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I’m looking for someone with 7 years of bad habits…

Bad habits, we all have them. As leaders and developers of human capital in any organization, do we ever stop to reflect internally about our bad habits when it comes to hiring? Well I have, and let me be frank with the subject. Our hiring practices need a drastic change. There are “5 Common Myths” that I hear about when it comes to hiring that are just untrue and possibly damaging to your organization. Read on and see how many may apply to you.


Myth 1: Experience Matters

Why We Think This:

We assume that experience is equivocal to our own. We have been in our positions for some time, and generally speaking we are great at what we do. Some of us have held the position we are hiring for, and wouldn’t it be great to find someone who does the job as great as we used to?

The Fallacy in This Argument:

Experience can be a blessing and a curse. Eight years of experience does not mean that it was successful and it does not mean that they can work at the same success rate in your organization. Most of us watch sports and we all understand that most coaches have significant experience. What we don’t consider is that that experience is not really what we are looking for. We assume that their experience means they will have great success. While the two are often related, that is not always the case.

The Truth of the Matter:

The truth is, experience can easily mean just 7 years of bad habits and stubborn ways. While they may not take as much time to learn the job, they may have greater difficulty learning the corporate culture. Look for examples of success and achievements, over experience. Do you think that Mark Zuckerberg is more qualified to run your website than someone with 20 years experience in a medium-sized computer shop?


Myth 2: The Degree Type Matters

Why We Think This:

We need a manager, so a degree in management is necessary.

The Fallacy in This Argument:

Most degrees cover core classes and some people have natural skills that classes may not be able to cover. To believe that only one degree fits into your organization leaves out other possibilities.

The Truth of the Matter:

If your company needs to change the culture and improve morale and productivity, looking for an MBA seems like the best idea in the world. What have done through this mentality is close out the possibility that a person with a degree in organizational psychology may be up to the task. Give someone the chance to prove themselves.


Myth 3: My Agency Doesn’t Consider Any Prejudice When Hiring

Why We Think This:

We use Equal Employment Opportunity guidelines, I am not racist or full of prejudice, and we have things in place to prevent unfair hiring.

The Fallacy in This Argument:

Humans by nature are inquisitive and we are all raised with subconscious prejudices we have to address to overcome. The key is not to say that you don’t have a prejudice, it is to identify it, acknowledge it and overcome it.

The Truth of the Matter:

There are many prejudices we see and are unaware of in hiring. Would you consider someone who lives in Compton, California to be the best suited for an investment banking position? Would you look at an applicant named “LaQuaneesha Williams” and assume she is going to have the strong English and writing background needed to be a successful secretary? Would you assume that Jose Ortiz is going to add a much-needed bilingual associate to the team?

What if the person in Compton was living at home while attending UC Berkley for a degree in Finance? What if LaQuaneesha was adopted by parents in Connecticut and has impeccable grammar and English skills she learned while attending Cambridge? What if Jose was actually born in Philadelphia and raised by his English-only speaking mom and never spoke Spanish?

What if all these prejudices could enter your mind just from reading the top three lines of a resume?


Myth 4: Applicants Should Be Driven to Move Up The Ladder

Why We Think This:

If they don’t want to progress up the ladder, they are just here to collect a paycheck.

The Fallacy in This Argument:

Some people just love doing their job and don’t want that to change.

The Truth of the Matter:

Not all school teachers want to be principals. Some of them just want to teach. Do not prejudge someone because they love what they do. It may be better to bring in an outside prospective when filing a position, then to encourage people who are happy where they are at to move into a position they may or may not feel ready to handle.


Myth 5: Our Interview Process Is Cutting Edge

Why We Think This:

We think this because we use the latest questions and matrixes to determine the best candidate. It is almost a full scale psychological test.

The Fallacy in This Argument:

There are better and smarter ways to structure an interview.

The Truth of the Matter:

Step out of the box. Invite the top three candidates back and have them shadow a peer, or even the person they are replacing, for one to two hours. Then ask them to give you a presentation in one to three days about what they think they can add to the organization. Allow them to show you their attention to detail, observational, critical thinking, communication, and presentation skills; all while making the interview process much more enjoyable for everyone involved. Want to really see what they can do? Ask them to present the thing they liked the most about what they saw, and something they would like to change. Worst-case scenario, you get a new perspective on problems you may or may not have been aware of prior to the interviews.


Author: Jose Ortiz Jr., M.P.A


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One Response to I’m looking for someone with 7 years of bad habits…

  1. Tasa Proctor Reply

    May 6, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    This is an excellent article. As a recent MPA graduate myself I often think about hiring practices and how those processes need a facelift. The topic mentioned in your article expose why it is so important for us to think globally and embrace being a part of the “creative class” according to author Richard Florida. Sometimes a lack of cultural diversity builds a foundation of narrow mindedness in organizations. While being interviewed by a Fulbright Scholar from Chad about diversity issues and my experiences in the workplace and classroom, he shared with me how having an American education carries with it a certain prestige when abroad. An American education alone affords those interested in the global job market superb opportunities nonexistent in the US because of those “bad habits”. As for me, my thinking is, if those bad habits persist at home, there are vast opportunities abroad.

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