Improving the Odds: Great Hiring Decisions

businesspeople shaking hands Finding the right people for the team is the key variable in the success equation for managers but odds are you’re about to make a poor hiring decision. 

Leading executive search practitioner for more than twenty-five years and bestselling author Claudio Fernandez-Araoz is convinced the most important criteria for our success as managers, aside from luck, is the ability to select the right people for the team.  Yet, as Fernandez-Araoz noted during a recent presentation at the World Business Forum in NYC, most companies spend only about three percent of their resources on the hiring decision process.  The other seventy percent of the time is spent managing their poor hiring decisions.  How can you improve the odds of making great people decisions?

Does luck really play a role in career success?

First let’s consider the element of luck.  I was intrigued to hear this well-respected leader rank the number one factor contributing to career success to luck.  Although many thought his comment was said in jest, he assured us it was not.  “It’s no joke.” he clarified, “Here’s why luck is number one factor.”

People are lucky to be born at a certain time, to be healthy, to have access to formal and informal learning and to make the right decisions about working at great companies.  Each decision plays a part contributing to our success.  He’s right. Luck clearly does play an important role throughout our careers on our probability of success.

Why are people decisions critical to our success?  

Making great people decisions is especially important as we move into management because we’re relying on the people we hire to help us achieve our goals.  The core values of the people we hire need to be in alignment with our companies.  “You are hiring for values”,   Fernandez-Araoz reminded us. “You must be selfish when hiring because you need to hire for the good of the company.”

Why are making good people decisions so hard?

“Our brain is a major piece of hardware that hasn’t had an upgrade in too many years”, said Fernandez-Araoz. Our brains are deeply accustomed to making great decisions fast.  But this approach often sabotages our people related decisions.  We need to adjust our decision-making process when it comes to people decisions but that can be difficult.  According to Fernandez-Araoz making good people decisions is a craft that needs to be learned in order to achieve career success.

The Interview

I had to chuckle when Fernandez-Araoz shared his view of interviews as a conversation between two liars.  Most of us think we perform better than what we actually do  i.e. we overrate ourselves.  And the interview process increases likelihood of overrating which prompts poor hiring choices. Ironically depressive people more accurately self-access their capacity; while non-depressive are optimistic about capacity and tend of overrate. (I apologize to anyone if my optimistic attitude has ever prompted an inflated self-assessment!)

What to look for in a candidate?

Soft Skills  –  People who are effective in their technical roles are often tapped to move into management roles however, exceeding expectations is not always the most accurate indicator of management success.  Look beyond the technical skills onto the candidate’s people skills.  Explore how they interact with other people to determine if they are well suited for management.

Humility – “The way a person reacts reflects how they manage themselves,” noted  Fernandez-Araoz. Are they able to forgive?  If so that is a good indicator of humility which is a key to the emotional composition of a great hiring decision.

Emotional Intelligence  – The ability of a person to perceive, control and manage emotional responses is how Emotional Intelligence (EI) is generally defined.  Fernandez-Araoz was curious to understand whether emotional intelligence could be connected to professional success.  So he organized research to study it.

Findings of the study indicated a strong correlation between the two elements.  Today, coupled with other longitudinal studies like The Marshmallow Test, Fernandez-Araoz articulates with conviction the level of emotional intelligence of the candidate is an essential ingredient to your hiring decision.

How do we improve our people decisions? 

We quickly connect with a person who looks familiar to us and with whom we feel comfortable.  Because of this we welcome them as a member of the tribe yet they may not be the right person decision.

End snap judgment.  –   By applying the fast decision-making process to which our brains are accustomed, we overlook cues vying for our attention and are more likely to make a bad hiring decision.  Slow down and get to know the candidate below the surface to determine if the person is really a fit for the position.

Ask. Ask. Ask Again. Fernandez-Araoz regularly applies The Lie and Order Effect during interviews. Applying it he asks the same question three times but modifies it slightly each time.  He’s looking for consistently in responses in order to reach the authentic character of the candidate.

If you have the will you will develop the skill.  Invest time in developing self-awareness of your people decision-making style and in building your people decision framework.  Look back one year after bringing a hire on board and see how they’re doing. This will help you evaluate how your people decision skills are developing.

Making great people decisions is an acquired skill with a high impact on your professional success. Here’s a link to more from Claudio Fernandez-Araoz on ways to improve your odds of making great people decisions.

About the Author:  Jill Hart, founder of Brain Logic, LLC,  helps companies understand how their customers think in order to design their technology, products and processes to deliver optimal customer experiences and boost the ROI of their investments. For more information visit  or email

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