The Most Important Word No One Uses in Job Search, Hiring and Leadership

[spp-tweet tweet=”People can disagree without being disagreeable.”]


If there’s one thing that I learned in my long career as a headhunter it is that few employers know how to interview someone. 

They develop job specifications and then promptly ignore them, adapting them on the fly without communicating to staff how to vary their critique of potential new hires.

They are concerned about “fit” but use no objective measure to evaluate their existing staff or potential hires for actual fit.  In addition, they forget that both they and the potential new job hunter are on “good behavior” during the interview, trying to create a positive impression with one another.  How can you measure fit when both parties are lying to one another?

They never tell their staff who is involved with the interview how they are to evaluate someone for the role, leaving it to them to figure it out… Or worse, walking over to someone and saying, “Can you interview this person for me?  I have to finish a call (or my meeting is running long).”  

They ask people, “What do you think,” instead of, “Are they qualified?”  Then, they ask no follow-up questions to seek clarification of the opinion.


The lowest statistic I’ve ever seen for buyer’s remorse among employers is 50%.  50% of all employers regret a new hire that they made within 6 months.  The highest statistic I’ve seen is 82%.  New hires feel similarly.  Within 6 months, most regret the decision that they made to join.

The problem comes down to each is making a decision based upon “the performance” the other was giving and how that measures up to the image they have in their mind of how someone should act.

For example, we know employers will never ask the question, “Are you a leader?”  And rightly so.  After all, what do you expect someone to say?  “No, I am a follower not a leader.”  The next time that answer is given will be the first time.

Instead, we all look for behaviors that are congruent with our image of how someone should behave during an interview.  Thus, the word I am referring to in the title of the article is congruence.  How your behavior is in agreement with, is consistent with, in harmony with, matches with, is in unity with our idea of how someone should conduct them oneself to be qualified for a role that we are trying to fill.

When leaving an organization, we often do the same thing.  We ascribe virtue to people who agree with us and “shut up” people who don’t.  Obedience is rewarded as agreement with us.  This agreement is rebuked is not being consistent with being “a team player.”

Presidents are often criticized for surrounding themselves with “yes men” and “yes women” yet in organizations everyone in a position of authority makes the same mistake of creating a “hallelujah chorus” around themselves.

So, in your systematic way of hiring people, you have created a systematic way of maintaining a closed loop of information around yourself and then reinforce it once the new person is on board.

Does that make a lot of sense to you?

One way of thinking of it is in the immortal comic strip, Pogo, and it’s famous statement, “We have met the enemy and it is us.

The fact is that most leadership and hiring comes from images we have of someone and how they should conduct themselves, rather than on the basis of any fact. We choose to hire people like us or our image of what someone should be like, instead of useful criteria.

We expect others to behave differently than we do and wonder why they screwed up. People are hired because they look and behave like we do and forget both of us are on good behavior during the meeting.

We are the problem with hiring and with leadership in our organizations.


“I’m starting with the Man In The Mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

                                                             ~Michael Jackson, Man In The Mirror


It is time to look in the mirror and take responsibility for why your staff leaves, you hire poorly, lose people you want to bring on, get “half effort” from your team and, to be clear, this is not a purely a problem for managers. It is a problem at the highest levels of your organization.

Start with yourself and your leadership. Dissect it for congruence. Create inspired disharmony (that does not mean being disagreeable. People can disagree without being disagreeable).


© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC  2017


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a leadership and career coach who worked in recruiting for what seems like one hundred years. He is the head coach for and

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