One term that I’m starting to have an issue with is the term, “red flag.” We hear it a lot when it comes to recruiting and interviewing. After an interview, a manager asks, “ok, good candidate, but I saw some red flags.” Or a recruiter may relay a message to the hiring manager stating all the “red flags” he sees with a particular candidate. Companies talk a big game about wanting to be an inclusive culture and be open and transparent, but we are quick to raise the red flag when someone shows some truth and vulnerability.
Humans are messy, flawed, complicated, and beautiful people. We make mistakes, experience failure, take a few missteps, and accomplish incredible things, all in a day’s work. Nobody is perfect. Many organizations will say they embrace this. They’ll even pepper candidates with questions like, “tell me a time you made a mistake,” or “when did you fail?” And, of course, most candidates will give some canned answer they Googled to beat the behavioral interview. Hiring managers eat this up. They expect it.
But the second a candidate gives an honest vulnerable answer, we raise that damn red flag.
Have you ever answered your own interview questions on mistakes? Have you taken the time to answer them honestly? Because each and every one of us are wrestling with some sort of failure or mistakes in and out of the workplace. We are dealing with bad bosses. We are running projects that are over budget and under performing. Our personal relationships may not be the best. Our kids are struggling and succeeding. We are missing deadlines and holding onto feedback for our direct reports. We distrust our leadership and have had 4 jobs in 6 years, too. We feel underpaid and overworked. Just like the candidate across the table.
Some of my best boss and peer relationships have been those built on a foundation of openness and transparency. Built on sharing all of the great times and all of the times of frustration. The ones that last are the ones where we have clicked right away. And not just because we shared a lot of things in common like music or hobbies or TV shows. The ones that last are the ones where we’ve been able to share all of our flaws and bad sides. The times when we may not show up as our best selves on certain days. The things that make us human.
So let’s put the red flags away. Embrace all the things that make someone who they are. Realize that you’re not going to find the perfect candidate. If you’re looking for that, hire robots. And do some reflecting. Because we all have red flags.