Who You Should Hire

Every person is hired to perform or deliver something that you value. Considering the simplicity of this statement, why is it so hard? Why do large companies continuously hire dead weight?

It may sound like these are baseless questions, but looking at the numbers there is a serious problem with the talent that companies are hiring. In a macro analysis study by Gallup, 68.5% of employees were found to be disengaged at work. What does this mean? Gallup State of the American Workplace.PNGThat means in the US if you manage a team of 10 people or have 9 coworkers, almost 7 of those people will be “dead weight” employees. This means that these employees are “…essentially ‘checked out’. They’re sleepwalking through their work day…” Even worse, of these 7 employees, 1-2 of these employees will be actively disengaged. These actively disengaged employees cost US business an estimated $450-$550 BILLION a year.
So how can hiring this dead weight be avoided?

The biggest indicator of how someone is going to perform is based upon two things. Personality and willingness to learn. Identifying the personality traits that are needed in the job and sussing out a potential candidate’s personality is up to the person hiring, but with a shift in thinking and process can be done more effectively.

Make a Biography

At the end of the day, hiring someone just based upon interviews is flawed. With the candidate sitting in front of you most likely trying to sell themselves, how can we get to the core of someone’s personality and goals to ensure that they align to the organization?

According to Praxent’s Tim Hamilton, adapting the methodology from Who, the goal of an interview process should be to gather as much data on a candidate as possible. The focus should be on a broader scope than the professional life or face that is put forward in an interview. By asking about the details of someone’s past and constructing a story of the overall trajectory of an individuals life, trends and characteristics can be found that reveal personality traits that a person may not be explicitly aware of (or unwilling to reveal). The more data points that are able to gleaned from the gathering of this biography, the more confident that you can be that the person who you are interviewing has the personality traits that the team needs. By the time an individual is going through the hiring process, it is reasonable to assume that the personality of the individual is relatively solidified so the usefulness of the biography should be high. If a candidate doesn’t have the right personality now, it is unlikely anyone will be able to change or mold the candidates personality once hired.

Importance of Learners

From the details presented here (and other research), the finding is that all the types of employees learning on the job had a high correlation to job performance when compared to other variables. The implication? Hiring individuals who can and want to learn is the most likely way to hire top job performers. This may seem obvious, but what is not correlated to job performance and how does that match up to the regular hiring process?

Picture of Job Performance PredictorsThe correlation of job-performance with experience is .18 in this study, and in other studies as low as .03. Meaning that one of the most highly weighted factors (experience) that is brought in to asses candidates is not the most predictive of job performance.

If an organization conducted the best interview process ever and hired the most experienced and educated individuals, the hiring would be relying on a flawed methodology that doesn’t accurately account for and weigh the real predictors of job performance.

So what can we do?

Rely on measuring what is proven to lead to high job performance in the hiring process. Don’t heavily weigh an applicants experience other than to ensure the required technical skills. Ensure that the candidate has a goal and personality fit with what is needed for the position. Create an organization comprised of learners. Construct a biography, ascertain personality traits from this, and determine whether the candidate is willing to learn based upon their personality and goals. This may not be a sure-fire methodology, but it seems to be the best way currently available to ensure that the billions of loses incurred every year due to disengaged employees will not include a contribution from your organization.

Why Storytelling is Required

Storytelling and marketing is something that seems to be undervalued by technical individuals in the information technology field. The reason why I’m talking about this? Recently at SXSW in Austin, Contently hosted a talk where Shane Snow discussed the power of storytelling. While the audience attendance was a definitely skewed towards the marketing industry, the concepts that were presented can be applied to any idea or presentation that technical people are trying to sell to customers, managers, or co-workers.

Story Continuation

Shane, in his talk, brought up some interesting statistics that prove a powerful point. People tend to gravitate towards stories that build on existing lore and story lines. The area that was pointed to as proving his point? Movies. Shane mentioned a metric that can be used to demonstrate this. Movie revenue. The question is, does Shane’s theory prove true?Spiderman Movie Layout

If you look at the above, grabbed from The Numbers, it clearly shows a relative trend of decreasing sales revenue for Spider-Man movies. On close examination though, the biggest drop in revenue (~15%) when comparing a movie to its predecessor occurred between Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man…When the continuous story line from the first  three Spider-Man movies was broken.

Jurrassic park - Revenue

But…doing some spot checking, also reveals the opposite to be true. Looking at Jurassic Park’s history of revenues, it appears that sequels where the story line is broken can make just as much (or much more). In order to prove out this theory, it appears that more analysis would be needed to prove this point objectively…Maybe this is an oddity with re-boots of classic series?

Regardless, in SOME cases, when movies break from a continuous narrative there appears to be increased risk of people abandoning interest in the movie/idea.


Additionally, Shane mentioned the power of familiarity. When traveling abroad and being around unfamiliar scents, sounds, and tastes, people tend to gravitate towards the known. The perfect example that many can relate to? Beer. Heineken is sold in over 170 countries. When someone is given the choice between a familiar brand that may even be disliked and an unfamiliar brand, people generally choose the known brand that has familiarity. Thinking about the odd concoctions one might encounter when travelling abroad, what would you rather have?

Complexity of Content

The last point that was presented? The easier that content is to read and understand, the more popular it will be. Mark Twain has books that come up at around a 5th grade reading level according to Scholastic’s system. Even the more modern classics, depending on your point of view, come up at around the same reading level. The lesson? It may make us feel good communicating with big words, but it is not the most effective way to communicate.

So What?

At the end of the day, while these ideas are interesting, what can we learn? Everyone is trying to sell stories every day. In technology/knowledge work, it’s a new design or approach to solve a problem. These strategies can be used to communicate an idea effectively and gain the support of others when combined with logical arguments. Establish a narrative that creates a vision and compelling continuous story line. Do it in a way that anyone could understand, from developers to directors, technical to non-technical. Establish a brand, identifier, or name that people can familiarize themselves with. If technical people peddled ideas that have been implemented half as well as they implement them, it would be to everyone’s advantage. Playing to people’s logic works usually…playing to logic and human nature? Couldn’t hurt.

Uses of YouTube

Well, I’ve done Facebook, so might as well move onto YouTube right? Facebook of course has video, and who will win the YouTube vs. Facebook video showdown is very much up for debate. Due to the tech of both of the platforms being at the top of their game, and the user community of YouTube being just as atrocious as the Facebook there aren’t many surface level differences. So what distinguishes YouTube from Facebook?

How to Videos:

YouTube has always been a great channel for getting to how to videos. Everything from car repairs to software programming videos are on the site. Does the same content exist on Facebook? Let’s see…

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Comparing the two, YouTube looks much cleaner, and more to the point. I don’t see a “Trending” bar on the right side of the screen, or my Facebook friend’s post as the first result. This may be due to YouTube being owned by Google, but the search results are much cleaner and to the point.


In my Facebook post, I mentioned the low quality of content on the Facebook professional groups. With YouTube, the focus isn’t on the social aspect. When subscribing to a channel, all that is presented to the viewer is content from the channel. Due to this, the potential effect that the vapid user base of YouTube could have on getting to the content is minimized. Facebook puts the user community interactions front and center, while YouTube makes you dig to the comments section to interact with the fellow users.

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I subscribed to three channels, The Economist, Fizzle, and TedxTalks in order to explore a range of topics applicable to my career. While the focus of each of these three channels is different, the general reasoning behind the selections is that I want resources centered around world events and trends, with Fizzle throwing in more specific information on marketing, entrepreneurship, and building a brand. Having targeted content at your fingertips is always a good thing in my book. The other big plus of YouTube? Whatever of these three channels that I navigate to on YouTube, the information is displayed efficiently and the noise present in Facebook is not present.

Establishing an Online Presence:

YouTube offers to host videos for free, so why not take advantage of this…

The other plus? My high school friends aren’t friends with me on YouTube, so this is totally green pasture. Hosting videos on YouTube seems to be yet another location that an online presence can be established that is professionally facing. Overall, YouTube is much more usable and useful for video sharing and sharing non-personal information. I much prefer the subscriptions and search engine of YouTube to Facebook’s clutter.

If you are trying to build a personal brand, or learn about…really anything I guess? YouTube is a great source. Find channels that would be helpful, subscribe, and watch the content in an incredible friendly user interface. Additionally, if the mood strikes, anyone can easily post an elevator pitch to add a more personal touch to their online presence. If I have anything technical to show, or how to videos that I’m going to do, they will be on YouTube. At this point, I’m fully content to be a watcher until I have content that will be enhanced by sharing through video.