About Herman’s (or is it Hiring Manager’s) Head
Back in the late 80’s, there was a sitcom called Herman’s Head which detailed the different personality aspects coursing through the mind of Herman Brooks, a twentysomething yuppie. Each aspect represented parts of him from lust, intellect, fear, and sensitivity. While this show did not run long (2 seasons) and suffered from campy writing, and even worse, poor ratings, it was innovative in that it represented how we struggle within ourselves for what we want.
Through this post, I hope to draw a parallel to that show by looking into the mind of a hiring team member (for the sake of this post, a hiring manager, although a recruiter could also apply) as they look to hire someone. What criteria is potentially examined? How is that criteria prioritized? What does this means to me as a candidate? Hopefully, we can pull this apart, examine this criteria, and gain some insight on how to better prepare ourselves.
To start with, I like looking at this as if we are in a large room where there are different buckets with unique labels:
Bucket # 1: Technical (or “Hard”) Skills
This bucket represents those defined skills that are the core or essential to the job: programming language expertise, proven abilities to write code, to weld a particular part, to build an architecture, to craft a sales strategy, etc.
Bucket # 2: Soft Skills
These skills may or may not have a direct impact on the job at hand: how to convince others, how to build consensus, how to think outside the box, how to challenge authority, how to mentor others, how to anticipate options and contingencies, how to manage failure, etc. And yet these same skills allow us to elevate the behavior of others to increase output, or extend our capabilities.
Bucket # 3: Interpersonal skills and traits
This is a sub-set of the soft skills component, but may go beyond the job. How do people relate to others, how do they balance life and work, what are their personal priorities, etc. Here, personal priorities, values and morales, scruples, and principles may affect perception, judgement, and character.
Bucket #4: Numbers focus
This may be more difficult to nail down and may not represent all hiring managers and/or recruiters equally. It may be true for a CEO , President, Director, or high-level manager, but may not be apparent to someone on the frontlines, whose focus is the day-to-day. And yet this is vital to understand where we are in the organization, and to comprehend what value we bring to that organization, and potentially to any where else we might move to.
That said, what does this all mean?
While each of the buckets above weighs in on the hiring process, some may carry more weight, or have more impact than others. When focusing on a technical role, I am very concerned with the specific work-related skills of someone’s background or experience. I want to know if the skills, experience and training that a candidate possesses will allow that candidate to be the MOST successful person to take on the position or role that I need them to fill. I’m not interested in whether this person has the bare minimum skills, or pre-requisites. I need convincing that of all candidates, this person can either sell the most, write the most (error-free) code, provide flawless presentations, etc. I’m not looking for the “also-ran,” who might be good, if we just give him or her a chance.
This is different if I’m considering an intern or co-op or someone very junior in a role. While I am still interested in demonstrated excellence, I may have more leeway, of they do not display concrete evidence of workplace excellence.
What happens if I run across a “great” candidate, that does not meet some of the areas or criteria listed above?
In reality, I wish I could say that hiring is an exact science. It would be so much easier to say that if I have so much percentage of this added labor (a developer with so much time equals this much success), but that would be a fallacy. The truth there are different factors that contribute to the success of any person in a role, and not all of those traits or success factors will be evident up front. In some cases the very thing that makes a candidate the most successful stems from their reaction to adverse conditions or circumstances. I think of the example of Diane Feinstein in San Francisco when she assumed the role of Mayor upon the death of then Mayor George Moscone. Perhaps she would have risen to this post, but her ascendance to the high office in the city was accelerated through this terrible set of circumstances. If not given this opportunity, would she have risen so quickly. Who’s to say. I do know that if not for her steady hand so many years ago, I think the city would have been the poorer for it, given the chaos at the time.
It boils down to hiring managers having to assess the relative weight of each criteria, and weigh that against the potential value that each candidate brings. In some cases, these competing voices in the hiring manager’s head may be mild in their discourse. In other cases perhaps there are higher levels of drama and a more robust debate, which (hopefully) leads to fully informed and balanced decision-making.