Hiring people, whether we are hiring agents for our brokerages or staff members is challenging. We have an interview process, we screen applicants, ask questions, give hiring assessments — yet most often we are wrong in determining the potential fit and productivity of a person.
Why is that?
Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, Talking to Strangers- What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know, tries to answer the question of why we are so bad at talking to strangers and understanding them. I’ve been a Malcolm (yes, in my mind we are on a first-name basis) since his book Blink. I once stood in line for almost two hours to meet him and have him sign copies of his book for all my staff. Whenever, I play the dinner party game… who would you have dinner with? Malcolm Gladwell is on my list.
But this book, wow! I’m not going to say read it, my ask is listen to it. On Audible, the book is read by the author plus he has incorporated live news clips, audio from people he has interviewed and re-enactments to share the real life stories of how bad we are at reading people.
As I listened to the book I kept thinking; if top CIA operatives, police officers, judges, therapists and other trained professionals have such challenges talking to strangers, how do we ever expect to do any better in making hiring decisions?
“Why are we so bad at detecting lies? You’d think we would be good at it. Logic says it would be very useful for human beings to know when they are being deceived.” — Malcolm Gladwell
The concept of truth default theory, created by Timothy Levine says we are defaulted to want to believe people are telling the truth. This default takes precedent even against other factors like historical track records, behavioral red flags and intuition. This is what makes hiring people such a challenge for us. We are defaulted give people a the benefit of the doubt.
When we ask them if they are willing to work hard, if they can handle rejection, if they are willing to work nights and weekends… they say yes, and we are defaulted to believe them. Even if there is no evidence to support their desire or intention to behave in a certain way. Then fast forward months or years later and we have an unproductive agent on our office roster and wonder how we can make better hiring decisions.
Social science is a complicated arena. It is a worthy investment of time, effort and energy to learn more about the mistakes and opportunities we have to better talk to strangers in all aspects of our life.
I’m not going to give away the ending of the book because I want you to experience it for yourself and draw your own conclusions on what and how you can improve when talking to strangers. However, once you’ve listened to the book if you’d like to discuss let me know!
And Malcolm, I’m free for dinner anytime. 😉
Action steps after reading this blog:
- Listen to this book on Audible.
- Think about how you interact with strangers in your day-to-day life.
- What will you do differently?