Fall In Love with Someone Else

Image courtesy of Ani-Bee (Creative Common license)

A recruiter recently contacted me about a marketing position. After describing the role, he told me the hiring executive’s ideal candidate would have experience working in three specific industries.

I looked up the hiring executive’s profile on LinkedIn and – surprise! – his background matched what he wanted from his ideal candidate.

I was reminded of the Seinfeld scene in which Jerry tells Kramer that he’s fallen in love with a woman who’s just like himself:  “Now I know what I’ve been looking for all these years. Myself! I’ve been waiting for me to come along. And now I’ve swept myself off my feet!”

In the case of the hiring executive, looking for such a close match to his own background was a somewhat extreme case (perhaps driven by an insecurity that’s allayed by thinking, “I’m really good at my job; so for someone else to be good they need to be like me”) of what I see as an all-too-common mistake:  filling positions with people of similar professional backgrounds.

It’s obviously very common to see job postings that ask for experience in the same industry as the given opening.

In my opinion, the value of this similar experience is greatly exaggerated.

In fact, in most cases it’d probably be better for hiring managers to look for intelligent and curious people from other industries. Every company is already filled with people who know its particular industry. What’s more valuable is adding outside perspectives.

Sure, new employees coming from different industries will take a little longer to get up to speed. However, in the case of intelligent hires, that’s only a short-term issue.

Medium- to long-term, the slower learning curve will likely be outweighed by the benefits of an outside perspective:  asking different questions, generating different insights and adding new ideas.

Team leaders who want to foster innovation and creative problem solving should apply the lesson of America’s melting pot (that the convergence of people of many different backgrounds yields creative energy) not only to racial/ethnic/cultural diversity but also career-background diversity.

As for Jerry Seinfeld’s character, he learned the hard way. After getting engaged to Jeannie Steinman, he confessed to Kramer, “I think I may have made a big mistake… All of a sudden it hit me and I realized what the problem is… I can’t be with someone like me, I hate myself!”

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For a laugh:  I found the following video — someone stitched together the Jeannie Steinman story line and uploaded it to YouTube.

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(I didn’t upload this video to YouTube. I’m pulling into the post a video somebody else uploaded. If the legal copyright holder has any concerns, please notify me using the Contact form found via the above header navigation).

6 thoughts on “Fall In Love with Someone Else

  1. good post, I wish more hiring managers would think of this when interviewing. If they could see more than what is on a resume we would all be better off. Thanks for the blog Josh.

    • I wish the same…. too many times hiring managers seem to go into the process thinking they already know what they want and looking specifically for it, versus keeping an open mind and evaluating which candidates could add the most long-term value. Patti, thanks for reading the post and for your comment. I really appreciate your support.

  2. I completely agree with you re diversity in the workplace. Unfortunately, it seems that many people in hiring positions, unless they’re the owners, fear later being held liable for hiring decisions that will later be characterized as unreasonable should a lawsuit or other problem arise concerning that employee. Perhaps incorporating the importance of diversity in the company’s mission statement or official policy will empower them to think outside the box so they won’t feel the pressure to conform to what is dictated to them by Human Resources, which often does not understand the needs of the various departments of a company.

    • Connie, thanks for the comment. It’s true many people are overly fearful about “getting in trouble” at work so tend toward safe-seeming decisions. I agree company leaders should truly encourage risk taking – not just in words but in actions.

  3. Josh, I totally agree; however, we shouldn’t be too surprised that this phenomenon persists as from my experience/observations, it all cascades down from one simple concept . . . RISK. Few companies have the guts to take risks for fear of being wrong — this is especially true of publicly traded companies whose every move is scrutinized by analysts. What is ironic is that ‘same-minded’ (notice I didn’t say ‘small-minded’, but maybe I should have?) hiring executives can only expect to achieve status quo results, which is counterintuitive to the expectations of its shareholders. Only through the cultivation of diversity hiring techniques can an organization achieve the type of ‘step-function-change’ that creates a point of distinction for a Brand that — over time — leads to the enhancement of its Value. In fact, it’s simply too risky NOT to develop a People strategy that incorporates physical diversity as well as thought leadership diversity.

    • Thanks for adding your thoughtful comment, Mark. I like the way you put it — that the real risk is in NOT hiring candidates with diverse backgrounds. That’s really the smarter perspective. However, it’s amazing how powerful fear and the pull to the status quo can be in the workplace. Good leadership needs to demonstrate that smart risk taking is encouraged and truly supported.

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