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It never ceases to amaze me that while we know all candidates have strengths and...uh...opportunities, we're most hypercritical of the performance of those we spend the most time with - our co-workers/internal candidates.  Why is this on my mind?  My friend Trish McFarlane riffed a nice post yesterday on evaluating the severity of the baggage every candidate brings to the table. 

More from Trish at HR Ringleader:Brady bunch

"When we’re hiring, we know that every candidate that walks into the door has baggage.  We ALL have baggage.  The question is whether we can get any of that to come out during our interviews so that we can determine if that baggage is a match with our organization, right?  It might be fun to have this game show at work.  Let’s imagine you have three candidates that you’ve narrowed it down to for a certain position.  Now they all have to show you their baggage. In the suitcases you see:

  1. I can never seem to make it to work on time.
  2. In the past some co-workers have said I wear too much perfume.
  3. I sometimes play music too loud in my cubicle. "

Trish is right, and I'm going to riff on it a slightly different way.  The baggage Trish refers to above (there's more examples in her post, which you should read) is rarely uncovered in a normal interview process, but it's information that you almost always have on internal candidates. It causes what I refer to as the internal candidate bias.  Your organization has spent months, if not years, with a team member who applies for an open position.  Everyone knows the dude is weird.

But that's the wrong question, isn't it?

So what if he has a weird obsession with Megadeath?  You would think that's cool if it was Metallica.  But Dave Mustaine?  Internal candidate, please...

Can he do the job he's applied for better than the external candidates in question?  That's the question you should be asking, and you should be putting all the other stuff away in a secure, Al Gore approved box. Because your internal bias and that of the managers you serve is alive and well.  Families are dysfunctional.  People have hang-ups and things that make them different.

And you, HR pro/hiring manager, have the most perfect information on internal candidates.  Or maybe not. You know what makes them weird to you, but how much do you really know about their skills and performance?

You might want to really ponder what they can do with all that company knowledge (they've been working for your company, remember) before you discount them because of their laugh/perfume/communication style/likability.

Even if they wear the same Megadeath t-shirt every Friday.



Trish McFarlane

Kris, thanks for expanding the idea to internal candidates. From that standpoint HR often does know a lot of the weirdness that goes on and hopefully we don't let that limit their ability to move to other departments. It's so tempting though. BUT, who are we to say that won't fit into the department? Nice reminder for us to think it over before we sabotage someone's career. I'm already thinking of all the baggage I bring to the workplace....and yet still got hired. :-)

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