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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Right Person for the Right Job: There Is A Better Way



There are some "old-fashioned" Jewish traditions I agree with. One of them is the concept of a matchmaker.

This person knows the boy's family, knows the girl's family, interviews each, and by the end of the day can tell whether a first date would be worthwhile.

The matchmaker assesses whether boy and girl would like each other based on:
  • Status factors - rabbinic lineage, degrees, looks
  • Technical criteria - religious observance level and knowledge
  • Cultural criteria - "two Jews, three synagogues" means there are as many cultural combinations as for a Starbucks latte, and
  • Psychological criteria - if "he's nuts" and "she's nuts" in sort of a similar way it could work :-)
You may tell me that this sounds a bit obnoxious but I would counter that it's actually very rational to filter people on the factors that matter rather than the ones that don't. 
Imagine if people had to fill out a federal government application before they went out on a date:
  • Question 1. Have you dated this person or the equivalent for 1 year?
  • Question 2. Please describe your level of experience interacting with individuals residing in a suburban community of 50,000-150,000 in the state of New Jersey between the years of 2000-2005. 
  • Question 3. In the box below, describe in which relationship you obtained the above listed experience. Provide narrative that shows you have the following competencies: emotional intelligence, event scheduling, and dusting ancient window blinds.
Who exactly are you going to recruit but the person who left that exact job to go somewhere else because it didn't work?

Imagine we got a matchmaker/recruiter to fill jobs for us instead. But instead of having one person do the job, we'd always get a cross-functional panel - to reduce the likelihood of bias.
A system like this might seem complicated and unscientific, but I think it could actually work. It would be like The Walking Dead - we could pick team members that might actually help us survive a zombie attack.

Seriously - we do need to rethink how we approach government hiring. Because -- to put it in IT-speak -- if you can't be clear about your business requirements going into the hiring process, then you'll pay for it down the road with a project (employee) who can't do the job and who can't be gotten rid of all that easily.

Poor hiring practices lead to dysfunctional teams. Especially in today's knowledge and collaboration-based environment.

Let's have the guts to admit pseudoscientific initial screening makes no sense. And instead replace it with a system based on initial resume screening followed by intensive and wide-ranging peer interviewing. 

Committed relationships are the basic building blocks of society. This is true at home and at work. We ought to respect the reality of the situation, and not throw imaginary criteria at the wall and hope to emerge with winners.