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Hire People For Their Mindset, Not Their Pedigrees

There’s been a longstanding debate about how we should be hiring people, specifically, what we should anchor our hiring decisions too? Is it the quality of their work experience? The amount of experience? The amount and type of degree? Past employers with name recognition (e.g. Google)? You can talk to any recruiter, hiring manager or HR professional about what they believe when it comes to recruitment and you’ll likely get many different answers. Well, I would say there are no right or wrong answers but, I strongly believe that what we are anchoring our hiring decisions on needs to change. 

Let me ask a question. Can you confidently say that all things being equal when you are making a hiring decision between candidate A and B that a key deciding factor would be the number of years of experience? More than 80% of job postings identify a required minimum number of years of experience so if I asked my original question to 100 hiring managers, more than 80 would likely respond that this metric matters. 

What’s the problem? According to research, evaluating job experience alone predicts future job performance with 16% accuracy. This is a pretty poor statistic yet job experience is heavily relied on by recruiters and hiring managers. Why? My guess is that evaluating job experience is easier to do. It’s pretty black and white when you’re looking at hard numbers and hard skills. Venturing into a gray area is uncomfortable and far more difficult to do. Looking back on my career, particularly early on, I distinctly remember that screening decisions were based mostly on the number of years of experience. At the time, I never really questioned it. However, with more experience, I analyzed hiring decisions by on-the-job performance and retention. Needless to say, the results were very similar to the 16% accuracy rate above. 

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If experience is a poor indicator of future success, what should we be looking for? I am not advocating that we completely ignore experience. A candidate still needs to possess the key skills of a job. You can’t successfully hire an Accountant to be a Software Developer and expect the person to hit the ground running. Now that we have clarified that, what should we be looking for? The answer is “mindset”. 

What does mindset have to do with this?

To be honest, it has everything to do with hiring. A candidate still needs to have some level of proficiency but, the world now changes faster than ever before. The global COVID-19 pandemic shows that things can change overnight. The skills that you hired for yesterday may be obsolete tomorrow. How you manage work shifted rapidly from everyone commuting to one physical place to geographically distributed teams relying heavily on collaborative technology. 

The only way organizations will survive and thrive is with a workforce that embodies the “growth mindset”. Every single one of your employees could be technical rockstars today but if they don’t possess a growth mindset, what makes them a rockstar today could result in them failing miserably tomorrow. 

Growth mindset, according to Carol Dweck and her fantastic book, “Mindset”, is when “people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and resilience that is essential for great accomplishment”. The opposite of a growth mindset is a “fixed mindset” when people believe their intelligence or talent are unchangeable so they do not believe in developing themselves; they believe that talent alone creates success; no effort is required. 

Given that organizations are in a constant state of change, ambiguity and development, who would you rather hire? The candidate who believes in continuous learning, is open to giving and receiving feedback, effectively handles obstacles and challenges, and is a champion of change? Or, someone who possesses the opposite qualities? The “Intelligent Jerk” or “Know-it-All” who doesn’t like to share information, constantly defending and justifying without asking questions or showing any interest in their colleagues? They may rarely contribute to brainstorming and strategy decisions and may appear to be extremely closed-minded. 

The next time you are making a hiring decision and down to the final 2 candidates, anchor your decision to mindset. That candidate who may have less experience but has the tools to do the job, and more importantly, has a growth mindset, will always be the right hire.

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