When You and Your Colleague Disagree on a Candidate

When there are multiple people in the hiring and interviewing process, opinions can vary on who the best candidate is and why. Sometimes there is not a clear cut choice. What do recruiters or small business owners do when they need to make a hiring decision and the decision-makers disagree on who is the best candidate for the job?

The first thing is to take the emotion out of it, says Chris Skaggs, Sr. Director, Talent & Brand Management at TSP (Technology Service Professionals).

“Decisions that are made with emotion instead of reason tend to cause less productive outcomes and can destroy relationships, not to mention credibility, with your coworkers,” says Skaggs. “You can absolutely disagree, but do it professionally.”

Disagreements on hiring the right candidate are inevitable, adds Skaggs. So when professionals don’t agree on the right candidate, consider these tips, from Skaggs:

Build a relationship prior to interview process
Developing an established relationship with all parties involved in the hiring process will help ensure that even when a disagreement arises, there will be mutual respect. Both parties should come into the conversation with an understanding that each person involved has valuable insights and is sincerely wanting to make the right decision. The best way to ensure this is to start building those relationships with decision-makers before a disagreement ever arises.

Schedule a meeting
“People get really big and brave behind the safety of a keyboard,” says Skaggs. If there’s a disagreement, schedule a meeting face-to-face (if possible), and talk it through. Seeing the person you are disagreeing with makes it easier to connect and understand where the other person is coming from. Watching body language and nonverbal cues allows you to better empathize and come to a mutual understanding, and hopefully an agreement.

Build a solid business case
As a good recruiter, you become personally invested in your candidate, says Skaggs. You’ve helped them clean up their resume, provided some coaching, an know they knocked their interview out of the park. There’s no way the hiring manager won’t select your choice. Then it happens – “We’ve decided to go in another direction…” If you truly believe in your candidate, you’ll want to schedule a meeting with the decision-maker to try and better understand the choice. Best practice – build a solid case based on facts and information about your candidate, not based on your personal feelings. As hiring manager, think about which statement is a more compelling argument: “I think we might have undervalued the candidate’s five years of experience as a project manager,” vs. “The candidate is really nice and I think they would love it here.”

HR consultant Max Dubroff, SHRM-SCP, says it’s important to keep the focus on the long-term commitment, and offered these five tips:  

Don’t seek agreement
Whether there is just one candidate who hasn’t earned the commitment of the entire interviewing team or there are more than one candidate and no clear stand-out, keep the focus on the long-term commitment that is more important than getting agreement from colleagues to ‘give it a try.’

Seek understanding
Openly discuss the positive and negative perceptions within the interviewing team and ask questions of each other to understand the different perspectives.

Clarify the expectations
With the deeper understanding from the discussion, re-examine and edit the job description to make sure the interviewing team (and candidate) has a clear understanding of what you are looking for in the candidate(s).

Involve the candidate(s)
The deeper understanding of the candidates and the expectations can be used to continue the interview(s); this will give the interviewers and the candidate(s) a clearer picture of the job and what is important.

Don’t rely on agreement for a decision
If there is still not agreement, it’s time to move forward.  While there may be some benefit in going through the steps above again, there is a significantly diminished return on that invested energy.  

“The hiring manager – who will work with the new hire – needs to make the decision,” says Dubroff.

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Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via resumesbymatt.com, connect with him on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/mattkrumrie/) and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

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