Hiring people is perhaps the most difficult job a manager has. A bad fit can be incredibly expensive in terms of salary, lost productivity, and the eventual cost of searching for a new candidate. Even bad hires can put on a good face during an interview or produce a polished resume. The best leaders find ways to see through that. In an interview with The New York Times’ Adam Bryant, Badgeville CEO Kris Duggan describes a great tactic his company uses.
His company gives hires, at every level and in every function, a homework assignment. And it doesn’t set a deadline. That’s a great idea for a number of reasons:
It overcomes biases
“I’ve found that there are so many biases that we create or imagine when we’re going through the hiring process — this person came from that school or they seem very polished,” Duggan says.
When they’re asked to put pen to paper and actually do something related to their job, those biases are less important, and people can’t hide if they’ve oversold their skill set. You also get an unmatched view of how they actually think, write, and work.
It shows what kind of worker you are
The open ended nature of the assignment is extremely important, Duggan says:
” … we’d never say, “You owe us the homework by tomorrow.” We would say: “We’re very interested in you, and we’d like you to do some homework, and here’s the assignment. Do you have any questions about that? And when would you like to submit the homework?” That’s one way we can test for their behaviour — do they get it done on time, or do they make excuses because it’s late?“
If a hire can’t get it together enough to quickly and independently get you one piece of work, that’s likely to be magnified many times if they’re actually hired. Especially for higher level positions, some people might be reluctant to do homework. That tells you something as well.
The best employees don’t need constant deadlines or to have their hand held constantly. If you expect that from your workers, it should be part of the hiring process.
They can compare a consistent piece of work between candidates
If you’re hiring for a specific higher level position, ask them to provide a plan for what they’d do. They’re going to have to enact one anyway, and comparing the same type of work from several different candidates can go a long way towards helping you make a final decision.
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