Should you hire someone who’s unfriendly in the interview?

  • Recruitment
Three office workers sat around a table.
Alan Price - Peninsula's Chief Operations Officer and CEO of BrightHR

Alan Price, Chief Operations Officer

(Last updated )

Apparently, seven seconds is all it takes to make a decision about someone.

Imagine it: you bring someone in for an interview and you’re expecting them to greet you with a smile and a handshake. Instead, they give you the cold shoulder. You might think you haven’t already decided this person’s fate, but you have.

We don’t judge consciously. It just happens. It might be as little as a facial expression, the way someone’s dressed, or the way they introduce themselves. But it’s this snap judgment of a person that can lead to hiring bias and even put you at risk of a discrimination claim.

We expect candidates to put their best foot forward in a job interview. And we often interpret this to mean they should be smiley, friendly, and confident; the kind of person we could grab a pint with after work.

But here’s why that’s not always the right way to think about it…

Your candidate may have a hidden disability

You might find someone’s behaviour ‘unusual’, ‘unfriendly’, or ‘unsociable’ when actually it’s the result of a hidden disability.

People with autism or ADHD tend to have difficulties with social interaction and communication. An interview relies heavily on these skills - which makes it a huge challenge for them.

It means people with autism might struggle to start, maintain or end a conversation. They might show behaviours that come across as ‘rude’, like being unable to make eye contact with their interviewer.

They might struggle to answer a general question without providing too much, too little, or even the right information. They might also struggle to imagine themselves in a ‘what if’ scenario.

People with ADHD might have trouble managing their focus and restlessness during an interview. Which means they might fidget or appear distracted when questioned. This might make it harder for them to make what we think of as a ‘good first impression’.

So while you might assess all potential employees in the same way to be fair and objective, you could actually be putting barriers up without realising.

That’s why it’s important to give all applicants an opportunity to express any access needs ahead of the interview. Then, you should pass this information over to the interviewer. So, they can make changes if necessary.

It might mean the interviewer has to provide questions to the applicant in advance. They might need to ask specific questions rather than abstract, general, or hypothetical ones. Or, they might ditch the interview altogether and find another way to assess the candidate’s suitability, like through a work trial.

Bear in mind that someone could raise a disability discrimination claim against you if they believe you didn’t treat them fairly during recruitment and they didn’t get the job because of it. So, you should regularly review your process. If someone has access needs, you’ll need to try to accommodate them before you make that final hire.

Superficial qualities can cloud your judgment

In life, we like to be around people we share values or personality traits with. It’s how we connect and make friends.

But the people we choose to be our friends aren’t necessarily the people we should work with.

Because while you might enjoy someone’s ‘high energy’ or ‘bubbliness’, it doesn’t make them suitable for the role. You might have qualities you desire in an employee, but it’s important not to let superficial qualities cloud your judgment.

For example, it might be the case that you interview someone else who is more qualified for the role, but you don’t gel personality-wise. This might put you off when you’ve interviewed someone who is less qualified but you 'like more'.

Ultimately, you should hire who is best for the role, not who you like best.

Also, consider that what you see as ‘unfriendliness’ might just be nerves. Some people don’t interview as well as others. And while we might love a confident and charming candidate, it’s important not to judge a book by its cover. 

Perhaps the candidate isn’t used to interviews. Maybe they suffer with anxiety and the interview triggers it. Maybe they had a family emergency right before they arrived…

You don’t know what might be contributing to their behaviour and an interview doesn’t tell you how someone will perform as an employee. So, it’s important to keep an open mind.

And let’s say the person you’re interviewing doesn’t match your energy for whatever reason. Sometimes, hiring someone you might not agree with or particularly like might actually be the best move for your company. Different people bring different insights, and every business should have a diverse workforce of people. You’re likely to have more success that way.

So, don’t let likeability sway your decision.

Hire smart with HR support

Making that final decision on a new hire is risky.

You never know if your chosen candidate is going to rise to expectations or struggle to take off. Meanwhile, you don’t want any disgruntled candidates who didn’t get the job to complain…

It’s why over 44,000 UK businesses trust Peninsula to help them reduce their risk by guiding them to:

  • ask the right interview questions
  • follow HR best recruitment practices for finding top talent
  • monitor and create an inclusive recruitment process that keeps them safe from legal risk

To get advice on how to make safe and smart hires for your business, get in touch on 0800 028 2420 to speak to an adviser today.

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