Humans are fragile and unpredictable creatures… and, in our companies, we put them in charge of hiring other fragile and unpredictable creatures. Adding someone to your team can be riskier than hanging out with Justin Bieber at a Cavs game. Because of that, hiring managers are always looking for the silver bullet: the right personality test, trick question, or background to help them make decisions.
In general, the interview remains the key selection criteria that most firms use. And the result? Mostly nonsense. People, as fragile and unpredictable as they are, overvalue certain things based on their own background, bad info or general biases.
And not just in job interviews. Check this from the NY Times:
…the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards hired a professional D.J. named Azmyth Kaminski, shaved off his dreadlocks, removed his body piercings and put him in a suit. It taught him a few financial phrases and sat him in a conference room. Then it brought in people looking for a financial adviser.
“We gave him buzzwords, like ‘401(k) is the way to go,’” said Joe Maugeri, managing director for corporate relations at the CFP Board. “I talked to him about 529 plans and he said, ‘All 56 states have 529 plans?’ I said, ‘Well, yes, all 50 of them have them.’ He was a real nice guy.”
So how did he do? After Mr. Kaminski spent about 15 minutes with each person, all but one were ready to work with him.
56 states? That might be either the funniest or saddest thing I have heard. In this case, the clients overvalued appearance and buzz words. Looked like a financial advisor, sounded like a financial advisor, here’s my money.
In the same way, your hiring managers place weird emphasis on stuff all of the time:
The Charmer—Good talker, made me laugh, shared interests? I love that girl!
Pepsi or Coke—He worked for a good company, he must be good.
Looks—Sharp, presentable, pretty/handsome—If she looks that good, she’s gonna rock.
Education—3.8 at Georgia Tech? Sign him up. Doesn’t matter what job, just hire him.
The Name Dropper—We know all of the same people—if she’s that connected, she rocks.
The key for Talent pros, of course, is to find balance in the selection process. Run better interviews, gather data in other ways, and make sure that hiring managers ask probing questions. In this case above, you know, maybe dig in to the fact that the fake candidate thought there were 56 states. Good first clue.
FOT Note: This rant is brought to you by the good folks at OutMatch who like us enough to be an annual sponsor at FOT for all content in our Talent Selection and Employee Development track (and don’t expect that we run any of this by them ahead of time).
I have spent the last 20 years of my professional life advising leaders to make great talent decisions to drive business results. In my current gig, I lead talent acquisition and management for a multi-billion-dollar, 100% employee-owned construction company. I geek out on analytics, succession planning, etc. and love it when we position folks to do their best work. That’s fun stuff. I tease bad HR people, because I think we can all do better, myself included. That’s fun, too.