Making Room for the Do-Over in Job Interviews
From an early age, we’re taught practice makes perfect. But let’s be honest, how many of us really obtain perfection? Many of us strive for it but meeting that lofty goal is often easier said than done. In an age where soft skills are becoming more important, why do we continue to push so hard for perfection?
For instance, take the job interview process. For most job candidates, this is a high-stress environment that can reduce even the best to a ball of nerves. Why do we do this to our candidates? If we’ve taken the time to call them for a phone interview or bring them in for an in-person meeting, there’s a good chance we’ve already seen something we liked. Maybe it was the way they illustrated answers with a well-told story or perhaps it was a thoughtful thank you note summarizing the meeting. Either way, there was something there that lifted the antennae and made us think, this one could be great.
Then why are we so quick to cross them off the list of possible candidates if they make a mistake somewhere in the interview process? Maybe that’s a tiny typo or a goof-up in the middle of an interview. With perfection as a guardrail, it’s easy to write such a candidate off; but what might happen if we pause and wait for the recovery? Consider instead, is the gaffe met with a sense of humor and acknowledgment of the mistake or is it met with defensiveness or anger? These are important moments that demonstrate insight into the human sitting in front of you, not the candidate who is doing everything in their power to be perfect.
Demonstration of soft skills also shows how a candidate might perform when the pressure is on, which is inevitable in any workplace. Does the candidate handle things with grace or blame, flexibility or rigidity? Is the candidate able to acknowledge a mistake, apologize, then regain composure and continue the interview? If so, that could be the right person to add to a team.
At the end of the day, the desire for perfection is admirable but a lofty and unrealistic goal. We’re all human, with our own quirks, failings and successes. We can often gain the greatest insight into someone when we witness how they rebound from a harmless gaffe.