It’s Hard To Judge People

I was out walking with my wife recently (that’s what middle aged suburban people do, we walk, it makes us feel like we are less lazy and it gets us away from the kids so we can talk grown up) and she made this statement in a perfect innocent way:

“It’s really hard to judge people.”

She said this to ‘me’!  I start laughing.  She realized what she said and started laughing.

It’s actually really, really easy to judge people!  I’m in HR and Recruiting, I’ve made a career out of judging people.

Candidate comes in with a tattoo on their face and immediately we think – prison, drugs, poor decision making, etc. We instantly judge.  It’s not that face-tattoo candidate can’t surprise us and be engaging and brilliant, etc. But before we even get to that point, we judge.  I know, I know, you don’t judge, it’s just me — sorry for lumping you in with ‘me’!

What my wife was saying was correct.  It’s really hard to judge someone based on how little we actually know them.  People judge me all the time on my poor grammar skills.  I actually met a woman recently at the HR Tech Conference who said she knew me, use to read my stuff, but stopped because of my poor grammar in my writing.  We got to spend some time talking and she said she would begin reading again, that she had judged me too harshly and because I made errors in my writing assumed I wasn’t that intelligent.  I told her she was actually correct, I’m not intelligent, but that I have consciously not fixed my errors in writing (clearly at this point I could have hired an editor – I probably have at least one offer per month!) — the errors are my face tattoo.

If you can’t see beyond my errors, we probably won’t be friends.  I’m not ‘writing errors, poor grammar guy”.  If you judge me as that, you’re missing out on some cool stuff and ideas I write about.

As a hiring manager and HR Pro, if you can’t see beyond someone’s errors, you’re woefully inept at your job.  We all have ‘opportunities’ but apparently if you’re a candidate you don’t, you have to be perfect.  I run into hiring managers and HR Pros who will constantly tell me, “we’re selective”, “we’re picky”, etc.  No you’re not.  What you are is unclear about what and who it is that is successful in your environment.  No one working for you now is perfect.  So, why do you look for perfect in a candidate?  Because it’s natural to judge against your internal norm.

The problem with selection isn’t that is too hard to judge, the problem is that it’s way too easy to judge.  The next time you sit down in front of a candidate try and determine what you’ve already judge them on.  It’s a fun exercise. Before they even say a word.  Have the hiring managers interviewing them send you their judgements before the interview.  We all do it.  Then, flip the script, and have your hiring managers show up to an interview ‘blind’. No resume beforehand, just them and a candidate face-to-face.  It’s fun to see how they react and what they ask them without a resume, and how they judge them after.  It’s so easy to judge, and those judgements shape our decision making, even before we know it!


7 thoughts on “It’s Hard To Judge People

  1. Great post Tim. This is why we don’t include profile photographs on resumes/CV’s in Australia. Not that it really matters though because as you’ve just pointed out, we’ll make our judgements anyway before we meet someone in person.

  2. I’m currently in an internal battle about this. As a recruiter, I put forth candidates who can do the job, may have something to learn (they won’t get bored quickly!) and have a positive approach to things.

    So, what do I do about hiring managers who say no because the candidate doesn’t have the “style” they are looking for. Because seriously, style over substances right?

    • Heidi,

      Great question! We all know we can’t force a hiring manager to interview a certain candidate. But I do think most of us have enough influence where you still twist the hiring manager’s arm enough to make that interview happen. At that point, they decide to hire a ‘lesser’ candidate, you probably have to have a conversation with your superiors and their superior. If your candidate is clearly superior. Sometimes that’s hard to prove. At the very least, I think it’s our job to make the interview happen, and have faith the your managers will ultimately hire the best person for the organization.


  3. Me thunk this be a worthiest ahrtical.

    When I first read the headline my brain too went to “what? It is way to easy to judge”.

    We judge cause we want to think we are better than others. Helps us cause we are flawed human beings who typically feel insecure. Easier to judge someone else than take care of our own crap.

    Some great correlations in the book Contagious by Jonah Berger about recognition similar to this topic.

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