September 17, 2013


under the microscopeThe hiring process consumes vast resources — especially attention. Yet you can't tell if you're hiring the right person. Sorry.

As the divorce rates show, we’re not great at picking a mate either. We’re easy to fool.

Public Face or Private Place?

Candidates construct a facade and provide references from well-meaning sources who cannot be objective. As the mutual fund fineprint says, past performance doesn't guarantee future results. Yet the past get used to imply a future at least as bright. Your biases get in the way too.

Malcolm Gladwell says we learn more in minutes in a private place (not meant to be seen) than from months examining a public face (meant to be seen). Employers can’t examine bedrooms but there is a substitute.

What’s more private than your thoughts?

Granted, we self-censor what we communicate but hints of the truth peek through as the quantity grows. Online content forms a digital tapestry that’s quick and easy to examine.

Then Now and Then

You're hiring today for an unpredictable future. On 9/10, you can't tell how a candidate will perform on your equivalent of 9/11 and 9/12.

Given the right (or wrong) circumstances, great candidates flounder while the lousy-but-lucky flourish. As with politicians, we can't tell who's who until afterwards. Deciding is tough.
The WRAP methodology
I've hired badly and have seen too many bad hires. The basic experience, credentials, skills and fit were in place. The ability to adapt was not.

When hiring people who work remotely (say in sales), you can't see them regularly and their self-reporting is biased. There's always a big opportunity on the way ... and explanations for what went wrong due to circumstances which could not be controlled. It's easier to dismiss poor performance than dismiss a poor hire (Entrepreneur, mistake #4).

Signs To Mind

When hiring, look for proof of

The "Free Prize"

When the hiring process identifies more than one candidate who can do the basic work well, how to decide? As with an Android phone, the extras make the difference (ease of use with Moto X vs better specs with Samsung). As books and movies show, it's difficult to identify who will matter later. Gollum would fail the interview process but make a better guide than Google Maps or Mordor.

When you hire wrong, the big cost comes from the opportunities lost. Those we can’t quantify until we're able to run simulations in parallel universes.


PS There’s also the risk of losing your great hires (see

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