skip to Main Content
KPA Logo

Sometimes the Most “Boring” Hiring Practices Are the Most Effective

Toby Graham /
worker resting with post its with hand drawn eyes over face

It’s an old truism that hiring is like dating. Both require time, effort, and patience. The perfect match may not exist. First impressions matter, but it takes time to get to know someone. Sometimes, things just click—but even then, an ongoing relationship needs work and compromise to succeed. And like dating, hiring is frequently an uncomfortable and frustrating experience for all parties involved.

Perhaps it’s that last reason that inventive hiring tricks, tactics, hacks, and shortcuts crop up every day. When you’ve spent weeks or months trying to fill a role (and keep it filled), any alternative to the grueling process of hiring starts to sound appealing. As Laszlo Bock writes in a recent article in Behavioral Scientist:

“A lot of ink has been spilled and consultant hours racked up talking about the ins and outs of hiring heuristics. What deeply nuanced psychological traits should we be looking for? What tactics can you use to see them? What’s the one surprising trick that will help you identify the exceptional among the average?”

Bock discusses the novel interview questions real executives have asked would-be employees. Examples include “On a scale of one to ten, how weird are you?” (Tony Hsieh, Zappos founder),  “What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?” (Ashley Morris, Capriotti’s), and “What was the last costume you wore?” (David Gilboa, Warby Parker).

The purpose of these kinds of questions? To bypass standard hiring conversations and get at the heart of who a candidate truly is. But as intuitive as those questions may seem, and as interesting as the answers may be, Bock argues they don’t tell you much about, you know, a person’s ability to do the job:

“The truth is, the best way to hire isn’t outrageous, groundbreaking, or clickbaity. It’s incredibly structured and boring. And that’s why no one does it.

Too many people see hiring as an instinct art form, honed by years of their own experience: when asked, three-fourths of people involved in the interview process at elite law, banking, and consulting firms admitted to making hiring decisions based on their gut.

How does one stack-rank applicants who most recently dressed up as an ice cream sundae or a box of crayons?

But our instincts are rarely, if ever, scientifically valid. Humans are error-prone creatures. We get excited about people who have impressive zombie apocalypse strategies or send thank you notes—and then we hire them over candidates who might have become our best-performing employees.”

In lieu of a radical new way to hire employees, Bock leaves readers with 5 proven ways to “replace hubris with heuristics” and realistically identify the right candidates:

  1. Define job attributes
  2. Ask for a work sample
  3. Ask behavioral questions
  4. Average scores and make a decision
  5. Constantly check that your hiring process actually works

Hmm. Those same steps could work for dating, too… Well, maybe skip #2.

Read “Hiring Isn’t Rocket Science: Why the Most Boring Strategy Is Best.”

Back To Top Services: Compliance Services Services: Workplace Health and Safety Services Services: Environmental Risk Management Services About: Leadership Software: Online Training About: Who We Are Resources: Library Resources: Events and Webinars Resources: Blog YouTube Twitter LinkedIn