Recruitment & Retention

Your Business


You may think Im going to comment here on the packaging of a product you are offering, but Im not. No, this discussion is about the packaging of people-all kinds of people. These individuals may be bosses, potential employees, friends, old schoolmates or just someone you might know casually.

The ancient adage that you shouldnt judge a book by its cover is more appropriate now than it ever was. Such a judgement would be a serious mistake for a manager hiring in the scarce labor market that we are currently experiencing.

People, like products, often turn out to be better or worse than your initial impression of them when they are actually put to the test. Their ability to handle stress, work with others, be innovative and produce high-quality work on a timely basis may be different than what might have been originally expected. Obviously, outside packaging (personal appearance and social grace, for example) doesnt tell the entire story. They also have to perform well.

I almost made the mistake once of hiring an individual for a key position who looked like he had been sent to me from Hollywood casting. He seemed to represent all of the best qualities that a manager should have. Boy, was I wrong.

His references looked all right, but a last-minute check of people I knew in the business gave me a different story. This candidates smooth outside packaging didnt match his inside character flaws, and his reputation was terrible among those who felt they could tell me about it. Abruptly backing off from a near-final hiring commitment to an outright rejection was embarrassing at the time, but it was well worth it.

On the other hand, I once worked for a curmudgeon whom nobody liked. Then one day we found ourselves in a situation that required unusual skill to handle, and he came through like a champ. That was a real eye opener. After that, all of us became more tolerant-the bosss packaging wasnt perfect, but we were happy he was there.

Its the same story with doctors. If you were seriously ill, would you rather have a doctor with a pleasing bedside manner and doubtful medical skills or an outstanding doctor who is not so personable?

The best advice I can give is to avoid making hasty judgements when interviewing and evaluating potential employees. You could miss a diamond in the rough or make the mistake of hiring a deadbeat. Take the time to reflect and investigate in more depth, even if you think that you know the answer based on your first impression.

And please dont reject anyone just because he or she doesnt look or act like you; that could be a real loss to you and your company.

Some employees may be poorly packaged, but their inner product-their capability and character-may be good or even exceptional. Others may be finely packaged but real losers; we see both kinds.

But, despite the odds, there are also some exceptional individuals who are both well packaged and extremely competent. Lets hope we can find more of them.

Jack Goodhue, management coach, may be contacted at

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