It’s Easy to Judge People, Especially If We Don’t Know Much About Them

Oct 22, 2013

I was out walking with my wife recently (that’s what middle-aged suburban people do — we walk; it makes us feel like we are less lazy and it gets us away from the kids so we can talk grown up) and she made this statement in a perfectly innocent way:

“It’s really hard to judge people.”

She said this to “me!” I start laughing. Then she realized what she said and started laughing, too.

It’s actually really, really easy to judge people! I’m in HR and Recruiting, and I’ve made a career out of judging people.

Judging people with little real information

A candidate comes in with a tattoo on their face and immediately we think – prison, drugs, poor decision-making, etc. We instantly judge. It’s not that face-tattoo candidate can’t surprise us and be engaging and brilliant, but before we even get to that point, we judge.

I know, I know, you don’t judge, it’s just me — sorry for lumping you in with “me!”

However, what my wife was saying was correct. It’s really hard to judge someone based on how little we actually know them.

People judge me all the time on my poor grammar skills. I actually met a woman recently at the HR Tech Conference who said she knew me, used to read my stuff, but stopped because of my poor grammar in my writing. We got to spend some time talking and she said she would begin reading again, that she had judged me too harshly, and because I made errors in my writing assumed I wasn’t that intelligent.

I told her she was actually correct; I’m not intelligent, but that I have consciously not fixed my errors in writing (clearly at this point I could have hired an editor – I probably have at least one offer per month!) — and that the grammar errors are my face tattoo.

Candidates aren’t perfect

If you can’t see beyond my errors, we probably won’t be friends. I’m not the “writing errors, poor grammar guy.” If you judge me as that, you’re missing out on some cool stuff and ideas I write about. (Editor’s note: He’s right!)

As a hiring manager and HR Pro, if you can’t see beyond someone’s errors you’re woefully inept at your job. We all have “opportunities,” but apparently if you’re a candidate, you don’t. You have to be perfect.

I run into hiring managers and HR Pros who will constantly tell me, “we’re selective,” “we’re picky,” etc. No you’re not.

What you are is unclear about what and who it is that is successful in your environment. No one working for you now is perfect. So, why do you look for perfect in a candidate? Because, it’s natural to judge against your internal norm.

The problem with selection isn’t that is too hard to judge; the problem is that it’s way too easy to judge.

Take the “blind” interview test

The next time you sit down in front of a candidate, try to determine what you have already judged them on. It’s a fun exercise, and do it before they even say a word.

Have the hiring managers interviewing them send you their comments and judgment before the interview. We all do it. Then, flip the script and have your hiring managers show up to a “blind” interview. No resume beforehand, just them and a candidate, face-to-face.

It’s fun to see how they react and what they ask them without a resume, and then how they judge them afterward. It’s so easy to judge, and those judgments shape our decision-making even before we know it!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

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