Every bad hire starts with a good interview

It went really well. They were very enthusiastic. Energetic, quick thinking, and could answer every question I threw at them. I can see them fitting into the team and giving it a real boost. This one should hit the ground running. It's a no-brainer, a definite hire!

We've all been there.

However if finding the right person for a job was this easy, hiring managers would sleep soundly at night. But they don't. Something that's confirmed by a survey from HR experts Robert Half, with 75 percent of hiring managers reporting they've recruited the wrong candidate for a role. Admittedly there are many reasons why someone may be a bad hire, but why do things often seem to go wrong before the interview chair has even gone cold?

"We want people who are passionate!"

If you search job vacancies on any job board you'll find tens of thousands of jobs requiring applicants to be "passionate." This is of course a euphemism for extraversion. And the reason why many hires go astray is because of Extraversion Bias.

cheerful manager passionately handshaking with new employee_cropped

Amongst the bundle of traits that define extraversion are energy and assertiveness. These traits can easily lead an interviewer to assume a person is highly motivated, self-directed, and will have the enthusiasm to take on difficult tasks and see them through to conclusion.

The problem is that being full of enthusiasm (a.k.a. passion) does not mean someone will actually be good at a job. We all know people whose capability does not match their enthusiasm. So here's the thing: organizations are often blinded by the enthusiastic candidate, and this gives extroverts an advantage in the interview process.

And being blindsided leads to other aspects of personality being overlooked. The instant enthusiasm of the extraverted salesperson might actually turn many potential buyers off. It might be interpreted as being too pushy and not listening. In addition, that same sparky and spontaneous person might also be chronically disorganized.

Extraversion Bias is an important issue and an example of the dangers of basing hiring on the emotional reaction to a candidate.

Extraversion Bias is an important issue and an example of the dangers of basing hiring on the emotional reaction to a candidate. This is the belief that enthusiasm — and a person being fun to talk to or feeling energized in their presence — is necessarily linked to future work performance.

Indeed studies indicate that the link between "passion" and achievement is complicated; research from Stanford University identifying some of the subtleties with regard to culture, motivation, and achievement. In particular, they found that linking passion with achievement is a "distinctly Western model of motivation." This, in turn, highlights two obvious truths that underpin achievement:

  • Passion isn't the only thing that drives people to achieve.

  • One particular type of motivation is no better than any other.

This matters because if we hitch enthusiasm to performance we not only unfairly disadvantage those who are introverted, we're also likely to be systematically biased against those from other cultures.

And what about leadership?

Here's a good question: being extraverted often predicts who is likely to become a leader, but do groups perform better with extraverted leadership? Again this goes to the question of hiring the right people; and for leadership, it can be argued the perceived role of personality has more impact on hiring decisions the more senior the position. Hence all those leaders with "big personalities."

Extraverted leadership increases group performance when employees are passive, but has the opposite effect when employees are proactive.

Interestingly, research finds that while the stereotypical extravert is expected to be good at energizing the team and getting stuff done, they often don't perform as well as might be expected. The missing piece of the puzzle appears to be how proactive the team is in initiating and delivering their own work. The important takeaway being that extraverted leadership increases group performance when employees are passive, but has the opposite effect when employees are proactive.

From a leadership perspective, this suggests that empowering people to make their own decisions reduces the need for extraverted behavior; and in this situation, it follows that a more introverted leader might actually do a better job. This is the reason quieter and more thoughtful leadership can work well — especially with teams that have an obvious purpose, which are composed of functional specialists.

coworker carrying cardboard box in warehouse being proactive

To join the dots together, automatically assuming that extraversion is associated with superior work performance is an error. It can also lead to a lack of diversity in organizations and be a poor starting point for selecting leaders. It seems that not only does every bad hire start with a good interview — if only viewed through the seductive lens of extraversion — but it can have a profound effect on the productivity of the entire organization.


Traitify can help you minimize bias in your hiring process by assessing candidates based on their real personalities. To learn more, connect with us!