It’s generally considered good business practice to make decisions based on data rather than on our instincts. We believe data holds the key to an objective and therefore superior answer, whereas our instincts introduce a subjective and therefore inferior perspective. However, we believe this only because we have not learned to use our instincts with accuracy. Among other things, they’re useful in choosing our teammates and partners.
More than a Gut Instinct
When I was a young manager, I remember working for a company where the Human Resources department made us all take a training course on interviewing job candidates. It was called ‘More than a Gut Instinct”, and the premise was that we shouldn’t trust our gut instinct but rather we should deal in facts alone. We were instructed to judge a candidate based on their answers to questions about how they handled situations and accomplished goals in the past.
I agree that historical success is an indicator of a person’s effectiveness, and it should be strongly considered during an interview. However, I also believe that honing our instincts to accurately perceive the emotional fit of a candidate is useful and valid.
The Science of Instinct
A large number of experiments using functional MRI have shown that certain brain regions are active when people experience an emotion and the same regions are active when they see another person experiencing the same emotion. It’s possible to use this fact to feel the emotions of another person.
When you “feel into” another person, you’re using a part of your brain not typically used in business. There are three levels of your brain and each perceives differently. The upper level, neocortex, deals with abstract-conceptual perception and rational meaning. In business today, we usually remain at this level. The lower level, reptile brain, perceives thru subtle, instinctive vibes. To feel into another person, project your awareness to the other person, envision moving down in your brain toward your instinctive senses, and notice the way your body feels.
Pay Attention to Your Body
The other person’s emotions can be perceived by comparing them to the way you feel your own. Become aware of how your body feels when you’re confident or anxious or fearful. When the candidate is answering a question about their abilities, project your awareness to them and perceive how your body feels. Do you get a feeling of confidence? Or do they feel anxious and fearful? Do you feel the steady waves of a harmonious person or the adrenaline of someone operating from their ego? Along with the person’s words and body language, this technique can help you determine if the candidate is a match.
Check in with the person periodically during an interview process to see how their emotions progress. You may feel them settle down as they get over their initial nervousness, or you may feel a change when you ask about a particularly sensitive area of their past.
It’s true that you can read a lot of this in their physical body language, but many of us who are successful in business have become very adept at keeping our emotions under cover. Plus, this technique works when interviewing by phone when you can’t see the person, as long as you can feel a connection and project your awareness to them.
Keep in mind that even if a person has demonstrated success in the past, if they’re carrying a negative emotional state, their negativity will influence your environment. So be perceptive and make sure you get the right fit on all levels, including the emotional.
Can you see yourself using this technique in interviewing? How else do you determine the emotional fit of a candidate?Share