You Can’t Judge A Book By Looking At Its Cover

I’d never been more surprised: my brother Randolph had given me a gold trimmed Rolex watch for Christmas.  I knew his law practice was successful—but a Rolex. Heck, all I had gotten him was a sweater.

When I shook my wrist, I noticed an hour had passed. Puzzled, I again shook my wrist and watched the hour hand spin around the watch dial. After viewing the spinning hour hand, my brother looked puzzled, laughed and confessed: in New York, a guy approached him on the street, and whispered, “Hey bud, do you want to buy a brand-new Rolex watch?’  ‘Just take a look at them, they’re legitimate and not hot.” So my brother followed him into an alley and ended up buying my Christmas present.

Years later Randolph invited Terri and me to be his guests at a German restaurant. As she led us to our table, the hostess was excited about the evening’s entertainment—two contortionists who “put on a fabulous show.”

When introduced, two, thin as a pencil, 80 year-old crones appeared. I thought it was a joke—what could these women do that I would want to see.

They twisted themselves in impossible positions: it was scary, somewhat revolting but riveting entertainment. Afterwards, we stood and cheered.

I have learned “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”  Often things are not as they appear: a Rolex that wasn’t; and emaciated, elderly women performing impossible feats of contortion.

“Judging a book by its cover,” is a mistake hiring managers make.  It is not uncommon for an interviewer to make a hiring decision within the first few minutes of an interview and once a decision is made, the mode shifts: from “inquisitive” to “let’s move on.”  

Some people make a great first impression—however, like the Rio Grande River, they may be a mile wide but only a few inches deep.  Others, make a poor first impression but possess hidden potential.  Candidates have to recognize the importance of making a good first impression and hiring managers need to realize a good first impression does not necessarily identify the best candidate.

A good hiring decision requires moving the process beyond a first impression.  Interview preparations should include:

  • Putting in place a strategic hiring plan that addresses the company’s goals.
  • Preparing a candidate profile that includes education, knowledge and experience.
  • Developing questions that explore a candidate’s ability to carryout the strategies in the strategic hiring plan.
  • Removing personal bias by putting together an interview team.  
  • Assembling the team to objectively grade and subjectively discuss the candidates.

By carrying out this process, company leaders can eliminate the blunder of “judging a book by its cover.”


When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart.” – Proverb


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