Tuesday, June 2, 2009

hiring managers

Hiring managers seek to hire irrational individuals. Though this may not be immediately apparent from the perfectly normal job advertisements which dot the internet landscape, if you read closely, you'll see a trend towards lunacy.

For example, I was reading job description the other day. The hiring manager was elaborating on his ideal individual, and talked of wanting to find people who have an "insatiable desire to get things right", who, in all areas of their life, seek "perfection". He went on to wax eloquent about the individual who has an inner drive to get everything perfect.

Okay, Mr. Hiring Manager. Let's take a few steps back and relive our Econ 101 course. What is one of the first concepts we learned about rational decision makers? In order to optimize outcomes, they seek to set their marginal benefit equal to their marginal cost.

So what are you looking for? That's right, you're looking for people who are incapable of understanding the idea of marginal cost = marginal benefit. You're going to hire a bunch of people who can't work on things until it's good enough. Instead, they'll spend their time endlessly rehashing projects until they're perfect. I've worked with a fair number of those people, and let me tell you, they're not all they're cracked up to be.

I can't tell you how many times I've been on projects where no progress was made, because the perfectionists didn't like the interim solutions, and the full solution required too many resources to achieve. To take a completely unproven axiom, 80% of the benefits can often be achieved with 20% of the costs. It's often good enough just to make a decision and start moving, instead of endlessly haranguing over details.

Just as bad, I've been on plenty of teams where too much progress was made. The final product could have been achieved just as well without killing the team members. But alas, there are still people out there who don't set their marginal benefit equal to marginal cost.

In my world, I want to hire the dude/female form of dude who doesn't waste his/her time, and thus my valuable resources. If an A- requires 2 hours of work, and an A requires 15, guess what? I'll take the A- student any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

Please, reconsider your attempts to hire irrational decision makers. If they're irrational about every aspect of their life, they're going to be irrational in making company decisions.

Also, the fact that my GPA hit the toilet in my Master's program has in no way influenced my thinking on the subject...mmmhmmmm...and I have several bridges to sell you.

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