him.  During the interview debrief, she mentioned that he was extremely uncomfortable during the entire interview, was short with his answers, and wouldn’t make eye contact.

At that point, my mind was made up and he was an absolute no.  In the years that followed, I always told that story to my recruiting teams to remind them that everyone has a voice in the process.  My firm dodged a tremendous bullet because we were on the verge of hiring a highly misogynistic individual - we dodged that bullet all due to a single greeter who bravely raised her hand to voice her concerns.

I’m sure that candidate thought the only people he had to impress were his interviewers - that’s why he let his true colors show with the candidate greeters.  But unfortunately for him (and thankfully for us), he didn’t realize that he was being evaluated by everyone.