16 Sep Hiring in the name of talent
Hiring talent is a serious business. Many companies maintain battalions of HR professionals dedicated to every aspect of matching the right person with the right skills to the right job.
Tens of millions of dollars are routinely spent on all manner of testing and diagnostic services designed to profile and analyze the thinking styles, psychologies and talents of potential hires. Countless hours are expended in endless meetings to judge job candidates, decide promotions or evaluate succession candidates. Years are consumed building and maintaining competency models and skills inventories. Server farms are groaning with gargantuan gigabytes of data that these efforts have produced. Gallons of bad coffee and cases of stale donuts are consumed everyday poring over analysis and reports of this information.
Despite the enormous amount of time, effort and resource expended on those activities, a great debate rages over how much data-driven tools and techniques contribute to the effectiveness of hiring and matching talent.
I can recall one colossal failure in the hiring of a top executive by a large retailer not long ago. The CEO told me afterward that the results of the psychological and other testing of his top candidate were off the charts. Yet this “can’t-miss” hire did in fact miss horribly – lasting all off four months before being asked to resign. This is not to suggest that scientific techniques don’t have a role in choosing job candidates, but instinct and intuition remain a vital part of the hiring equation.
There is however, a third and much simpler approach to hiring – find a person with a name that fits the job. That’s right – look for someone with the right name. After all, Ecclesiastes 7:1 states, “A good name is better than precious ointment.” Or at least it’s better than enduring endless rounds of repetitious and boring interviews. And with a little luck this approach has been known to actually work.
Take 7-Eleven Corp., for instance. The company needed to search no further after Edward Moneypenny applied for the job of CFO. Now there’s a man who can undoubtedly be trusted to control the purse strings. Or how about Longs Drug Stores – it knew straight away that Bill Gates was the right person to run its IT department. I bet his problems get solved in a hurry whenever he calls Microsoft’s help line.
Then there’s International Truck. It brought Art Data on board as its CIO to drive its effort to use information strategically in its business. BT Conferencing couldn’t have hired a better person to head up its sales department than David Sales. CBS knew what they were doing when they handed their top field research job to David Poltrack. Arch Wireless could be confident its problems would be solved when it hired Frank “Brilliant” as VP of its Business Solutions Group.
Too bad Jim Talent, a congressman from Missouri, didn’t get the Labor secretary position in the first Bush cabinet. That job was made for him in my opinion, or rather he was named for it.
OK, perhaps finding people named for the job might be a lot harder than I’m suggesting. But if you can’t find someone with the right name to hire, you can at least be on the lookout for people with the wrong name.
For example, back in the 1990s, a leading computer services company appointed Chauncey Hacker to head up its Y2K program. Call me superstitious, but there’s no way I would hire someone with that name to muck around with my company’s software code. And in the world of Sarbanes-Oxley, I wouldn’t trust anyone with a name like Jack Swindle to be my corporate ethics director. But a name brand electronic components manufacturer did exactly that.
When I moved to Carlisle, Mass., in 1994, Ann Vandal was our town tax collector. It didn’t stop me from moving here, but the fact that our tax rates were the highest in the state did make me wonder if there was a connection. And what in the world were the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers thinking when they elected someone with the name of Jesse James, the Texas state treasurer no less, as president in 1951?
Like it or not, some HR departments have a reputation for being filled with soft and fuzzy types. So what kind of credibility do you think you would have running this function if your name was Gary WIMP? Yes that’s the real name of a VP of human resources, for a computer software company. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a global telecommunications manufacturer has a VP of Business Human Resources named Billie Hartless. Sounds like he’s just the person you would want to handle the next round of massive downsizing.
While names like these should make you think twice, they don’t necessarily guarantee a job misfit. For example, the recently deceased Father Jaime Sin rose to become the cardinal of the Philippines. Of course, had his name been different he might have been pope.
So please be sure to pay attention to names, the next time you have an important job to fill. In the spirit of Car Talk’s Click and Clack, the Tappert Brothers, I leave you with this final advice. If productivity is a problem in your organization then you may want to hire Amanda Sol de Werk and Carrie Dowt to get the job done. Who better to bring on board than Carrie Oakey to head up employee entertainment, Imelda Czechs as your accounts payable clerk, Jenna Rossity as your chief fundraiser, Justin Case as your risk manager, Luke Over as your report editor, and Minnie Mumwage as your compensation analyst. But you may want to take a pass on Howard Ino as your research manager and Lou Pole as your tax adviser.
Know someone with an interesting job-related name? We’d love to hear it! E-mail Tony at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.