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Do drinking buddies make the best job candidates?

An academic study finds hiring managers don’t always pick the most qualified applicants.

By Charyn Pfeuffer - MSN Living Editor Dec 7, 2012 4:19PM

Conventional management wisdom states it’s not okay for your boss to be your friend. It's a common workplace conflict that bosses want to be liked, trusted and respected, but not all qualified employees are created equal.

A new study by Professor Lauren Rivera at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management offers an interesting perspective on the employment process: Hiring managers don’t always choose the most skilled applicants, they pick people they want to spend time with.

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Drawing from 120 interviews, Rivera examined employers as well as hiring managers in elite investment banks, law firms and management consulting firms over the space of two years, reports Forbes. In the study, Rivera argues that hiring is more than just a process of skills sorting; it is also a process of cultural matching between candidates, evaluators, and firms.

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“Interviewers often privileged their personal feelings of comfort, validation and excitement over identifying candidates with superior cognitive or technical skills,” River was quoted in Forbes. “In many respects, they hired in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners.”

Edward F. Vigil, Managing Director of The Adrogan Group in Albuquerque, N.M. recruits CFOs for private equity firms, as well as Commercial and Industrial (C&I) lenders for community banks. When it comes to executive search process, he says chemistry does come into play.

“When I look at the resumes I receive and do my initial interview, I used to often think that I had the ideal candidate that fit all the ‘requirements’ my client wanted,” says Vigil. “Since I always submit multiple candidates, I used to be surprised that the man or woman that most closely matched the requirements, often was not chosen.”

Again, it comes down to good chemistry. “The hiring choice is often made early on in the interview process,” says Vigil. “Follow up interviews are mainly used to ‘justify’ making that decision.”

The paper underscores the subjective aspects of hiring, like who your interviewer will be and whether they’ll be a good personality match. As a result, Rivera’s paper points out just how important it can be to include non-work interests under the heading “other” or “interests” on your résumé.

Competitive beer pong skills probably won’t get you hired, but a mutual extracurricular interest just might.

Photo: Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

Bing: How to build positive workplace relationships  

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