So, a little while ago Google admitted that its infamous trick questions were not particularly effective at finding good employees. We tried that at Falstaff and I want to say it clinched the job for someone perfectly. Not because she got the answer right. I can’t remember. But because as soon as the interview was over, she went home, looked it up, and sent us an email. I said that I “want to say it clinched”… but I really can’t. She already had the job, for which she was 30x too qualified. If we had any concern, it was that she didn’t want the job, and her going to the trouble of looking it up alleviated that fear. But seriously, we were going to hire her anyway. She had it before she showed up, barring flatulence and maniacal laughter (and even then…). She still works there.
McArdle wrote about how the interviewing system in general sucks. Nobody’s any good at it:
Resume and past work history are much better predictors of future performance. The problem is that in most fields, these are hard to ascertain unless you’re pretty prominent. It’s a bit easier as a journalist than in most other fields–if someone contacts me about writing for them, I can be pretty sure that they know and like my output. But even there, there will always be questions. How much did my editors contribute? What goes on inside most companies is even more opaque.
It’s really scary, when you think about it, how little information is conveyed throughout the entire process. I once almost interviewed myself into a position for which I was almost completely unqualified. I nipped and tucked my resume to make it sound like it was not entirely different from the job I had done before, even though it was. I described it in such a way that it sounded compatible. It wasn’t until they told me about the job that I realized how far in over my head I was potentially going to be. I was relieved when I was told that I had not gotten the job. Either they were insanely good flatterers, or I was being seriously considered.
All of this is to say that there is a solution to a lot of this. But it’s not something employers want to hear. First, hang on to the people you have that you know to be worthwhile. Seriously. Hang on to them. You may be able to replace them, but you may not be or you may go through some rotten candidates before you do. And second, hang on to the people you have that you know to be worthwhile. That one deserves being mentioned twice. Third, related to the other two, promote from within. If good people are hard to find, keep those people around by giving them more money and more responsibility.
I have said some really rotten things about Bregna, another former employer, but one thing that I will say about them is that they had a lot of entry-level jobs that seemed to be there in large part to identify the people they wanted for non-miserable, non-entry jobs. You don’t have to antagonistically alienate employees as Bregna did and define desirability basically by whether they put up with it or not, but hiring entry level people with an eye towards later training them is a pretty solid idea.