A comment on Twitter recently caught my eye:
If you want to hire better employees, you must interview more candidates. The more people you talk to; the better chances are of making a great hire.
I understand the logic – managers want to talk to as many people as possible to make sure they hire the best person. But this also assumes what managers are doing is comparing candidates to each other…not to the company standard.
Here’s a similar example I’ve dealt with before. We have a sales department with 10 people. Each sales person has a goal to sell $1M annually. It’s the end of the year and time for performance evaluations. The manager ranks everyone in the sales team by annual sales and wants to give the biggest increase to the person who sold the most and the smallest increase to the person who sold the least. Makes sense, right?
What if I told you that the person who sold the least…sold $10M? Yep, they sold 10 times their goal.
Somehow it doesn’t seem right to give the smallest increase to a person who significantly exceeded their goal. Because the problem isn’t the person. It’s probably that the goal is too low.
I’ve also seen this happen before with award programs. One of the biggest arguments I’ve ever gotten into with a colleague was about how many qualified people are needed in order for it to be enough. The organization had a handful of qualified award nominees. My colleague wanted more. I thought we had enough. The disagreement escalated. Feelings were hurt along the way. In the end, the board decided we had enough nominees. But it should have never gotten to that point.
Now, let’s go back to our hiring example. The manager wants to interview dozens of people even though they’ve been presented with people who are perfectly qualified based on the company standard. At what point does the hiring process stop being about finding people who meet the company’s needs and turn into an exercise about how many extra skills the company can get with no increase in salary?
I’m telling these stories because, at some point, we have to decide how much is enough. And the way that happens is by comparing qualifications to the standard. If you constantly compare people, you’ll always wonder if there’s someone out there who’s better and should you continue to look for them.
When you compare qualifications to the standard, you know when the standard is met (or not). And if for whatever reason, you can’t find someone who meets the standard (or everyone seems to meet the standard), then the answer is to re-evaluate the standard – not the person.1