A Thing Called “References”
As an executive recruiter, I often get asked if I have a great feeling for people. And I often have to deal with a disappointed look when I explain that, unfortunately, we have no such supernatural powers. To the untrained eye, hiring on empathy is a great method. After all, if you’re going to spend 10+ hours a day with a person, you better really like them right? Well…
Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz was once asked about the company’s training programs and gave a rather flavorless response: “I hire people who were well-trained by their mothers. Good manners are the best training process we have.”
The message here is rather simple: hire people for all the skills you can’t teach them (or will take a very long time to do so) . The “unteachables” may include technical skills/languages, strong relationships in a given industry, phase-specific experience in a growing organization, and, finally, good manners. For a smart person, learning a new industry is a lot faster and easier than learning how to use a specific software design patterns.
A technical evaluation along with a simple competencies-based interview will go a long way towards reducing some of that “feeling” bias. And don’t forget about taking references. You can learn a whole lot more about a person by speaking to former colleagues that have spent those 10+ hours a day for years than by your 45 minute “feeling-filled” coffee.