Why Managers Should Quit Hiring People Like Themselves

It can be all too tempting to hire people who are mirror-images of ourselves, both in terms of professional experience and personalities. There are good reasons, however, why you might want to consider some candidates who won’t be mistaken for your doppelgangers.

It’s a well-known phenomenon, albeit one many of us are uncomfortable discussing. In many different aspects of our lives – whether we’re looking for romantic partners, choosing friends, or making professional connections – we have a tendency to gravitate towards people who are similar to us, and who have a familiar outlook, upbringing, or style.

But just as selecting friends or mates on the basis of shared characteristics alone can be limiting, continuously hiring employees that think and act just like yourself can be self-destructive.

Whoever you choose to pad your team with has the power to make or break a business. It’s important for managers, then, to recognize the pitfalls of hiring the same type of person over and over again – in essence, to quit hiring themselves.

And so, we present you with a list of reasons why putting that carbon copy of yourself on the payroll can truly have detrimental effects on your business.

The groupthink trap
A concept commonly taught in business school, “groupthink” is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a group of people ceases to evaluate situations critically, opting instead (consciously or not) to minimize conflict among the group. This can prevent the group from thinking creatively about problems or proposing outside-of-the-box solutions, for fear of running afoul of the shared consensus.

In addition to bringing inefficient, independent-minded consultants, managers can mitigate the negative effects of groupthink by hiring employees with variant work, life and educational experiences, divergent skill-sets, and different ways of approaching issues. This way, the team is less likely to fall into a trap of collectively missing all the same blind spots.

But just as selecting friends or mates on the basis of shared characteristics alone can be limiting, continuously hiring employees that think and act just like yourself can be self-destructive.

Same problems, same solutions
There can be a tendency among managers to hire both consultants and employees who in their previous work have encountered similar problems to the ones that the former’s company is currently experiencing. For example, if clients are dropping off, the manager in question might look for someone who has dealt with this issue in a past job and expect them to come up with a plan, based on their previous experience.

But while hiring someone who’s seen the same problems you’re having might make sense in a pinch, it may not prove as effective in the long run. Why? A staff member who has come across the same set of problems your company is experiencing will very likely suggest the very same solutions that your team has already cooked up, rather than thinking up something totally new.

Preconceived notions
There’s a lot to be said for being flexible in the way you think. If a person has only worked in companies similar to your own, they’ve probably grown comfortable doing things in a particular way. In all likelihood, they’ve adopted some fixed ideas about operational dynamics, or about business generally.

Every organization has its own unique culture and way of doing things. Even seemingly superficial elements of that corporate culture, like whether employees leave the building at lunchtime, or eat at their desks, can shape the way a person thinks about company issues.

If you only hire people who have worked in comparable environments to your own organization, they’ll enter with the same preconceived notions that you have. Intentionally or not, they may take a somewhat conventional approach to address problems.

On the other hand, if you hire someone for whom your company’s operations and values are quite novel, the sheer challenge of it will likely compel them to do extensive research, analysis, and critical thinking. They will be far more likely to bring fresh, innovative ideas to the table.

A staff member who has come across the same set of problems your company is experiencing will very likely suggest the very same solutions that your team has already cooked up, rather than thinking up something totally new.

Skills can be taught – perspectives can’t
New employees are far more likely to fail when they exhibit poor interpersonal skills – even more than when their technical skills aren’t totally up to snuff.

A further reason not to hire a candidate for their technical know-how alone is that simply finding someone who mirrors all your existing employees’ skills and strengths won’t inject dynamism into the team. Your staff will be less likely to understand the diverse ways that different businesses run.

A hire who has worked for different types of organizations, or even in a different industry can apply the knowledge they’ve gleaned from different settings in order to frame your company’s issues in a new light – a necessary commodity if you’re to keep moving forward.

If the new employee is bright and motivated (and they should be), the necessary hands-on skills can be learned. But a multi-faceted perspective gained from assorted industry experiences? That’s something you can’t teach.

A propensity to hire someone just like you is not uncommon. And it’s not always a bad thing, either. But ultimately, a successful team will be diverse – in their approaches, past experiences, backgrounds skill-sets and knowledge. Not only does this help to shake up a company that’s grown complacent from too much reciprocal back-patting; it also allows for problems to be dealt with in unique, and uniquely effective, ways. So give someone other than yourself a chance. Your business will thank you.

Let us know what you think! At Clarity Recruitment, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@clarityrecruits) and connect with us on Facebook for more great tips and advice!