5 Ways to Get Better at Evaluating People

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, right?

Let’s face it: When we meet someone for the first time we’re compiling our overall impressions and assessing the situation. According to a Harvard Business Review blog, there are a few key factors to sizing it all up. Anthony Tjan points out a few key things to evaluate in particular during a job interview.

The author of Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck and managing partner and founder of venture capital firm Cue Ball, writes:

“In business and in life, the most critical choices we make relate to people. Yet being a good judge of people is difficult. How do we get better at sizing up first impressions, at avoiding hiring mistakes, at correctly picking (and not missing) rising stars? ….Judging on extrinsic and skill-based factors is a relatively objective and straightforward exercise. Gauging softer traits such as will or attitude is much, much harder, and takes one-on-one contact, attentive listening, and careful observation. That’s why it’s important to approach a job interview more as an attitudinal audition than a question-and-answer period around skills.”

1. What is the talk-to-listen ratio? Seriously. Whether you’re hiring someone to work for you or evaluating whether or not to work with a potential client, you’ll want to be particularly cognizant about how much the person is talking. Tjan says in the piece if the talk-to-listen ratio exceeds 60 percent, you “want to ask why.” Is the person self-absorbed or is he or she simply nervous?

2. Is this an energy-giver or -taker? Ah, gotta love people who are embroiled in negative energy. Conversely, there are people who simply walk around like a ball of sunshine. In the piece he writes, “There is a Chinese proverb that says that the best way to get energy is to give it. Energy-givers are compassionate, generous and the type of people with whom you immediately want to spend time.”

3. What’s the spouse like? Tjan says we judge people by the company we keep so if you want to learn more about someone you’re evaluating, hang out with their spouse or close friend. Granted, this likely won’t be during a traditional job interview but there may be social opportunities to interact.

4. How does this person treat someone she doesn’t know? As in, if you’re on a job interview and it happens to be over lunch, are you nice to the wait staff? Tjan closely observes potential hires by seeing if they have have an openness, kindness and conversation with a waiter or taxi driver.

5. What has this person been reading? He points out,Reading gives depth, helps one understand one’s history, frames ideas, sparks new thoughts and nuances to existing perspectives, and keeps you apprised of current events. It’s a generalization, but the more interesting people I have met tend to read a lot — it’s a mark of intellectual curiosity.”