How do you decide whom to hire? Do you rely on your recruiter? Does HR call the shots? Do you interview and then call their references?
Let’s say you’re hiring a juggler or a chef—would you hire either without watching them juggle or tasting a meal?
Of course not! Then why do we do just that—hire sight unseen—so frequently when we’re hiring knowledge workers, leaders, managers?
Bring back the audition
My family and I took a short hike this winter on a local segment of the Buckeye Trail, an Ohio trail with a central loop and a few spurs that allows hikers to walk all around the state on its 1440 miles.
The highlight of our little hike is Bridal Veil Falls in Bedford Reservation. Near there, in the snow, I saw a memorial plaque with this quote:
You can’t tell how far a frog will jump by looking at him
And it hit me: when we hire, we spend so much time looking at candidates, reviewing their resumes, asking them behavioral questions but we so infrequently (if ever!) ask them to jump.
Maybe you’re not hiring frogs to jump. Maybe your people code, or fix systems or diagnose slow web sites or determine root cause or write copy or lead people.
How long would it take to work out an audition script for your candidates? A short coding exercise, a fast tour through an ailing system, a quick writing essay or a small-group game? Be inventive, a little off-the-wall and make it fun. (Run it by HR if you feel you must.) But do it.
Take notes and observe, then after the audition, compare thoughts with the rest of your interview team.
Or do you think you can tell how far a frog can jump just by looking at him?