Binders save time


(MoneyWatch) I've watched, with some amusement, the dust-up over Gov. Mitt Romney's now famous description of his hiring habits during the second presidential debate. While staffing up his administration in Massachusetts, he made use of "binders full of women" -- their resumes, that is -- provided by women's groups. The goal was to have a diverse group of qualified candidates to pick from, which seems to have worked (though the binders themselves quickly became an internet meme).

Whatever you think of Romney and his sometimes inelegantly stated views of the universe, the binder method has one thing going for it: It is an efficient way to find lots of people quickly. The most time-consuming part of hiring is putting out a huge casting call, and then screening out people who aren't actually qualified. Having a few pre-screened lists of recommended people, put together by people who've thought about the available jobs, turns the whole process into something much less fraught. Everyone on the list -- or in the binder, as the case may be -- has a high chance of working out. Knowing this, you can be much more relaxed and think about what's really important to you.

Policy makers often use this method (remember the controversy over the Heritage Foundation's sending over resumes -- possibly in binders! -- to the new George W. Bush administration in 2000?). But companies that are too small to use recruiters, but are scaling up fast, could ponder who they might turn to for binders of resumes. Industry groups? Local universities? It may beat a more scatter-shot approach.

Listening to the clip, I realized that I've used something similar to the binder method when trying to drum up long lists of people to interview for book projects. I tend to need people who fit certain descriptions (they use their mornings well, for instance), but I don't want to just use my personal acquaintances. I'd like a more diverse group of folks. So I ask people that I know are well-connected and thoughtful to give me lists of people they think would work. Inevitably, these folks turn out to be great interviews. Once you're in the binder, you're golden.

Have you ever asked for binders of candidates?

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