… Simon and Garfunkel, “The Boxer,” 1969. You know how a song will sometimes come to you from seemingly nowhere and it keeps persevering in your head? This song as a single came out In 1969, the year Chrissy and I were married. It appeared on the album “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” In 1970. Someone gave us this album as a belated, casual wedding present. I think we wore the grooves out of that album ( if you don’t know what “grooves” are on an album, ask your elders).
These words come to me probably more often than most old songs do, simply because they apply so much to my profession. Every day… and I mean,every day These words apply to the candidates and the hiring authorities that we do business with. Especially in the interviewing process, people hear what they want to hear and seem to block out lots of stuff they don’t want to hear or should hear.
At least once a day, I have a candidate report to me about how an interview went, Telling me that they absolutely “nailed it,” that it went great and that, based on what they heard, they are a shoo-in for the job. Upon following up with the hiring authority, I find out that, not only did they miss the mark of the hiring authority was looking for, but they performed terribly in the interview. Likewise, I’ve had hiring authorities Who were absolutely thrilled with the candidate and talked about what it would take to hire them, only to find out that the hiring authority gave a terrible impression of the job, the company and, worst of all, himself.They both had “happy ears,” seeing what they wanted to see.
On the other side of the same coin, hiring authorities will often get hung up on one negative aspect of a candidate’s background. Things like one too many jobs in a short period of time or one poor decision in leaving a company can cause a hiring authority to miss some very important aspects about a candidate’s background. Candidates can misunderstand one or two statements made by an employer and all of a sudden become disinterested in an opportunity in the middle of an interview and never listen to some of the quality things about the job that they would really interest them. Both parties forming negative opinions before they had a fair shot.
Psychologists tell us that we only remember 20% of what we hear, in passive listening, 30% of what we see and hear even in active listening. And this is during normal conversations which doesn’t even take into account the emotional strain that goes on both sides of the desk in an interviewing situation. When people are emotionally ill at ease, their memory skills are even worse. So, it’s totally understandable that candidates think they did real well when they didn’t and employers think they sold their job when they didn’t. They both hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest.
The implication of this fact requires specific awarenesses and ways of offsetting the downside. First thing, of course, is to be aware of the problem. Simply the awareness of the fact that I may not be listening attentively takes all the difference in the world. Secondly, and this is so simple.. Take notes. Writing down keywords… You don’t have to record every word, just the keywords.. Forces both the candidate and the interviewing authority to pay better attention to what’s being said.
For a candidate, using a structured presentation every time one interviews ensures the fact that the candidate will consciously sell their features and advantages and benefits. So often, candidates go down the rabbit hole when they go into interviews without a structure in mind. They get asked some dumb ass question like, “tell me about yourself” and follow it to disaster.
For employers or interviewing authorities using a structured interview (we’ve recommended this before and have copies of them if someone would like to receive one. Just write me and ask me for one, Tony@Babich.com). The structured interview forces the interviewing authority to ask every candidate exactly the same questions and forces them to take notes so that they can reasonably compare candidates even weeks apart from being interviewed.
What both candidates and interviewing authorities can do that’s also very important, is to summarize what went on in the interview immediately after it taking place. This is especially important for a candidate so that the candidate can write an effective thank you note as well as have great information for second, third and subsequent interviews. These interviews can get spread out over a long period of time… even weeks. No one is smart enough to remember what might be important to one hiring authority or one company two or three weeks after an initial interview.
This kind of selective hearing… hearing what we want to hear Can kill a great opportunity for everyone.