Identifying Mediocre People in the Recruiting Process
Good leaders live in fear of selecting talent that, over time, shows itself to be ordinary and mediocre. Average ability and enthusiasm just don’t cut it in today’s competitive marketplace. That’s why savvy leaders know it is always safer to presume one is interviewing a mediocre talent and not a person of extraordinary skill or ambition.
The Mediocrity Principle suggests that if a person is drawn at random from a population of people with diverse skills and talents, that person is more likely to represent the most numerous category, which is always average or mediocre.
The question is not whether the person being considered is of average ability, but rather how to tell.
Unfortunately, there is no foolproof method to distinguish those in the middle from those at the tail. The problem is compounded by the fact that track record, experience, and pedigree are moderated by many other factors. Causal relationships about the future are therefore exceedingly hard to assess.
Worse yet, many people are more skilled at interviewing for a role than they are at the work and passion required to do it.
But, like the canary in the coal mine, leaders always have one trick up their sleeve that is a strong indicator of mediocrity: the high achievers already on the team.
Here is a commonly held fact in any game of excellence: Mediocre people don’t like high achievers and high achievers detest mediocre people. The best leaders use that to their advantage.
Designing a talent selection process where the team’s best performers get a crack at assessing those they will work with pays big dividends in the hunt for exceptional talent. The most ambitious, driven, and skillful team members will repel a mediocre candidate by just engaging in honest conversation.
While this should not be the centerpiece of any recruiting process, not submitting potential team members to the best performers on the team is a huge miss.
Better yet, talent always attracts talent, so this exposure makes it easier to reel in candidates worth selecting. After all, average talent is instantly intimidated and threatened by exceptional colleagues.
While this sounds like an unfortunate circumstance, it is actually the price of selecting the best people. It is a price good leaders are willing to pay. In contrast, the cost of mediocrity is always disappointment.