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What Are You Seeing When You Look?

by Jen Wason

Stop. Look. Listen.

That’s experience expert and “professional observer” Jim Gilmore’s advice for considering the routines of your assumptions and how they lead to action.

In Look: A Practical Guide for Improving Your Observational Skills, Gilmore offers a framework for refocusing how you draw information from your experiences. Inspired by Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats method, Gilmore offers six observational lenses through which to see the world differently.

Gilmore will be the keynote speaker at Shaker’s Candidate Experience Sponsor Workshop on October 13 in Cleveland. Register for this free event today to hear firsthand how to make more intelligent hiring decisions by sharpening your observational skills.

“It all starts with looking,” Gilmore insists. Learning to look means understanding that who you are changes what you see, how you see, and what you decide to look at. Gilmore’s six lenses each represent a different way of learning to look:

  • Binoculars: See the big picture
  • Bifocals: Overcome personal bias by looking in two different ways
  • Magnifying glass: Pinpoint significance
  • Microscope: Scrutinize details
  • Rose-colored glasses: Discover potential opportunities
  • Blindfold: See what’s in the mind’s eye, look inside instead of out

“You take action based on thoughts,” Gilmore explains. “To take action without thinking is foolish. To think without first looking is frivolous.”

What looking skills can be applied to seeing talent?

While every lens can be applied to improving how you evaluate any situation, Gilmore recommends rose-colored glasses as a powerful way of changing how you appraise opportunity by seeing potential.

Gilmore cites revered professional baseball scout Tony Lucadello as a paragon of practicing seeing potential. Lucadello was a forecaster, looking for how coachable a prospect was, how he might perfor under the right direction.

Rose-colored glasses remove emphasis on factors that can overly dominate decision making while simultaneously bringing to light other considerations that might be overlooked. In recruiting, people make assumptions and they don’t look back, not specifically asking for the information they really need or putting weight on words that appear—or fail to appear—on a resume or job application and never examining correlation to on-the-job performance.

“Looking with rose-colored glasses is not utopian, but utilitarian,” Gilmore contends. “[It’s] a certain kind of disciplined looking that sees the potential that is there.”

What good could a blindfold be to the hiring process?

Like most people who do the same job day after day, recruiters and hiring managers have a reflexive looking routine that may obstruct what’s actually in front of them. “Sometimes the very act of looking gets in the way of seeing something,” Gilmore reminds.

Blindfold looking is a way of “going dark”, of considering again what’s already been seen as it exists in the mind’s eye and directing your attention to the very act of looking.

Studies have shown that witnesses viewing suspects one at a time instead of together in a line up leads to less misidentification because witnesses evaluate individual suspects against their recall, not each other.

Likewise, by comparing candidates to each other you may become so occupied with some aspect of how they appear together you miss the value of considering them individually against the job requirements. When the time for making a hiring decision comes, use blindfold looking to recall—to look again at—what you’ve already observed about each candidate and consider what stands out and what gaps you may now notice. Recall can function as a valuable filter when it comes to final evaluation, Gilmore explains.

Are you missing out on best-fit talent because of your habits of looking?

“Experiment with looking differently,” Gilmore advises. “Consider your assumptions. Challenge your routine.”