I contend I’m the most objective person in the world despite the fact that I always use biased information to prove it.

The same holds true for just about everyone when interviewing candidates or discussing the problems with officiating at the Super Bowl or the pros and cons of the political hot potato involving the FISA warrants.

One interviewing example: I have a problem with technical people who, while seeming very objective and accurate when assessing candidates, use the wrong factors to make the assessment. So I suggest it’s better to first argue how to make a proper assessment before discussing the results of an assessment. This hiring survey proves the point about missing it.

One Super Bowl example: I can’t understand why the announcers were saying one Eagles’ touchdown wasn’t because it was an incomplete pass since the player dropped the ball after crossing the goal line. However the refs said by the time the player crossed the goal line he was technically a runner and no longer a receiver so dropping the ball didn’t matter. So the argument should be about whether the player was a runner or a receiver, not whether he dropped the ball or not.

The FISA example: It seems like one side is arguing about the political motivation behind the evidence used to get the warrant rather than the validity of the evidence subsequently gathered. Both are valid points, but since it’s too late to do anything about it, to me the first (and separate) argument should now be about whether the evidence proves the person was a Russian puppet or not. Or, you can argue the point that the points shouldn't be separated, but agreeing to the point is the point of this post.

Missing the Point Misses the Point

The general principle in all this is that we often violently argue about a point without agreeing on the point being argued.

Let me offer another interviewing situation to prove how “missing the point” approach prevents progress thousands of times per day. It relates to a recent disagreement I had with a CEO about a few candidates for a C-level position we both interviewed.

Simply stated I liked candidate A more than candidate B because it was clear that A could obviously handle the job based on successful performance handling projects comparable in scope and size to those needed for the open role. The hiring manager liked candidate B because she had stronger team skills, was technically very smart and got along better in the interview than A.

Based on our different assessment approaches, we were both right. However, to agree on which candidate was actually stronger we first had to agree on the assessment approach. To demonstrate this I put the following assessment criteria on a whiteboard.

The Factors Best Predicting On-the-Job Performance

  • Ability to do the work required based on having a track record of doing comparable work. In this case comparable relates to the size of the organization and the scope, scale and complexity of the business.
  • Raw talent and ability to grow and learn. This combines motivation, intellect and focus with the objective to determine how lack of direct experience can be offset by potential.
  • Problem-solving and thinking skills. This is determined by asking candidates how they would solve realistic job-related problems and getting evidence that they’ve successfully solved similar problems.
  • Organization and management skills to ensure the required work is accomplished on time and on budget. This covers the necessary project management and team development skills to successfully handle projects of similar size, scope and scale.
  • Sufficient team skills to work with, persuade, motivate and influence people. This can be determined by examining the makeup of the teams the person has been on, their success and the person’s role.
  • All of the Fit Factors including job fit, managerial fit and environmental and cultural fit. Hiring a competent person is not enough. The person has to mesh with the hiring manager’s style, the work itself, the pace of the organization, the resources available and the company’s politics, value systems and way of doing business.

While we agreed all of the factors were important, it was clear that I considered the ability to do the work and the fit factors as most important, whereas the CEO valued raw talent and team skills. As important as the priority of the factors, we also disagreed on how they were measured, especially team skills. I did not believe that the way the CEO was evaluating team skills was appropriate. In my mind it’s not likability in the interview since this could be faked. More important is having a track record of successfully working with similar groups. Of course, I did not change the CEO’s mind other than having him recognize there was a bigger risk moving forward with his preferred candidate over mine.

The conclusion we reached was the important one though. In this case it was first understanding how we both came to different, but still objective, conclusions. Agreeing on the point of disagreement is relatively easy when it comes to interviewing candidates and making most types of business decisions. It’s almost impossible though when it comes to sports or politics.