Leaders Hire People, Not Résumés

Leaders today, especially those who hire talent, are in a difficult position. There are either too few or too many talented people who apply to positions. To tease out qualifications and battle our own implicit biases when we meet people is tough. And our biases do not stop at gender, race, previous convictions, nationality or ability.

Fred Fiedler’s contingency theory states that a leader’s behavior is a result of experiences; therefore, the best mode of action is to hire not the right leader — but the leader with the right style for the situation. This seems to be helpful advice, but it may be outdated.

It doesn’t take long for a manager to understand that the art of the résumé is drastically different than a steadfast work ethic, consistency, a willingness to learn, problem-solving skills and a positive attitude. Résumés and job applications rarely show a candidate’s ability to do the work. Even after hiring a new employee, a leader must regularly work to keep the team feeling as though everyone is valued and included.

In today’s fast-paced world, the best style must be fluid—not fixed. So if leaders worry about hiring wrong, they may want to refocus on efficient and effective training and individual growth opportunities. The fact is we hire people, not resumes.

Those who feel seen are more likely to consistently perform. For this reason, those who lead must not only cultivate a reputation for ethical and inclusive leadership but also consistently check in to maintain it. Cutting through the way we often categorize people, either via demographic information and social identity or via preferred work style and personality type, is key to fostering an inclusive work environment.

This is easier said than done. For a leader to be effective, the team must feel appreciated. For a team to feel appreciated, the individuals must feel as though they are being recognized.

When a person influences larger numbers of individuals, the challenge is not more daunting, but it requires more forethought and more reliance on supervisors or others on the team. Rather than thinking we are not the right leader for the situation, or that an employee is not right for the position based on experience alone, let’s reexamine.

We never expect a project to go exactly as planned, so why should we expect a person to produce as expected? It doesn’t happen. This is a strong argument for ignoring the checkboxes we’re looking to fill and learning to see individuals for who they are.

Those who seek guidance or may have had more to overcome could just be our best team members, so it is well worth it to practice patience and invest in development, especially in onboarding. After all, those who follow are as fully formed and complex as those who lead. Keeping this in mind will result in a diverse and dynamic workforce that will produce results.

Reference: Northouse, P. G. (2003). Leadership: Theory and Practice.

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.