Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Are humans more predictable than the stock market?

Banks remind us that the past performance of their investment funds is no indicator of future results. The stock market, they say, is unpredictable, it can go up as well as down. Fair enough. No-one could seriously think that human beings are more predictable than the stock market?

And yet there is a school of thought that your past performance is the best indicator for your future results. Interviewers often rely on this insight to assess your suitability for a new position. They even have research to "prove" it.

I think this is total rubbish.

Don't get me wrong. I love to hear about people's past experiences, where they have been and what they have done. I just don't think it is much of an indicator of what they can or will do in the future. Nor should it be. I would rather hire someone for what they are going to do with my team than for what they have done in the past with someone else. I would choose potential over experience every time.

So how do you assess potential?

I look for passion. I look for that spark inside someone that is going to drive them to do things even when most people around them are telling them it's not worth doing.

Here's a couple of examples. Some years ago, I helped my father start a bookshop business. When he hired staff he asked questions about how many books people had at home, what book they were reading now and what did they think about it. He wanted to know if they were book people. Were they somebody he would like to have help him in a shop if he was the customer? Were they as passionate about books as we were?

When I was a student, I applied for a Saturday job at the LD Mountain Centre in Newscastle-upon-Tyne, an outdoor sports store. The only questions the shop manager asked me were "do you climb?", "can you come out climbing with us next Sunday", and "when can you start?". He was looking for someone passionate about mountains.

Rachel Mooney, Head of Organisational Culture at Google Europe, told me that one of the best answers she had ever heard while recruiting for Google was "I hope that what I am going to do with Google hasn't been invented yet". Passionate about creating something remarkable.

1 comment:

  1. Passion rules! Skill and experience are important, but passion can trump both. People do the extra bit when the truly care about what they are doing, and empathy with the customer/user goes miles in building the relationship.

    Jeff H