How Do You Hire a Squirrel?

“If your company mission were to climb a tree, would you rather hire a squirrel or train a horse?”

Of everything David Lunken said in his fascinating presentation, this was the question I can’t stop thinking about. David is a Senior Consultant for PI Midlantic and offers his clients a range of what he calls “human capital analytics” to help companies make science-based decisions about people.

His point was that, under stress, people instinctively return to their hard-wired comfort zones.  And these comfort zones may or may not contain the skills you hired these people for –  regardless of how proficient they were at promoting those skills on their resumes and in their interviews.

What David Lunken is talking about is fit.

Everyone will concede that the best possible outcome to hiring and promotion occurs when a person’s talents fit in with an organization’s needs.  A ten person firm populated exclusively by entrepreneurs does not need another risk-taker.  What it needs is someone to attend to process, systems and follow-up.

The question, then, is how best to accomplish fit.  Some would say that David Lunken is right.  The answer is behavioral testing.  Others are reluctant to switch from the regimen of ad-resume-interview.  In either case, however, the real key is the pre-hiring work.  Absent a commitment from the highest levels to examine, in a harsh and unblinking light, the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, the process will either fail or fall short of what could have been.

You may know, for example, that you need an assistant, but the analysis does not go straight from job title to crafting a want ad.  The intermediate steps are being missed.  What made previous candidates unsuccessful?  What will make a star? Do you ask for submissions (beyond just the resume) that are geared toward finding out if a candidate possesses those strengths or weaknesses?  Are interviewers actually trained?

Don’t get me wrong.  I liked David’s presentation a lot.  I think behavioral assessments have real credibility.  My point, however, is that that old computer-based adage GIGO (garbage in-garbage out) holds true.  Unless you know precisely what you’re looking for and whether your organization can support a person with those skill sets…and vice versa…your hiring initiative will fall short.

After all, where people are concerned, there’s only so much that science can do.

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