Sunday, June 17, 2012

Resourcefulness, Examined

Someone mentioned to me this week that a frequent Desh-ism (quote attributed to Desh Deshpande) is: "I'd rather invest in a B concept being run by A people than in an A concept being run by B people."  

The quote stuck with me so easily because it's something I firmly agree with.  As I've written many times here on the site, I'm fascinated by the way different types of people can affect the outcomes experienced by their organizations.  People who are resourceful, people who *produce*, and people who learn from mistakes and then improve (rather than cast all the blame outward and avoid all the difficult introspection) are the ones I'd want to hire for some hypothetical enterprise I'll start someday.

If you've ever read the story "Message to Garcia," you'll know what I'm talking about.  I want the people who can deliver that message, rather than make excuses, or, worse, NOT even start and then respond, when asked about it later "Well, I wasn't sure what you meant."

Later in the week, I was speaking to someone who now works in government but has significant private industry experience from a past life.  He was talking about the interview and hiring process he had seen at a particular firm when he said, "The first test is the interview."

Nodding along, I said something like, "Okay, sure, you wan to use the interview to assess a person's demeanor, mentality, etc.?"

"Yes," he said, "But before even getting to those things, we were testing to see whether the person could get to the interview.  You see, we started all our interviews at 7 p.m.  Our building's elevator stopped being publicly accessible at 6:00, and the front doors were locked to the outside at 6:30."

"I'm intrigued," I said.  "Please say more."

He went on to explain that there were several possible ways the applicants could have reacted.  One obvious way that someone could have gotten to the interview was to just wait for someone to leave the building, and then walk through the door (if challenged, they might have muttered something about having business inside, or needing to make the appointment for the interview).  They could also have reached out to the scheduler.

You would think those points to be obvious, but they're not.  A certain percentage of prospective interviewees just becomes discouraged/frustrated and walks away.  They may send a "WTF" e-mail or call later on, but regardless, once the person walks away the firm has already figured out that that's not who they're looking for.

The elevator is another, similar test.  Again, they can access the elevator if they just wait for someone to get out (but without a card that only someone who worked there would have, they would not be able to access it after 6:00 p.m.)  The stairs are of course another option for any person with even a smidgeon of resourcefulness.  They just had to be a) found, and then b) used.

AGAIN, though, this helped them winnow out certain applicants.  

I love stuff like this.  It's hard to set up controlled situations and experiments, but if I could ever *test* for stuff like this, I would.  ANYONE can talk about how resourceful they are, how they can keep themselves engaged without requiring constant tasking and monitoring, how they're a team player, and whatever else they think an interviewer wants to hear.  It is much, much harder to observe people as they are, and then use that to make the right decisions.

The building and elevator/stairs challenges seem like tiny challenges that would not flummox most people, but the fact that they can even eliminate some applicants that way shows that they have some use.  Hey, it's a start.  

No comments: