Archive for November, 2008

Voting for a Candidate

November 4, 2008

On this momentous election day, we’re all focused on carrying out our civic duty by voting for the candidates that we feel comfortable backing.  How did you come to your decision?  Was it the lesser of two evils?  Fear based?  Strong connection on one or two issues that mean a great deal to you?  Something less tangible that you can’t quite put your finger on, like going with your gut or sense of chemistry?

Equally fascinating to me is how hiring managers go about deciding on which candidates to hire.  After all, there’s no rulebook on hiring, other than remaining mindful of discriminatory and other legal matters.   So how do hiring managers decide on whom to hire?

Just as with our presidential election decision criteria, many hiring managers fall on either the all tangible or all intangible side of the fence.

The all tangibles may include some of the following factors:

  • Percent quota attainment over the last 7 years
  • Number of years experience in the domain
  • Number of enterprise accounts closed in financial services, healthcare, and automotive in the last 5 years
  • Response rate increase of integrated marketing campaigns designed and managed
  • Experience with GAAP, SOX, and FAS 123
  • MBA

The all intangibles may involve these decision elements:

  • The extent to which the conversation felt natural and flowing
  • Listening and empathy skills
  • Passion
  • Natural sense of inquisitiveness
  • Self-awareness
  • Creativity

Is either side of the equation more apt to make the right hiring decision?  Not necessarily.  Yet, it seems that all too often, hiring managers hire for tangibles (ostensibly because they’re easier to identify), and end up firing for lack of intangibles.  The point here is to strike a balance.  If you’re not sure how to unearth the intangibles, ask your recruiting professional.  If they’ve been a hiring manager in the past, they ought to know how to ferret out these attributes.

Another point worthy of consideration, which seems to elude the presidential voting public, is that no candidate is 100% perfect.  As human beings, whether a presidential or account exec candidate, we are all flawed.  Expecting perfection and thinking that we see perfection in candidates is outright delusional.  Along similar lines, whether the voting public or a hiring manager, we too have our flaws and biases.  It’s equally critical to become introspective for a moment and gain some clarity on how our own flaws and biases may affect our decisions.  How level a playing field are we truly making it for the candidates?

One major objective of interviewing and considering candidates is to identify their flaws and categorize their impact on the role.  As such, when choosing a candidate, understand that there exists an inherent leap of faith – a leap of faith that the candidate has the tangible background to make him/her suitably qualified for the role; a leap of faith that the candidate possesses the necessary intangible qualities to fit, not just for the immediate job and organizational needs, but for one or two years out; and a leap of faith that the flaws will not impede a candidate’s success in the role.  By the way, strong intangibles may also serve to manage the flaws from a self-development standpoint.

So which candidates are you voting for and why?  Make sure that when you answer that question, you understand the basis for your decision.

Action Items:

  • Balance tangible qualities with intangibles and know how to qualify intangibles
  • Remember that all candidates are flawed
  • Understand your own biases and how that may affect your decisions