Delivering the Systems and Expertise You Need to Confidently Make Great Hiring Decisions
This past week, one of our Clients was presented with a difficult situation: through working with the Hire Better Team and allowing us to follow our Methodology and engaging in the theory of Topgrading, we acquired so much information about an Executive Level Candidate that it almost resulted in the Candidate NOT being offered a position.
How could this happen?
I’m going to reference a lot of what is now widely referred to as the “Allegory of the Cave”. What follows is from Wikipedia and, while it’s a little verbose for a single blog post, it’s worth a read. I’ve summarized my thoughts right below this entry.
Inside the Cave
Socrates begins by describing a scenario in which what people take to be real would in fact be an illusion. He asks Glaucon to imagine a cave inhabited by prisoners who have been chained and held immobile since childhood: not only are their arms and legs held in place, but their heads are also fixed, compelled to gaze at a wall in front of them. Behind the prisoners is an enormous fire and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway, along which people walk carrying things on their heads “including figures of men and animals made of wood, stone and other materials” The prisoners can only watch the shadows cast by the men, not knowing they are shadows. There are also echoes off the wall from the noise produced from the walkway.
Socrates asks if it is not reasonable that the prisoners would take the shadows to be real things and the echoes to be real sounds, not just reflections of reality, since they are all they had ever seen or heard. Wouldn’t they praise as clever whoever could best guess which shadow would come next, as someone who understood the nature of the world? And wouldn’t the whole of their society depend on the shadows on the wall?
Release from the Cave
Socrates next introduces something new to this scenario. Suppose that a prisoner is freed and permitted to stand up. If someone were to show him the things that had cast the shadows, he would not recognize them for what they were and could not name them; he would believe the shadows on the wall to be more real than what he sees.
“Suppose further”, Socrates says, “that the man was compelled to look at the fire: wouldn’t he be struck blind and try to turn his gaze back toward the shadows, as toward what he can see clearly and hold to be real? What if someone forcibly dragged such a man upward, out of the cave: wouldn’t the man be angry at the one doing this to him? And if dragged all the way out into the sunlight, wouldn’t he be distressed and unable to see “even one of the things now said to be true”?
After some time on the surface, however, Socrates suggests that the freed prisoner would acclimate. He would see more and more things around him, until he could look upon the Sun. He would understand that the Sun is the “source of the seasons and the years, and is the steward of all things in the visible place, and is in a certain way the cause of all those things he and his companions had been seeing”.
Return to the Cave
Socrates next asks Glaucon to consider the condition of this man. “Wouldn’t he remember his first home, what passed for wisdom there, and his fellow prisoners, and consider himself happy and them pitiable? And wouldn’t he disdain whatever honors, praises, and prizes were awarded there to the ones who guessed best which shadows followed which? Moreover, were he to return there, wouldn’t he be rather bad at their game, no longer being accustomed to the darkness? “Wouldn’t it be said of him that he went up and came back with his eyes corrupted, and that it’s not even worth trying to go up? And if they were somehow able to get their hands on and kill the man who attempts to release and lead up, wouldn’t they kill him?”
The relationship I’m hoping to make here is that when a company initially begins to consider Topgrading, it often results in companies quitting before they even get started (note: @Topgrading protects their tweets but our request was approved). It’s hard, it takes a significant amount of time and it isn’t for the faint of heart. But when it is implemented effectively, what a company is able to find out about prospective candidates can sometimes be so overwhelming that it’s like the prisoner who steps out of the cave and walks into the Sun.
In the case of this Client, their existing interview process was really good. But it was designed to determine if candidates were cultural fits and didn’t really dig much deeper than the surface. When they were able to see the results of a full 4.5 hour Tandem Topgrading Interview that included personal challenges, a full career history and in-depth self-analysis and critique by the candidate around weaknesses and things that frustrated them, it was almost too much. Their old process would never have unearthed about 75% of what came out of the Topgrading process and, armed with this new information, they agonized over the final decision.
This all goes to show that Topgrading is really about the best methodology available today but it has to be adopted by an entire organization and not rolled out piece by piece alongside a rudimentary assessment and interviewing process because of how hard it is for people (Executives and Front Line Employees alike) to digest the stark differences that they must try to balance when making final decisions.
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