Say My Name…

John Whitaker Audacious Ideas, Candidate Pool, FOT Reads, HR, Innovation, John Whitaker

Before the magic of Vince Gilligan forever bastardized the name “Heisenberg,” the actual man was one of the more recognized and respected names in the field of physics, and a flat-out pioneer in quantum mechanics. Check out the big brain on Werner is what I’m saying.

Google “Herr Heisenberg” and chances are you’re going to find the “Uncertainty Principle” listed at the top of the page. Dude’s got his own Principle… respect.

And it’s sooooo simple to understand, right?

“The accurate measurement of one of two related, observable quantities, as position and momentum or energy and time, produces uncertainties in the measurement of the other, such that the product of the uncertainties of both quantities is equal to or greater than h/ 2π, where ‘h’ equals Planck’s constant,


Ummmm, “h = Planck’s constant?” Brain cramp. Yeah, that’s probably more than we need to know.

Another way to look at it is this: An object observed will act differently than it might act if unobserved. Anyone who has ever managed an employee during a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) can attest to how the sudden addition of increased observation will change the direction of performance (not necessarily in the positive direction), but the reliability of the “new” performance is shaky—how do you know you’re seeing a legitimate change vs. some temporary fabrication to appease the observer?

You don’t, Chi-chi.

As recruiters we face this every single day, ammirite? “Come on in, have a seat, and let’s see your interview performance.” Maybe the most challenging thing an interviewer will do is to differentiate between an awesome performer and an awesome performer. The blind spot for many of us (ironically, even more so for the experienced) is our incredible faith in our own ability to do just that. You’ve seen the statistics; we’re making decisions in an interview that may be based on the first 2 minutes, mainly because we are professionals who can make snap judgments about someone’s ability.

Breathe deep, and accept this… but it might be that you can’t. Even an interview professional as revered as the inimitable Tim Sackett is not immune from our succumbing to fat-head, i.e., “I’ve got a good feeling about this one…” (Bad example, look at the size of Tim’s head.)SCIENCE

It’s Heisenberg’s Principle in action, m’friend—we don’t really know what it is we’re seeing when we’re in the midst of an interview. Are you using additional data points? New tools? New tech? I’ll give a plug to one I’ve used recently—HOOPS—which has helped me balance my personal experience with experiential information and real data. The key is to gain multiple views of the candidate without sacrificing our most precious resource—time.

If we (the collective “we,” not the royal “we”) spend too much time on one candidate, we’re doing so at the expense of another candidate somewhere in the pile; add to that Heisenberg’s principle states that more observation is not the answer.

Somehow we need objects to behave naturally while in the selection process. And to do that, it may take attempts that don’t involve actual “observing” at all. Time to be “workplace scientists” by using the tools available to us.

What would Werner say? I think I know…