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New Approaches to Sleuthing Out Applicants' Personalities

New Approaches to Sleuthing Out Applicants' PersonalitiesA team's success or failure can be the result of lack of technical know-how or poorly planned or executed strategy, but it can also be the result of team members not getting along. Sometimes the biggest difference between two companies is their collective personalities or culture.

Yahoo! News reports today that many companies, bearing this in mind, are devising more rigorous screening procedures to ferret out applicants' personalities and assure that they will be a good fit for the company. This despite growing concerns about the availability of good candidates as baby boomers retire.

For example, San Antonio based Rackspace Managed Hosting subjects candidates to interviews that last between eight and ten hours. Why? CEO Lanham Napier explains:

"They're here for nine or ten hours. We're very cordial about it. We're not aggressive, but we haven't met a human being yet who has the stamina to BS us all day."
KaBoom, a nonprofit that builds playgrounds, has an innovative method of sleuthing out job applicants personalities. The companies reception area is set up as a playground. CEO Darrell Hammond made sure his team,
kept a closer eye on job applicants in the reception area, which is set up as a playground, to see how they acted around playground equipment. "If you're early, you may have to sit on a swing or the bottom of a slide," Hammond said. People who stand with a tight grip on their briefcases instead of sitting on the playground equipment aren't asked back.
Of course, there are downsides to making sure personalities match up -- most obviously, that jumping through so many hoops may deter qualified candidates that would be an asset to the company. Now worry says Napier: "We'd rather miss a good one than hire a bad one." For Napier and managers like him, the benefits of having a good match -- including improved public image (jerk employees reflect badly on your company) and longer tenure for those who do get hired -- outweigh the cost of missing a few good candidates.

A more subtle and perhaps more damning problem with the idea of hiring for personality, is the notion that we generally get along best with those that are most like us. As a Harvard Business Review article entitled "Fool v. Jerk" points out:

One of the greatest drawbacks of choosing to work with similar people is the limited range of perspectives that a homogeneous group often brings to bear on a problem. A diverse collection of colleagues--whatever the tensions and misunderstandings that arise because of their differences--provides an array of perspectives that can lead to truly innovative approaches to accomplishing a task.
For further reading, check out "The Likeability Factor" by Tim Sanders.

(Image of girl under the microscope by Thinkcage, CC 2.0)

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