X Factor logoThis is it. The defining moment. Winner takes all.

Three final acts – a 37 year old family man country singer, a 13 year old singing prodigy, and a five person girl group. A whole lot of amazing talent reduced to a popularity contest.

The X Factor is a great reality tv show, but many bad hiring decisions are made by selecting staff based on the mysterious x factor.

Simon Cowell in December 2011Simon Cowell is the supreme judge on the reality tv show “The X Factor”.  As a hiring manager, you get to be the “Simon.”

You decide who makes the cut and gets to the interview stage. Ultimately you influence the decision about who gets hired. When you are faced with job candidates with similar qualifications, you have a certain x factor that tips the scale in favour of certain people. Be careful because sometimes that x factor can lead to very bad hiring decisions.

The problem with the x factor is that the “x” is a moving target that means something different for everyone. It’s an undefined gut reaction that is usually based on a personal prejudice that you don’t even know you have. The “x” means whatever you want it to mean. Which can be dangerous when you are deciding who to hire.

What is the x factor that gives certain job candidates the edge?

Everyone has personal ideas and biases about how to judge a job candidate’s future performance. Here are a few:

X FactorWhy it leads to bad hiring decisions
Big promises. This comes across as drive, passion, enthusiasm. But make sure they have a track record for carrying out their big ideas.Their passion for their big ideas may be so charming that it blinds you to the concrete skills they may be lacking. It’s one thing to want to do something. It’s another thing to actually carry out your intentions.
Interview skills. Their ability to answer tricky questions like “tell me about yourself” with a witty and engaging story. Don’t confuse interview skills with job skills.Does the job really require a persuasive conversationalist? They may depend on their charming personality to distract people’s away from subpar performance.
IQ. Scoring well on tech tests, and answering mind bending questions like Google asks. This is like hiring a child prodigy or a trick pony. They are amazing to watch but sometimes that talent is not balanced with the practical skills it takes to really do the job.IQ is not really predictor of on-the-job success. It says nothing about their motivation, or social IQ. It may go hand in hand with blind spots or an inability to see a problem from different perspectives.
Confidence. Many times our clients reject candidates who seem to lack confidence. Which reminds me of X Factor contestants who proclaim their amazing talent, but when they sing…it’s not so great.Beware of hiring a diva with a massive ego. This person may put their personal success above the interests of the team.
First impression: A gut reaction that you have within 20 seconds of meeting the person? For example, I don’t like this guy. Or, she’s cool.An unreliable and biased way to make such an important decision. “Gut reactions” often come from unconscious prejudices and blind spots we don’t even know we have.  We often have a favourable first impression with people that remind us of ourselves.

Popularity, good looks, charm, genius IQ, and over-confidence, may not be qualities that are required to do the job.

Build teams where there is enough room for everyone to be great. Not just one special person. Its better to have five winners than one winner. Especially when people win by supporting and inspiring each other to do their best.

I have found through trial and error that a team cannot be successful when individuals compete against each other to become the one supreme winner. So when we’re hiring people for our internal staff, the x factor isn’t being some kind of a Boolean search strings genius, although we love that. Or having a proven track record in IT recruiting. Or even having a big recommendation from someone we trust.

Sure that stuff helps. But my #1 concern is protecting the dynamic of the great team that we already have working for us. So for me the x factor is proving that you are a great team player. When all of the basic job requirements are in place, that’s the deciding factor for me.

How about you? What is the x factor that makes you excited about hiring someone?
Please let me know in the comments section below.

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