Interviewing & Hiring: Should We be Surprised at Reality TV’s Bad Advice?

by Pat D’Amico

America just loves Reality TV. So much so that even respected business publications are succumbing to celebrity infallibility in place of good advice. Now you may be thinking, “Who in their right mind would take business advice from a reality TV personality?” The answer might surprise you.

An article in Inc. magazine recently highlighted the one interview question which Shark Tank star and accomplished businesswoman Barbara Corcoran swears by. As a former head of recruiting for Johnson & Johnson, and now a consultant teaching interviewing and hiring, this is the type of article I live for. With the show’s popularity, especially amongst businesspeople, this sort of information can provide engaging anecdotes when impressing on hiring managers the paramount importance of a sound interviewing and hiring process and practice. The article, however, centered on a question which, if applied, could result in a legal battle with the interviewer being unquestionably in the wrong. That’s right, Inc. magazine published an article with Barbara Corcoran sharing an illegal interview question. The question? “Tell me about your family.”

That question is so far out of bounds today that debating its merits, or illegality, is mute. The bigger issue is the fact that a publication such as Inc. actually published it! While Inc. would probably call to the disclaimer that states, “The opinion expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of,” the fact remains that many readers certainly would double-down on its validity.

Avoiding illegal questions is only one of the key success factors for today’s hiring managers. If your organization isn’t properly trained on interviewing and hiring practices and guidelines, or worse, your organization doesn’t have a process at all; you are going to flounder in what is possibly the most competitive job market ever. Although there are many things to consider when attempting to find and hire the best talent, there are three pieces of advice I typically share, and none of them will put you in jeopardy:

Identifying Passive Job Seekers

We’ve always known that passive job seekers, those that are not actively seeking another opportunity, are often the most desirable. These candidates are typically the most successful in their roles, and the companies that employ them know it and work to keep them. This is why managers should always be recruiting, specifically when they do not have an opening. The best managers I have seen at this are constantly identifying top performers from other companies, building relationships with them, and (most importantly) selling them on the merits and value of their company. It’s constantly puzzling to their peers when these managers are able to fill an opening with a superstar quickly. It shouldn’t be.

Interviewing and Hiring for Culture

The cost of a bad hire is significant. While some estimates put the cost of onboarding and training a new employee at $240,000, the true cost of a bad hire goes even further when you consider the loss in productivity, morale, etc.. With the war for talent, and the shifting demographics of employees to newer generations, the importance of matching an employee to the company’s culture has become critical in identifying and keeping them. The Lehigh Valley enjoys tremendous access to many talented individuals who would gladly trade their long commutes for a great culture and opportunity closer to home. As a consultant, working with organizations to define their culture and then training managers to interview for it has become one of the most important factors for hiring success.

A Positive Experience

A candidate’s opinion of your organization will be formed during the interview process. estimates that 72% of job seekers that have a bad experience will share that feedback online. How the candidate is treated during the process can mean the difference between hiring and losing the best candidates. To ensure a positive experience, the process should be timely and include frequent and positive communication that keeps the candidate excited about the organization and the opportunity. Also, timely and professional communication with candidates that are not selected is just as important. These same individuals may fit another role in the future, or recommend the company to others, and leaving them with a positive opinion will pay dividends.

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