The hiring process is so stale that you really do not need to get that creative to be unusual. I find it fascinating how our society has yet to figure out how to engage in relational dynamics that are actually focused on joint problem solving as opposed to an evaluator/evaluatee framework.
When I used to think about hiring outside the box or approaching hiring creatively, I thought I needed big magnanimous stunts and gestures to pull it off. I would go into interviews disguised as a janitor, I would have candidates work on building legos together, drawing, painting, problem-solving, case building, etc. I would try all the alternatives I could find to maximize my findings during the interview process. But as I found out over the years, I did not have to go that far at all in order to hire unusually.
I found out something really obvious over the years: interviews are terrible vessels for people to get to know each other truthfully. Everyone is putting on a show. To make a terrible analogy, consider dating. People are at their best, hiding their flaws and playing up their strengths, flirting by lying and omission in order to control the perception of the other. Interviews share a lot of these traits.
The opposition between the interviewer and interviewee makes it so that both parties are trying to sell to each other. The interviewer sells the idea that working in that organization is a dream while the interviewee sells the idea that they are the perfect match for that position. It is pretty ludicrous when you think about it. Rather than have an open and honest dialogue about the organization, the candidate and the fit or unfit, interviewers flaunt how "great" the organization is, rejoicing in schadenfreude from the candidates who so desperately want to make it through and be accepted by the all-powerful interviewer. It boils down to power-tripping that adds very little value to a meticulous selection process.
That is why I try to deconstruct this framework. Hiring is not about us evaluating candidates. It's about trying to establish whether or not fundamentally there is a cultural and behavioral fit. We will also consider past experience and skills, but these are secondary to the decision making process. The primary driver is the fit; both the candidate and the interviewer are discovering for themselves whether the fit is there or not.
Even though it's straight-forward, deconstructing the current paradigm is not easy given how ingrained it is in our thought-process. Deconstruction is a multi-pronged process and it involves the following elements:
Get out of the evaluator chair. You are no different, no better than the person you are interviewing. Be normal, be human and make others feel comfortable. This gives people the chance to disarm and forget about having to prove themselves. Having the chance to see people in their natural state is the greatest revelation you can attain from an interview. No one I know can work in interview mode all the time. It's not sustainable. Work is stressful and the hours are long. That's why we want an interview process that leads us to find people who feel naturally comfortable in our culture.
Focus on the behavioral aspects. We tend to be very impressed with big names and big titles on people's resumes. But we are not hiring their education nor their work experience. We are hiring a person. And that's what we want to get to know. How do they react when feeling examined? How do they feel when we are smiling? How do they feel about being confronted? How do they deal with pressure? And you don't find out these behavioral trends from asking about them. You find out about these things by getting to know a candidate. Go beyond your own biases and use your senses.
I strongly advise candidates not to work with us. Why should we try to pretend that it's great working here? It's not. It's work. Most people would not choose to work here if they had 50 billion dollars in the bank. That's just a fact of life. We don't want people choosing us for the wrong reasons. Paying bills, needing a job, wanting to advance a career. Those are all legitimate pursuits that most of us share. But we want to hire people based on the deeper motivational drivers. We want to find people who want to be a part of something bigger than their own selves, who do not mind getting into constructive conflicts and will stand by their opinion. We understand that people that we bring into the company are the very fabric of the company's soul, which most of us refer to as culture.
So we deconstruct the traditional hiring paradigm by forgetting about skills and focusing on the person. We deconstruct the interview paradigm by not positioning ourselves as interviewers but as partners who are working together to find out whether or not this is indeed a good fit for all of us. We find out more about people when they get a chance to speak more honestly and when we truly hear what is being said. We forget about the labels and the brands that are pegged to resumes and we look at the intersection of values and goals. Those are the pillars for a solid and prosperous relationship. And that's what hiring is in the end: the beginning of a new relationship.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."