In my career, I’ve had the privilege of hiring several people. Although I’ve enjoyed the company of every single one, not all of them ended up being a good fit for their respective positions. On the flip side, some have far exceeded my expectations.

On balance, the good choices have outweighed the bad, mostly due to learning some tough lessons along the way. Not only have I learned which questions might lead to the most insightful answers, but I’ve also learned how those insights might indicate fit. I’ve learned which questions I can ask and which questions I can’t. I’ve learned how to read between the lines on a resume. I’ve learned to check references and to verify education. I’ve learned, essentially, to do my homework.

I’ve also learned to trust my gut.

The most important tool I have in my interview arsenal is my own intuition. It took awhile to get the nuance right, but I think I’ve figured it out. A bad gut feeling is enough for a veto. A good gut feeling signals a need for supporting evidence.

Every time something about a candidate has made me uncomfortable—even if she looks great on paper and doesn’t botch the personal interview—she has ended up being a poor fit for the position in question when I’ve hired her anyway. If I’m not excited about bringing a particular person on my team, I shouldn’t do it.

The flip side isn’t so simple. Gambling on a good gut feeling alone isn’t always a sure bet. The few times that I’ve done that, jumping ahead of my usual due diligence, I’ve been sorely disappointed. I still need to check the facts.

Of course, no one gets it right every time, but I’ve learned two important lessons: to trust my gut when it says no, and to be skeptical when it screams YES!

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