Decide Who to Hire Before They Even Walk in the Door

Last Updated Nov 24, 2009 9:22 AM EST

It might sound like just a crazy headline, but Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon, the authors of hit business book I Hate People!, contend that you can tell a lot about potential employees just by looking at how they cross the street. In their tongue-in-cheek post on the American Express Open Forum blog they suggest interviewers arrange to meet at a location where candidates will be forced to cross the street. How they do so reveals a lot about how they'll perform once hired. All jokes aside, for interviewees there's a clear lesson here -- everything counts, even seemingly trivial aspects of your presentation and behavior.

So what would your street crossing style say about you? Check out Littman and Hershon's five types to find out:

  1. Matador. Fearless, the Matador thinks nothing of daring the cars and taxis with his elegant dance through traffic. Crosswalks are just paint to a Matador. Red lights are mere suggestions. Nor does the Matador care whether the oncoming traffic shows no sign of stopping. After all, what's a little glancing blow? Best Positions: Entrepreneurs, super salesmen, and financial mavericks.
  2. Wader. Bold but not fearless, the Wader is eager to cross, demonstrating ample initiative but a little more common sense. Waders may phone and text while on the move--but not when venturing into traffic. They recognize that getting struck by any part of a car is a bad thing. That's why they let the Matadors run interference. While the hotshots are busy tempting fate, the Wader is getting to the other side first. Best Positions: Excellent CEOs, vice presidents, software designers, project leaders and design heads.
  3. TextWalker. Having mastered typing, talking and walking at once, the TextWalker tends to forget that crossing a car-clotted street is real life while tapping keys on a little plastic box is not. TextWalkers may appear on the surface to be Waders or even Matadors, but with one critical distinction--progress in their case is often an illusion. The Textwalker tends to meander, drift, and even pause midway. They lack the presence of mind to stay on task. Best Positions: Creatives and lower-level programmers. They exhibit flashes of talent but are ill-suited for management or higher-level responsibilities.
  4. Light Jumper. Though a Light Jumper starts out determined to follow the letter of the law, when the crosswalk light turns yellow he can't help but jump the curb. Dr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde. A Light Jumper is not above shouting and glaring at motorists who narrowly miss him even though they still legally have the right of way. Best Positions: Dependable but ballsy attorneys, independent CPAs and trusty managers with hidden tattoos.
  5. CurbHuggers. No matter how empty the street, CurbHuggers would never dream of leaving the sidewalk for the crosswalk a second earlier than the law (or the "Walk" sign) allows. Ironically, CurbHuggers rarely make it across before the light turns and, by playing it safe, are often sitting ducks for signal-jumping taxis. Best Positions: Accountants, statisticians, or rules-based occupations. Excellent at scheduling and attending meetings, especially when the purpose is to schedule new meetings.
For more provocative ideas from these authors, check out this post arguing that teamwork is for suckers.

(Image of street by Robert S. Donovan, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.