Candidates Have Figured Out What Talent Managers Know: Hiring Is Not Color Blind


I just left a meeting with an executive I coach where we decided not to hire someone because of their color.

When I left the CEO’s office, there sat the candidate in the waiting room. They were very presentable, totally qualified on experience, yet completely unaware their color had already disqualified them.

It astounds me that candidates have not figured out this color thing. Hiring practices have changed a lot during my career. What was unsophisticated has become scientific.

The first time I advised a hiring manager, more than 40 years ago, the manager denied the candidate because they salted their soup at lunch before tasting it – the manager assumed that the candidate made decisions without having adequate information. To me this was just hiring voodoo.

How Good to Great changed the hiring game

In the past 20 years, managers have become more insightful about hiring than have candidates. Some 15 years ago Jim Collins changed the game when he wrote in the classic Good to Great:

We expected that good-to-great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found instead that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats – then they figured out where to drive it.”

This management tenet unleashed pent-up psychometric research that until then had been largely viewed as parlor games. The research showed that a candidate’s knowledge and experience were not good indicators of future job performance. Even behavior-based interviewing left managers loving the candidate until the candidate showed up on the job.

Seeing inside the candidate

We now have a plethora of psychometric tools that give hiring managers insight into a candidates attributes and suitability for a job. Many of these tools like The Birkman Method, DISC, Personalysis and Culture Index visualize personal attributes using colors like red, blue, green and yellow. We now know that properly reading these colors is a better predictor of future job performance than is past job experience.

We don’t even need the color coding of psychometrics. Managers are now believing in the power of observation during interviews as they get trained in Neuro-Linguistic Programming to tell them whether a candidate is visual, auditory or movement oriented in their preferred work.

For me, I go way back to my academic training with Elliott Jacques and his seminal book Requisite Organization. For Jacques, job accountability should be defined within time cycles and the abilities of candidates should be matched to these cycles. The essential question is, “How long can a person work effectively, without direction, using discretionary judgment to do their work?

Winning the job interview is not the objective – candidates need to place themselves in a job where they can win. When I hear that only 30 percent of people are engaged at work, that tells me that a lot of people get on the wrong bus and then get in the wrong seat.

Be the best you can be

Job candidates have a responsibility to only take jobs that fit who they are. Preparing for a job interview means more than reading the job description, checking the website, and rehearsing questions. Increasingly hiring managers know how to find the personal attributes that fit the job. Candidates need to know this, too.

If the company asks a candidate you to take a “test,” it behooves the candidate to not only learn about that test but pay the $50 to take it on their own so they know what’s in the file on the hiring manager’s desk. If a company doesn’t ask for a test, savvy candidates should take one anyway so they can ask questions in the interview to understand whether if they are headed for the right seat.

It's just as important for candidates as it is for hiring managers -- don’t let color get in the way of your career.

Editor's Note: The Talent Insider blog is fueled by Checkster, and Checkster has great tools -- like the Reference Checkup, the Interview Checkup, and the 360 Checkup -- that use collective intelligence to help you make better talent decisions.