CEO: Gina, I’m so excited—I’ve found the perfect person for our new PR manager! I want you to meet her as soon as possible because I want to make an offer tomorrow. Can you make some time to meet with her today?
HR Manager: Wait a minute, who is this person? I don’t recall seeing her résumé.
CEO: She doesn’t have one; I met her, and it was like love at first sight. She is absolutely wonderful and has the look I want for the role.
HR Manager: Look? What are you talking about? The job description clearly states we need someone with five years of experience in running an agency team and who has handled multiple crisis situations. What does that have to do with looks?
CEO: Oh my lord, can’t you ever just think out of the box? You are so literal sometimes; it’s really frustrating when I’m trying to recruit the best talent. Can’t you just let go of your requirements and trust my instincts when I tell you this person is amazing?
HR Manager: I’m not saying this person isn’t the right person for the job; I’m only trying to avoid another mis-hire, like we’ve had in the past when we’ve looked past someone’s résumé. It’s never gone well for us. Remember John? You loved his charisma and so-called wit, and you said not to worry about a background check, but his résumé turned out to be total fiction. Remember we lost one of our best customers because he slept with their representative and promised all sorts of things we couldn’t deliver? He didn’t even know how the basic products worked! And he did not have a degree! Which, by the way, was a job requirement, so thank God none of the other applicants we didn’t hire found out, or we could have been sued. And why doesn’t she have a résumé?
CEO: God, you are such a stick-in-the-mud. For a creative agency, I don’t know how we ended up with you. What are you, the people police? Listen, don’t remind me about John. I was so pissed and hurt when I found out about his sleeping with that rep; you have no clue what a betrayal that was to me. Anyway, I have great instincts when it comes to hiring; I can just look at someone and know they are the right fit by how they look. I’m surprised you can’t do that as the HR manager. Isn’t that a requirement for your job?
HR Manager: Looks are not everything. Now, tell me why she doesn’t have a résumé.
CEO: She’s just starting out in her career, and she’s a free spirit, so she doesn’t want to be defined by labels. I love that! She’s got this amazing full-arm tattoo sleeve that just screams credibility for a cool agency look. Can’t you just imagine what people will say when they see her as the face of the company? She’s got the look!
HR Manager: I don’t know how a tattoo sleeve is relevant for someone who not only needs to be able to speak to our brand and make sure we are seen but also manage us through a crisis. We have no policy and don’t care about tattoos, but seriously, does she have any experience whatsoever?
CEO: Look, she doesn’t have a résumé, and I told her she didn’t need one. I found her at the Starbucks I go to, because I admired her tattoo, her piercings, and her “out there” attitude. She just fits the part! Almost like she came right out of casting after I imagined what this person should look like!
HR Manager: OK, so let me be clear. She has no relevant work experience whatsoever, she has none of the skills on the job description, but you liked how she looked and that she made a good caramel macchiato and had a bit of attitude. Is that about the gist of it?
CEO: Yes. Obviously, when you put it like that, it doesn’t sound as good as it did in my head, but I don’t care. She is perfect, and I want to make her an offer.
HR Manager: So do you even need me to interview her, or is it a foregone conclusion that our new PR manager is your tattooed barista?
CEO: Since you are being completely obtuse about this, let’s just make her the offer. Write it up and get it out to her today.
CEO leans back in his chair with an “I can’t believe some people” look on his face and says to an imaginary camera: When making a hiring decision, the most important aspect is always how the person presents themselves to you. You have to be brave and willing to hire on sheer guts based on looks because, ultimately, who moves up in the world? Those that look the part. We can train for the rest, but I want someone who is the face of our brand because that’s what someone will see first.
It’s our first impression and the most lasting one. Don’t let a cranky HR manager tell you otherwise. It’s first and foremost about how they look and what brand they show up with. Trust your instincts!
LET’S GET REAL
The most successful hiring takes into account how someone presents themselves to the world, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle, and it’s definitely not about beauty or fashion. Professional experience, skills, and real-world proof that they will add value to the organization trumps everything. But unless coupled with good presentation, oral skills, language use, social skills, and yes, professional appearance suitable for your business or industry are there, the skills may never make it into practice. We get taken in or put off by someone’s looks. Remember to dig deeper in both cases. One’s résumé matters, experience matters, natural talent matters, and cultural fit and values matter. Take a look at the job description that is the basis of the job. How likely is it that the person has what it takes to be successful? Usually, none of this shows on the surface.
Don’t let yourself be dazzled by someone’s sparkle until you determine if it’s a diamond or a cubic zirconia. The fakes will cost you money, time, and reputation.