Why You Should Hire Candidates Who Scare You

Don’t get us wrong…when it comes to employee work habits, safety is usually a good thing. Operating heavy equipment, running power lines, driving vehicles – all require a high degree of attention and sensitivity to safety. If that safety attitude isn’t present, you’re in trouble.

That ‘safe bet’ candidate might seem like a sure thing, but it’s not necessarily the right move to hire the obvious choice.

But as people managers, being overly cautious isn’t necessarily a positive. The focus on being “safe” can creep in where it doesn’t belong, like when you hire. That “safe bet” candidate might seem like a sure thing, but it’s not necessarily the right move to hire the obvious choice. Selecting the safe choice – the hire who won’t rock the boat, fits in seamlessly, and seems like they’ve been there forever – isn’t always what you need.

Increasingly, success is about disrupting the status quo, not conforming to it. Safety doesn’t equal success, and doing things the way you’ve always done them can be a recipe for stagnation, not growth. The value of creating diverse teams is widely accepted. With that focus on diversity in mind, consider passing on the safest choice, and go with a candidate who scares you a little. A “scary” candidate’s resume might not fit with the “cookie cutter” background you’re used to seeing on your team, but that can be a good thing!

Do you find yourself choosing the “cookie cutter” candidate every time you hire? Here’s how to confidently push boundaries and increase diversity on your team, while selecting new employees who are the right kind of scary.

1. Articulate what it is about them that makes you nervous, and why. Hire someone who will push the envelope, question the norm, and introduce new perspectives (not someone you’re legitimately afraid to be alone in a room with). We’re not encouraging you to hire someone who seems a little whacky or downright weird just to shake things up. Every new addition to your team should be there to bring new value to the table. Stick to a consistent recruitment process (it’s there for a reason) but don’t allow “hiring for fit” to become an excuse to force conformity.

2. Give your team the opportunity to prove you wrong. Hiring managers often choose to hire the obvious choice because they fear certain members of the team may react badly. Think your team can’t handle working with someone who’s a little different from them? Here’s where you need to check yourself. Allow your biases, and your team’s biases, to be interrupted. Don’t assume in advance that a new hire won’t fit with your existing crew. Your people can surprise you – and comfort with diversity comes with exposure. If you’re “protecting” your team by imposing barriers based on your own assumptions, it’ll be hard to reap the benefits of a diverse team.

3. Let them outshine you. Hire someone smarter than you, and avoid automatically screening out candidates for being overqualified. Yep – there’s the possibility that a brilliant new hire could be sitting in your desk someday. Embrace that possibility! Get excited about the idea of collaboration between new “scary” hires and current strong performers on your team. An influx of fresh energy and skills might be what your organization needs to get to that next level, and you don’t want to miss out on that!

Your Engaged Assignment: Take a good honest look at your last 3 hires. Did you go with the safe bet, or did you disrupt your patterns and hire someone who shakes up the status quo? Next time your team grows, step outside your comfort zone and look beyond the safe choice. Hire someone who will push the envelope, question the norm, and introduce new perspectives. Need an objective voice added to your interview panel? We can help with that! Just give us a call.