Screw Fit

Originally published on Linkedin

I love when events conspire to create “a teachable moment.” That’s what happened this week when two interview debriefs and a magazine article conspired to offer a topic that should cause HR professionals to stop and think instead of follow the yellow brick road thoughtlessly. Here’s what happened.

Someone I represented had 7 phone and Skype interviews with hiring managers for an $80000 a year computer security job. They invited him in for an in-person where he met with 4 people who decided he wouldn’t fit in their firm. In at least 3 previous interviews a potential start date is discussed. Now it is determined he doesn’t “fit.”

In a second instance, I re-introduced someone to a client for a position where he was the best qualified person in his geographic area to do the job. He previously interviewed for the role almost a year go, went through 9 interviews and was not hired nor receive feedback (that may have been the recruiter’s fault not the company’s).

No matter, when he sat down with the hiring manager for coffee a few weeks ago, the hiring manager said that the staff that would report to him thought he would be too tough and his boss thought he would be too soft.

In the first case, this person with whom a start date is discussed on multiple occasions doesn’t fit; in the second case, one constituency thinks their manager will be too tough and another thinks he’ll be too soft.

You can’t make this stuff up!

The final instance involved a Time Magazine cover story, “How High is Your XQ?” that tries to objectify personality tests as a legitimate qualification for hiring someone. Mentioned in the article is that one company President wouldn’t want to take the test his firm administers for fear of finding something out for himself and that some tests take hours to take and, apparently are not regularly saved by the system so that if your wifi goes down for a moment all data is lost and you need to take this exam over again.

The tests claims subtle understanding of behavioral and attitudinal characteristics from answering questions like these:

True or False.

“ I never get angry.”

“My parents praised me for my achievements.

“When I was young, I sometimes felt like leaving home.”

There are obviously many more questions asked in these tests but ultimately the game plan is to ascertain fit based upon an analysis of “big data” designed to predict fit for a job.

The claim, as the article points out is that “D (for data) + A (for analytics)= GH (good hire).

Do you notice anything missing here?

How about qualifications and experience?

Examples used are JetBlue and Bridgewater Associates, two extremely successful organizations in their advocacy for such exams neglect to mention two little things.

These good hires often wind up putting resumes in my inbox (and other recruiters, of course) because they are hired for jobs that are misrepresented to them to work for and with people they loathe.”

These alleged qualifications may not meet what the federal government defines as bona fide occupational qualifications.

A BFOQ are qualities or attributes of a prospective or current employee that an employer is allowed to consider under law for the purpose of hiring or retention . The qualifications may include gender, age and national origin, if those characteristics are considered essential to the job requirements. In order to prove that the qualifications are necessary, the company must show that they are critical to the success of the activities to be carried out by that individual.

From my statistics class from my Masters’ program, I recall that the definition of terms to be used by an analytic measurement instrument is critical to determining the validity of the instrument. From my CPC training, I recall that a BFOQ cannot create an unreasonable and illegal expectation of those from a protected class.

Thus, when I consider the feedback about the first candidate (the security person), I question the validity of the assessment and am left to wonder about interviewer bias. They obviously determined that he was qualified over all those phone and Skype discussions yet, in person, they determined he wouldn’t “fit.” Does that set off your BS detector?

In the second instance, we have a “3 bears scenario.” Some people think he’s too tough. One thinks he’s too soft. How does that individual communicate he’s “just right?”

Finally, we have the alleged objectification of the evaluation of fit with the use of data and an analytic measurement” that professes to measure a person’s personality “fit” for a job based matching with existing performers. Heck! There were World War II Germans who thought like that and believed science was on their side!

Anyone ever consider that being good enough to match an incumbent may not be good enough? Anyone ever consider that you can exceed the qualities of the incumbent?

According to the article, the Bridgewater process is ongoing with feedback offered real time post employment onto what the writer describes as “a digital baseball card” critiquing employees based upon metrics determined as critical measures.

The claim of objectivity replacing a system of cronyism is the professed goal yet people learn the weak ones and the powerful ones in an organization and will suck up to the strong and crush the weak even in systems like these creating a digital version of “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” masquerading as objective data. Plus no two people measure the variables identically yielding fuzzy results (yes, statistics has a rebuttal for that. Sense doesn’t. I’ll stick with sense).

Ultimately, firms will have to learn the hard way that employing the notion of fit whether subjective (as in the first two examples) or allegedly objective (using data and analytics) eliminates the one person who can really make a difference to their firm . . .the genius.

Would these firms have ever hired Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison? They would fit in real well with those analytics if anyone could ever have gotten them to sit down for the tests.

Or Fred Smith (the guy who got a C on his paper at Yale outlining the idea that became FedEx)

Michael Dell, a college dropout and 19 year old dorm room businessman. He wouldn’t have even gotten to the test. He was dropout and would have been disqualified by many because he didn’t have a college degree.

JK Rowling?

Arianna Huffington?

Renegades are high risk/high reward people.

Most of your firms would like to have the additional billions that each provided their firms and the global economy.

Suck it up. Play big, not safe.


© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC 2015

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