A recent New Yorker profile of Yvon Chouinard, cofounder of Patagonia, features a curious bit of information about the company’s staffing process.
As Chouinard told New Yorker reporter Nick Paumgarten:
“I’m terrible at hiring. I only trust women to hire people here. In an interview I have no idea. They can bulls— me, and I believe them.”
Whether women make better interviewers than men, and specifically whether they’re better at spotting job candidates who are lying, is a surprisingly understudied topic.
One of the only psychologists who’s addressed this question is Nicolas Roulin, a professor at the University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business. Roulin has conducted multiple studies that suggest interviewers are notoriously poor judges of dishonesty, regardless of their experience level, personality traits – or gender.
Of all the experiments Roulin has conducted on interviewers’ ability to detect deception, just one found a gender difference. In that experiment, women were slightly more likely than men to assume a candidate was lying when that person was in fact telling the truth. At this point though, the reason for those findings isn’t clear.
In general, Roulin said in a phone interview, there’s a common misconception that women have more soft skills in interpersonal situations.
Many people mistakenly believe that women get a “gut feeling when it comes to assessing someone else’s behaviors,” he said, that they have a “sixth sense.” But there’s little to no evidence to support these beliefs.
Bottom line: Don’t race to copy Chouinard’s hiring strategy.
Interviewing is hard, especially the part where you have to figure out if your smooth-talking job candidate is really as great as he says he is. So invest in training programs for your hiring managers or figure out who’s already a skilled interviewer – but don’t rely on popular myths about who’s good at what around the office.