by Sean Hull
I was watching an episode of the classic Star Trek series recently where Bones and Spock were having one of their usual debates. Spock was emphasizing rational & logical analysis, while Bones was explaining that there was “just something I don’t like” about that man. Spock responds asking for specifics, without which he cannot make a logical conclusion about the man. Bones’ response “Spock, you can’t evaluate a man by logic alone”.
If only we could keep this in mind when we interview candidates for positions be they great and small, we’ll go a long way towards hiring the best people.
Certifications and Resumes
Extending this argument a bit, one might say that reviewing someone’s certifications, resume, and line items of job experience we’ll have a good picture of what they have done, and what they can do. What we’re saying implicitly is that we can use “logic alone” to determine who is the best candidate.
I’ve discussed certifications in the past as sometimes misleading indicators of and measures of quality in the IT industry. One might generalize that with respect to degrees completed and colleges attended. Not to say that these are irrelevant factors, but that they can be misleading if they’re all that one looks at.
In issue 17 of the newsletter we quoted Anthony Bourdain on hiring people. It was such a good quote, I’ll repeat it again here. Note “Bigfoot” is the codename for some famous restauranteur he doesn’t want to name specifically:
“Bigfoot understood — as I came to understand — that character is far more important than skills or employment history. And he recognized character — good and bad — brilliantly. He understood, and taught me, that a guy who shows up every day on time, never calls in sick and does what he said he was going to do is less likely to f**k you in the end than a guy who has an incredible resume but is less than reliable about arrival time. Skills can be taught. Character you either have or don’t have. Bigfoot understood that there are two types of people in the world: those who do what they say they’re going to do — and everyone else.”
Experience and Track Record
So given all of that what about ones experience and track record. Well References are often requested, but rarely followed up on. These can be a treasure trove of anecdotal evidence of a persons real-world successes. They can speak to how the person performs in real situations, and what they have brought to the table. These are why we find testimonials so valuable. But one of course should apply a critical ear to these, and even request references from specific key people that would have a complete picture of the individual being hired.
In terms of track record, what has and has not happened under the person’s watch? What successes have they brought to the business? What revenue could be attributed to their decisions and actions. Sometimes doing less is more.
Conclusion I think when most people watch Star Trek they certainly identify with what Spock is saying, they want to be impartial, and judge fairly. But when they hear Bones words “you cannot evaluate a man by logic alone” it resonates with most of us at a deep level. We know it’s true, but have a hard time applying it. It’s not easy to go with your gut, and trust your instincts. But as Bourdain points out above, skills can be taught, but character you either have or you don’t. Don’t throw logic out the window obviously, but also don’t evaluate on logic alone.
by John J. Ratey MD
Although not immediately and obviously about business, this book is a must read for anyone looking to be more productive. Whether it be to stay young and agile, perform better at work, get more hours in a day, or feel more energetic, Ratey’s book explains that more and more studies are pointing squarely at exercise as a key.
In concluding paragraph he notes “The point I’ve tried to make — that exercise is the single most powerful tool you have to optimize your brain function — is based on evidence I’ve gathered from hundreds and hundreds of research papers…” That’s not just to say that it provides all the physical benefits, along with lifting your mood and boosting motivation, but it actually also fosters cells to grow in your brain which we’re otherwise losing. That powerful stuff indeed.