You’ve done the research. Background checks. Interviews. Exams.
You’ve talked to friends. Colleagues. Advisers. Your parents. Your pets.
But there are still nagging doubts. How do you know you’ve found the right person? I mean…how do you KNOW?
You don’t know. And that’s ok, because you can’t know.
…Or can you?
Why do people fail at jobs? Why do people fail at all?
There are lots of reasons. But there is one reason that is pervasive. This reason is pervasive because it’s unavoidable…it’s as unavoidable as the passage of time.
Before we depend on someone to do something for us, we need them to convince us they’re “qualified.” Convincing others – or ourselves – we’re “qualified” is what causes us to fail.
That’s because convincing someone you can do something is completely different than actually doing the thing itself (share this).
Consider: People run campaigns before they get elected to office to become politicians.
What makes a great campaigner?
The great campaigner revels in the spotlight. The great campaigner is an expert at reducing complexity with soundbites…digestible, repeatable catch phrases. A great campaigner builds a tribe….like-minded individuals who feed on one another.
The great campaigner is a master of manipulating emotion. It is on a groundswell of emotion that their political wave is built.
And so – the great campaigner gets elected. Does being a great campaigner qualify them to be a great politician?
Nope. Being a great campaigner does not qualify you to be an effective politician. In fact…the best campaigners are the LEAST qualified to hold office.
What makes someone an effective politician? Here’s what I found:
Careful listening. Consensus building. Leadership of peers through influence. Understanding of the governmental bureaucracy. Clear judgement in the face of complexity. Finding compromise, and bridging different – often equally valid – opinions on a subject.
Are there any other examples where being “qualified” doesn’t predict success?
- How about the fact that the LSAT isn’t the best predictor of whether or not you’ll pass the bar?
- And how well does the bar – the only qualification required to practice law – prepare you for the actual practice of law? I’m not an expert…but Ben Bratman is, and he has his doubts.
- I’m not just picking on lawyers. Standardized tests are probably bad at predicting success altogether. What they qualify you to do is take standardized tests.
- How about this: 89% of active fund managers failed to beat the market in the past five years. I guess what qualifies you to be a fund manager is boundless optimism. There’s always next year!
Qualifications are a proxy for time machines. If a person has achieved some qualification, we conclude they can do a certain job. And that can be true. But these things are also true:
- A person without a qualification can often do jobs as well as – or better than – people with them. What’s the most common qualification for any corporate job? A college degree. Here’s 100 multi-millionaires without college degrees, including Richard Branson, Zuck, Bill Gates, etc.
- In fact, Google doesn’t really care about college degrees or other traditional qualifications.
- Qualified people often can’t do a job. That could be for any number of reasons. A big one is simply that time passes. My master’s thesis was called “Design and Implementation of a Signal Interface System for Optimal Control of 3-Phase Motors.” If you didn’t understand that…don’t worry. I don’t either, and I wrote it. (Don’t hire me to optimize your three phase motors.)
So…if qualifications can’t predict success, then what can? How can you hire the best person? How can you set them – and yourself, as their manager depending on them to deliver something – up for success?
To hire the best, change your focus from the past to the future (share this).
Don’t focus on qualifications. Qualifications document the past. Your focus is on the future – the job that needs doing.
How do you think of your own ability? It’s not simply “the things you’ve done.”
Your ability = applying the things you’ve done to the things you’re about to do (share this). That’s what you need to evaluate in your candidate.
I try to keep these three things in mind:
- The Hard Skills. Evaluate the actual job that needs doing. Are you hiring an analyst? Ask them to analyze something…if possible, an actual problem you’re trying to fix. Are you hiring a sales person? Put them in front of a customer. Get creative and ask for help.
- The Soft Skills. Who’s doing the job and killing it right now? Think broadly across your whole network, not just in your company…or your industry. Talk to that person. Buy them dinner. If they drink, buy them at least 3 of whatever they like. Understand why they’re so successful. How do they build consensus? How do they lead through influence? How do they make decisions?
- The Motivation. What motivates the person? What will have them boot up their machine on a Friday night because that’s the thing they most want to do? Are they a problem / puzzle solver? Do they love thrilling users and having people depend on them for critical functions? Is it the pursuit of money? Fame and notoriety? Find this out – and find out if your job can provide it.
The outcome of this analysis should be: a person with the skills you need, who is like the best in the industry, that is motivated to deliver.
Did the last person you hired check those three boxes? Did you check them before you accepted your current job? Would things be different if you did?
What do you do to make sure you’re hiring the best?