Hiring for Likability Causes Company Results to Suffer

“Likable job candidates are easier to hire but harder to fire.” Jeannette Seibly

Why is it so easy to hire based on “likability?”

Job candidates:

  • Are positive
  • Listen to what you are saying
  • Smile a lot

The problem?

  • They tell you what you want to hear
  • You fail to ask job-related questions
  • You don’t listen to their actual responses
  • You fear deep-diving into their actual skills and responses
  • All because you like them

The results?

  • Customers are upset they have another person to train on your behalf
  • The new “likable” employee has little to no interest in doing the job as it needs to be done (e.g., the employee lacks the initiative to get answers the customer needs)
  • The hiring boss waits too long to let the person go — in the meantime, the bottom-line results suffer due to loss of customers and top talent (again)

In a recent video, a GenZer claimed that bosses should hire based mostly on someone’s likability. The problem? Most companies have been doing that for decades. Now, turnover and poor job fit are at an all-time high since we have negated the importance of job fit, an important indicator of job success.

A new employee was hired to train employees in an insurance agency — the hiring boss liked her spunk and positivity. But she had no experience working in an agency, having previously worked in the benefits division of a large company. The current employees, who had also applied for the job, were now expected to train the trainer. The new trainer lasted 60 days. While everyone felt she was “likable,” the truth was that she was ineffective in training people to succeed in their jobs due to her lack of hands-on experience and poor job fit. (She worked better in a large corporate setting.)

These Are the Pitfalls When Hiring for Likability

Hiring too quickly. On average, many hiring bosses and leaders make a “yes” or “no” decision within 4.3 minutes of meeting the job candidate based on likability and other biases. For example: “It’s unusual for job applicants to like the color orange – I love orange too.” OR “They attended the same college I did.”). Note: Yes! These situations happen all too often and have no objective basis for job fit!

Relying on fragments of information. Savvy job candidates are likable and are good at telling hiring bosses what they want to hear. Since the hiring boss feels good about the person, s/he fails to ask job-related questions and deep dive to determine if the person has the required work experience. As a result, many hiring managers make decisions based on fragments of information instead of obtaining complete objective data.

Failing to admit we are wrong. When a person is likable, many hiring bosses will defend the job candidate even with data that shows they are not a good fit for the job (e.g., hiring accountants with excellent math skills but no interest in using them). Why? Once we’ve made up our minds, it’s difficult for us to change and admit we were wrong (again). Remember, this happens way too often… you cannot change a person’s fit with the job, but you can change the job to fit the person. Examples: People may learn the skills but lack the interest in using these skills effectively. OR, Former employees from large corporations find it difficult to work in smaller environments where more initiative is expected to keep the customer happy.

Expecting them to clean up issues. While likable job candidates will tell you what you want to hear, they do not have the capability to make the tough decisions and have the difficult conversations to “clean up issues” they were hired to do.

How to Focus on Job Fit and Less on Likability

Create a Strategic Job Fit System. Then, follow it! It’s not complicated. But it does require accountability and responsibility for who you hire and why you hired that person(s).

Use Qualified Job-Fit Assessments. It’s crucial to see the “whole person” (e.g., thinking style, core behaviors, and occupational interests). Using the wrong assessment allows applicants to show themselves as they want to be seen, not as who they are. With over 3,000 published assessments available, it can be difficult to discern which ones comply with the Department of Labor guidelines for pre-employment and selection use. Recommendation: Ask for a technical manual and check for distortion, predictive validity, reliability, and validity coefficients. (See Chapter 9, Use the Right Assessments and Skill Tests, Hire Amazing Employees). Using the correct assessment correctly makes all the difference in the selection process!

Conduct Due Diligence. It’s not uncommon for applicants to provide education, job titles, and companies that don’t exist! (Yes, likable job applicants can lie.) Make sure to conduct background, licensing, education, and other checks. Many times, using a third-party provider ensures a thorough and consistent process. (SEE Chapter 17, Types of Checks, Hire Amazing Employees)

©Jeannette Seibly 2024 All Rights Reserved

Jeannette Seibly is a Talent Advisor/Leadership Results Coach with over 31 years of experience guiding leaders and bosses to improve their hiring, coaching, and managing practices and produce amazing results! And yes, achieving business success always starts with having the right people in the right jobs! She has been an Authorized PXT Select Partner for over 31 years. Contact Jeannette to learn more about this state-of-the-art job-fit assessment tool or how to coach and manage your people to achieve extraordinary results.

A note from Jeannette: Too often, we hire based on likability and ignore selecting for job fit (employees that fit their job responsibilities and workplace culture). But with high turnover of top talent and customers, poor job fit impacts results and your bottom line. With a well-designed job-fit selection system, let’s make 2024 a great year. Want to tap into my 31++ years of experience? Contact me now with your questions!

It’s time to get honest and genuine! Are there days you dread managing people, projects, and your team’s financial performance? You’re not alone! Everyone has their blind spots! NOW is the time to get the guidance you need to make the right changes for 2024. I have extensive experience and wisdom guiding bosses and leaders to hire, coach, and manage their teams successfully. The bonus is that they achieve unprecedented results. Contact me to learn more about my in-depth, one-on-one, customized coaching programs.

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