Physiognomy? What it is and How it can Help You Hire.


When I first heard of Physiognomy I had no clue what it was nor could I barely pronounce it.  In short, Physiognomy is the belief that a person’s personality can be determined by their facial features and shape of their skull.  Popular in the 19th century, the practice of Physiognomy was discounted for most of the 20th century by psychologists until recent studies suggested a more modern interpretation of the practice can produce accurate judgments about people’s abilities.   

In early 2000 a group of people were shown 2 second long clips of professors lecturing and were asked to determine the teaching ability of each.  Amazingly the responses by the group matched those of students who had been taught by the professors for a whole semester.  So in just two seconds a group of people were able to fairly predict a professor’s ability to teach!  A few years later 100 hundred students were shown photographs of chief executives from the top 25 and bottom 25 companies in the Fortune 1000 list and were asked to determine their leadership potential.  The chief executives were unrecognizable to the students, (Warren Buffet wasn’t even recognized) but the students’ assessments of probable leadership ability were directly related to the company’s profits.  Basically the students could accurately predict, just by looking at them, the most successful people.  The studies concluded that the snap judgments by ignorant people were more accurate than assessments made by well-informed professionals. 

I have spoken to many hiring managers and while many may not admit it, they basically determine within the first five minutes of meeting a job candidate that they are not a good cultural fit for their company.  If you apply the conclusions mentioned above these hiring managers might make that judgment within the first sixty seconds but unfortunately they cannot dismiss a candidate within sixty seconds of meeting them.  No, they must spend thirty minutes of their valuable time interviewing a candidate they know is not a good fit.  How valuable would it be to the hiring manager’s time for them to see a two minute video clip of the candidate prior to committing thirty minutes of their valuable time to interviewing the candidate?  If we can determine a person’s capabilities after seeing a two second clip of someone, think how much more we can learn in two minutes!  Hmmm, if only a solution existed that allowed people to see video of interested candidates prior to the face-to-face interview thereby saving the hiring manager time and streamlining the interview process.  Oh wait, of course, video interviewing can do all this and more!

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2 responses to Physiognomy? What it is and How it can Help You Hire.

  1. Not Getting the Job? It's Nothing Personal or Is it?

    […] along with that person as much from the information they discern from observing the candidate.  Physiognomy studies prove it!  Humans can draw greater insights about a person by looking at and listening to […]

  2. Maximum

    When I used to do more executive aessssments, I would occasionally do selection interviews, and sometimes, as part of those, I would be asked to call references.I loved that.I would let them talk for about 10 minutes and then ask them the only question that matters: Would you hire this person back? Most everyone would say yes—eventually—but I didn’t care about that. What I cared about was how fast the, Yes! came. If it was enthusiastic and quick, I knew it was honest. If it came after a pregnant pause, then I knew the person was being professionally tactful in his or her response.A modified yes (e.g., Yes, but not for that role. He’s better suited for ) was OK, also as long as it came quickly.So yes to references just make sure you’re using them the right way!

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