Friend or Foe? That Elusive “Fit” Of Diversity When Interviewing Candidates


Is it Granada I see
Or only Asbury Park
Is it a fancy not worth thinking of
Or is it
At Long Last Love?

Cole Porter wasn’t writing about hiring people, but I am.

When interviewing candidates, what elements do you gravitate towards? Intellect and academic pedigree? A common work history? Significant achievements? “Presence?” Hobbies?

Are you aware of any such patterns in your interviewing ? Every company has  their ideas of  “fit”.

A few clients of mine :

  • An entertainment industry MNC that erred on the side of hiring  good-looking candidates who wore high fashion. A candidate I presented was rejected for wearing a tie-clip to an interview, another critiqued for her open-toe shoes.
  • A global manufacturer with a very confrontational culture, more of the ‘in-your-face’ machismo posturing ( male and female mgmt).
  • Another [US client] with mostly Americans in Asian based senior management roles who talked to each other in American slang  and inside jokes, hard for any  outsider to understand.
  • A US pro services client that  felt it most cost effective and reliable to move people out of the Australia offices into the Asia HQ for regional roles.

Whether we label it ‘unconscious bias’,  ‘like-attracting-like’ or ‘preconceived notions’, people often hire those with whom they are COMFORTABLE.

MNC’s increasingly focus on diversity, and attempt to employ people who do  not look like them, don’t have the same social interests, upbringing, language or behaviour. In theory this should allow the embracing of differences, and a more innovative organisation. It’s work in progress, and I certainly have more clients rightly demanding a diverse slate of candidates in Asia.

Frank Bruni recently wrote on college diversity in the New York Times, it could  just as easily been addressing the business world:

“A given college may be a heterogeneous archipelago. But most of its students spend the bulk of their time on one of many homogeneous islands. That’s consistent with the splintered state of America today, but it’s a betrayal of education’s mission to challenge ingrained assumptions, disrupt entrenched thinking, broaden the frame of reference.”

A company cannot demand “diversity” any more than they can demand loyalty. Male or female, gay or straight, religious or agnostic, white, yellow or black, old or young, the strictures of hiring have dramatically loosened, and leading by example is the most prudent and sanest way.

Here’s my checklist to get a diverse group under one roof:

  • Seek out those you need, not those you want.
  • Look for people with deportment, civility, temperament.
  • Assess them on aptitude, drive, and ability to concentrate
  • Find literate people– not that they have read everything, but rather literate in their thinking; the difference between having a supple point of view rather than an opinion.
  • Confidence through experience. Seek out others who have learned something about themselves, and can say so. Regardless of age, judge people on how well they know themselves. Not how well they know you, the job or the company, but what they can tell you about themselves.

If that can be done reasonably successfully, you’ll have a full bench of players.

Will it be curtains
When push comes to shove
Or is it
​A​t ​L​ong ​L​ast ​L​ove?


This article was first posted on LinkedIn.

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