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Do You Really Want Data? Or Just Pretty?

Tim Sackett, SPHR, is HR’s ultimate Mama’s Boy!  After 20 successful years leading HR and Talent Acquisition departments for Fortune 500s and smaller technical firms, Tim took over running the contingent staffing firm HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, Mich.  Serving as the  president, Tim runs the company his mother started over 30 years ago, and don’t tell Mom, but he probably doesn’t do it as well as she did! 

William Tincup is one of the country’s leading thinkers on social media application for human resources, an expert on adoption of HR technology and damn fine marketer.  William has been blogging about HR-related issues since 2007.  He’s a contributor to Fistful of Talent, Human Capital Institute, Human Capitalist, HRTechEurope and HRExaminer and also co-hosts a daily HR podcast called DriveThruHR.  Tweet him @williamtincup and check him out on Facebook.  Not up to speed in the social media game? Reach out via email.

William Tincup and I had the honor of presenting recently at HREvolution in Las Vegas. The title of our presentation was “Even ‘A’ Players Have Hickeys, but You Wouldn’t Know That.”  HREvolution is an “unconference” so fun titles are encouraged, and PowerPoint decks are discouraged. William and I decided to do a hiring workshop — well kind of.  We presented five VP of HR candidates to the group, and told them they were the hiring manager, the CHRO.  We gave the full resume and profiles that had extensive background information: demographics, sexual orientation, political affiliation, credit scores, Myers Briggs type, insider information from internal references, etc.  Basically, everything and more you would ever want to know about a candidate.

We then let the group “interview” each candidate (we had HR friends stand in as actors of each profile) for three minutes.  Our only requirement to the actors was play it like you want the job.  Our friend, Jennifer McClure, knocked her three minute interview out of the park.  When we had the group vote individually on who they would choose, more than 90% choose Jennifer.  For those who don’t know Jennifer, she is smart, she is pretty and she speaks very well.  She obviously would be a great hire for VP of HR.

Therein lies the problem.  All five candidates were very good on paper, and Jennifer had some hickeys!  Her ‘character’ hadn’t actually worked in HR for 9 years and she had a timid Myers Briggs profile type.  She was currently in Operations with Zappos (a company known for great HR practices) and had a previous background in HR prior to moving to operations.

So, why did 90% choose her over four other well suited candidates?  That was the question the struck William and I almost immediately.  We had designed the presentation and candidates to get an equal vote across all five, instead we ended up with a landslide.

Below is the conversation William and I had at dinner that night:

Tim: Cup (l call William ‘Cup’ privately and he calls me ‘Sack’, we’re 12 year old boys at heart) I didn’t see that coming.  A room full of some of the top HR pros in the industry just did everything we harp on our hiring managers not to do – They choose pretty!

William: Sack – they chose pretty because it was the safe play.  In a room full of mavericks, they did what we all tend to do… they offered the job to the candidate that was one of the safest picks.  We talk a big game… a bold game but we’re actually fairly timid when it come right down to it.  They dismissed her hickeys.  They rationalized her time away from HR as a good thing not a bad thing.  At the end of the day, she interviewed better than the other four candidates.     

 The funny thing is… when we announced to the audience that Jennifer was offered and accepted another job the crowd makes a collective sigh.  On NO… we really liked her… now what? 

 What we did next was pure meanness… we broke the audience up in to small (5-9) people and asked them to re-consider the four remaining candidates.  The rules were simple… they had to offer one of the four remaining candidates the gig AND they had to unanimously agree on their group pick.  Oh, and they had 10 minutes to nail that down.

 So Sack, what was interesting to you about phase 2 of our session?

Tim: Cupcake – Phase 2 was funny because it that’s when we saw everyone turn back into ‘real’ HR Pros again – wait we need more…DATA!  No you don’t, you’ve got plenty of data.  What you need is another white, in shape, good looking candidate, that smells like Jasmine (not that Jen smells like Jasmine, I may or may not have been that close to her)!  With what we witnessed, which was an awesome exercise that companies should hire us to come do onsite at their organization, does it scare you with the number of video interviewing/screening products being pimped on the market right now?

William: Sacktastic – the video interviewing technologies do not scare me but they all need to do a better job preparing candidates for the experience.  Video is hyper personal but vaguely distant.  I’m in the room but I’m not in the room.  We can see each other but we can’t feel each other.  That sounds weird but you know what I mean.

IMHO, it’s better than NOT interviewing someone… and it’s nice to get view points from a massive amount of internal people that “couldn’t” interview the potential candidate.  It should force us to discuss the issues.  What questions are important, what answers are important… we should give candidates style AND substance points.  What I liked about Candidate #1 was … I don’t think Candidate #2 gave a great answer to said question, etc.  And because most of these video interviews are recorded… everyone can review the same thing.  So … I like that.

However… we’re still favoring interviews… and interviews favor the beautiful.  Style almost always beats substance.  Which kind of sucks because I wish we were bolder than that.  I would have hired Sumser or Mary Ellen as they are both contrarians.  Both of them had considerable hickeys but both would have been bold hires.

So Sack… who would you have hired?

Tim. Jennifer. She was the prettiest.


Link to original postOriginally published on MonsterThinking

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