Why You Should Never Forget That Hiring is Always a Crap Shoot!
Over the last couple of weeks I have been listening to a very interesting audio book, What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell. It is a compilation of a bunch of his articles that were published in The New Yorker. The collection covers a wide variety of topics on everything from Cesar Milan, The Dog Whisperer to the story of Ron Popeil – you know the guy from the infomercials who sells the Showtime Rotisserie – “Just Set it, and forget it!” There was one article that really grabbed my attention, it is called Blowup and is all about the underlying causes of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986.
In the article Gladwell discusses the theory of “risk homeostasis.” Here is how he describes it:
"under certain circumstances, changes that appear to make a system or an organization safer in fact don’t. Why? Because human beings have a seemingly fundamental tendency to compensate for lower risks in one area by taking greater risks in another."
In other words, when an environment becomes safer, humans will take comfort and lower their guard. It is why there are more fatalities of pedestrians who use marked crosswalks than those who don’t. Jaywalkers are more careful and are on the look out for oncoming traffic. It is why there are studies that show higher occurrences of poisonings among children even after the introduction of childproof lids on medicine bottles. It’s because adults are less diligent about keeping them out of their reach.
So what does this have to do with hiring? I have always believed that no matter how advanced the art and science of Screening and Selection, making a hiring decision is always a roll of the dice. We have invested a lot in advancing the process of hiring, and we have certainly come a long way. But it does not matter how good your behavioral questions are, how deep the assessment tool, or even if you run comprehensive simulation exercises. You might be able to reduce risk, but there is always risk. All of the technology in the world won't change that.
Until that person shows up and performs, we are only guessing as to how it will all play out. If we are not too careful, we may end up falling in love with our sophisticated processes and application of scientific methods, and forget that hiring people involves risk. Don’t lower your guard. Stay focussed and use your common sense observations and fully explore any red flags that catch your attention.
Don’t ever forget that every single hiring decision is always a little bit of a crap shoot!