Don’t Make Decisions Based on Assumptions

Have you ever made an assumption about someone you’ve just met only to find out that you were totally off base? And, to make it worse, you made a decision based on that assumption that proved detrimental to that person?
Most of us like to think we’re a pretty good judge of character but think back to someone who you categorized as, for example, “unfriendly.” They may be someone you’re considering for a potential team lead position in your organization, and you need to ensure the company culture continues to be relaxed yet productive.

Despite their strong resume and experience, you automatically rule them out of the opportunity as when you first met, the person was a bit standoffish and didn’t laugh out loud when you showed signs of humor. Once you felt that “negative” vibe, you turned off any chance to be receptive to hiring that person.

Now think back, was that person that unfriendly, or was your brain quick to react because of preconceived assumptions? There are many reasons your “Spidey sense” went off. And, highly possible, it has nothing to do with the actual individual.
Some examples of why you reached that conclusion:
  • Did they remind you of someone you have confirmed, through experience, as cold or unfriendly (i.e., same mannerisms, same look, or tone of voice)?
  • Were you a bit too casual in your conversation, perhaps, since they didn't know your style and were nervous about letting their guard down? Especially when they're trying very hard to come across as professional?
  • Is it possible that you have already decided who you want in that position? Maybe the one you prefer reminded you of a friend, family member, or just someone you had an excellent initial connection. That's all good, but did you dive deeper into that person's experience and skills to ensure they're not only an approachable people person but someone who can perform at a high level in the team lead role?
  • Could that person be having a bad day? Did they recently experience a personal loss? Was a flat tire the way they started the day? Or was someone unnecessarily rude when they stopped to get their morning coffee?
The examples above are generalizations but happen every day and impact your first impressions of a person. If you are not opening yourself up to others and constantly assuming you know how others think and feel, you will find that you not only stop listening, you’ll make others feel less than they should. And you’ll never get to know someone who would be an asset professionally or even a potential future friend.

When you meet someone, spend more time listening than talking.

If someone seems a little reserved, especially during a career interview, take a step back to reduce the stress level, and ask questions that help them open up and then inject something about yourself, so they don’t feel as if it’s a “trick” question.
To follow are some examples of questions to initiate a relaxed conversation.

“What do you like to do on the weekend? I spent Saturday at the dog park, and Fido loved it.”

“How long have you lived in the area? I’ve been here about ten years and don’t miss the cold weather up north.”

Of course, you can come up with what works naturally for you, as long as you don’t get too personal. The goal is to take the time, mainly if the potential employee’s resume checks off all those boxes, to get to know the “real” person and not someone you’re making up in your imagination.
If those red flags are popping up in your brain, don’t ignore them. Just make sure to take the time to confirm whether they’re correct. This way, you don’t miss out on someone great.