It’s Really 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 perfectly 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.

A 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 a 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!). 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 perfection 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 judgments before the interview.

We all do it.  Then, flip the script, and have your hiring managers show up for 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 judgments shape our decision making, even before we know it!


5 thoughts on “It’s Really Hard to Judge People?

  1. I had some therapy in my past. A good experience and I learned tons about others & about myself. Your writing reminds me about a key word I learned to appreciate: the word Curious. Instead of judging, say (to yourself), “I’m curious why this person …” and leave it at that. This approach allows us to approach, observe, and maintain a relationship free of judgement … at least until the evidence is in!

  2. Thank you Tim, this is a very valuable and accurate perspective about selection; I notice across generations the differing approaches and feedback when pushback is recieved about said methods. While other generations embrace and work to correct the “someone like us” bias. Awesome article, that confirms my experience and am relieved others have as well.

    Thanks for the tools for the New Year, and Happy New Year!

    • Ruchi,

      Sorry about that! Not sure why I blocked you, but I’m guessing at some point you got hacked and I got spammed, or were sending me sales pitches or something like that. That’s really the only reason I block anyone on the Twitters. I unblocked you! Let’s see how that goes!


  3. Good morning Tim,
    First, I have to let you know, that I didn’t notice or play close enough attention to determine if are poor at grammar, just for the record.

    Second, I loved this article because as a external applicant that has had the opportunity to interview for a position, you are right. Once the interviewer learned who I was and what I had to offer there was almost an instant connection. I get great joy out of winning others over (WOO), not necessarily for them to like me, but strangers are rarely intimidating to me, but they energize me.

    I also liked your idea of flipping the script in the interviewing process. As a former Assessment Center Manager, my role was to evaluate an individual’s potential to perform in a managerial capacity. As an assessor I put candidates through a series of group and individual exercises designed to simulate the conditions of the role they would be trained to do and determine if they have the skills and abilities necessary to perform that job. When I land my dream job in HR, I want to remember your idea to affect change in judgement. Thanks, Phil

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