4 Reasons It's a Mistake to Hire People Who Are Just Like You

One of the worst mistakes you could make as a manager is to hire someone just like you.

“I’d never do that!” you say.

Yeah you would. It’s natural to be attracted to likeminded people.

When Lauren Rivera, Associate Professor of Management and Organizations at the Kellogg School of Management, set out to study the job interview process, she found that by the time the candidate had made it through the resume screening process, “the most common mechanism by which a candidate was evaluated was her similarity to her interviewer.”

And, according to a 2009 poll conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 54% of HR managers base their final hiring decisions on “chemistry.”

Hmmm…

“Ok fine,” you say. “But I’m fabulous! I have a great work ethic, and I’m resilient and smart.”

Of course you are.

Still, there’s a danger in surrounding yourself with employees whose personalities are too similar to your own. While you don’t want to hire anyone with whom you could never get along with, the truth is, some tension is necessary for the best work output. The right kind of tension means we’re being challenged to stretch ourselves and think a little differently, and that’s generally a positive thing.

But there are also other reasons it’s a mistake to hire someone just like you, too. Here are the top 4.

#1. HIRING PEOPLE LIKE YOU COULD LEAD TO DISCRIMINATORY ACTIONS AND DISCRIMINATION LAWSUITS 

Unfortunately, when managers hire people who are like them, the “like” sometimes extends to characteristics such as color, race, age, and gender.

And while it’s not illegal to hire someone because you both share a racial identity, gender, or age range, it is illegal to not hire someone else because he or she doesn’t. And believe it or not, but when you offer employment to an individual because they look like you and remind you of you, that’s pretty much what you’re doing. 

#2. ASSUMPTIONS MAKE A YOU-KNOW-WHAT OUT OF YOU AND ME

When you hire someone just like you, you’re making some assumptions that could very well come back to bite you in the rear. Let’s face it. You like the idea that so-and-so went to such and such school, or studied such and such, or enjoys thus and such (insert favorite hobby) because you think that tells you something positive about the person. When really, you’ve got no proof that it does. More specifically, you’ve got no proof that it tells you anything about how this individual will perform on the job.

Here’s the bottom line: No matter how good it feels to have stuff in common with candidates, letting your biases drive your hiring process is never a good idea.

#3. HIRING IN YOUR LIKENESS COMPROMISES YOUR PRIMARY JOB—GETTING WORK DONE THROUGH OTHERS

First and foremost, a manager’s job is to develop the skills of their team. But when your employees are too much like you, everyone wants to do some things and no one wants to do other things. Of course, all these things need doing, so delegation becomes a sore spot, as well as a stumbling block.

For example, when the boss is reluctant to hand off all the “fun stuff” they like doing, without regard for the needs (or talents) of their employees or company, employees don’t grow, that manager’s not doing their job, progress is impeded, and customers aren’t best served.

#4. EACH NEW HIRE BECOMES A PART OF THE TEAM, AND IN THE BEST TEAMS, MEMBERS ARE DIVERSE AND POSSESS COMPLEMENTARY SKILLS

You do a disservice to your employer when you hire people who can do what you can and not what you can’t. Every team needs thinkers and doers, introverts and extroverts, planners and actors, pessimists and optimists, and those who have a high concern for people, as well as those who have a high concern for results. Every voice needs to be present and heard. Your outcomes will be impoverished without that mix.

It’s commonly said that “opposites attract,” and there’s some science to that, but there's also science to suggest that attraction is only skin deep. Instead, we are much more likely to find those who remind us of us appealing.

And again, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, there are good reasons to be aware of the tendency during the hiring process.

Think of it this way: While good chemistry is certainly better than the alternative, in the same way that good chemistry alone won’t sustain a marriage, good chemistry alone won’t sustain a working relationship.

What will? Good performance. And the best way to hire someone who’ll perform well is to first, know the job and the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed to do the job and second, determine who has those qualities without focusing on whether the individual is like you or the complete opposite.

Crystal Spraggins

Crystal Spraggins, SPHR is an HR professional and freelance writer with a niche in careers and the workplace.

Crystal has 17 years of experience as an HR generalist helping small- to mid-sized companies develop policies, programs, and procedures that increase profits, maximize efficiency, and enhance positive employee relations. Crystal is a frequent contributor to various workplace-related websites and maintains a personal blog, HR BlogVOCATE.

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