Hunting purple squirrels? Is Deformation Professionale bias holding your organization back?

Deformation Professionale is a bias often seen in the tech sector. In every recruiting assignment, we tend to warn against it vehemently. This nasty bias is a tendency to look at things from the point of view of one’s own profession, the hiring manager’s want of marquee experience, or special expertise (technical, sector, etc.), rather than from a broader or more balanced perspective. It is particularly prevalent in Silicon Valley and the Valley-like cities (NYC, Austin, etc.) dominated by the tech sector.

An example of this thinking in recruiting happens when the hiring manager focuses on education, experience or particular ‘wants’ that become anchors (has to have marquee company background, must have Graduate Degree, years of experience, etc.). These anchors weigh down balanced decision making in the Hiring Process. In recruiting, you want to make sure that the candidate is ideally viewed from a balanced and non-biased lens. Transferrable skills like technical acumen in several past appointments and in diverse areas, great decision making, critical thinking, and the like are what great candidates have in common. These proven skills are much more important than fixed or inflexible criteria (anchors).

In every hiring decision, there should be give and take; looking at appropriate tradeoffs. I snipped this from an email we recently sent to a CEO: This is what the tradeoff decision making questions sets might look like: If we could place a candidate with a brilliant mind (see education stellar creds) that specializes in converting ideas into revenue, currently works at a company with a $(Great revenue) SaaS arm, and just last year grew one of the products revenue over 1,100% in one year, is data driven, analytical, customer facing, can influence effectively, ‘public speak’ skill level is high, is local to (CITY), has worked on teams with direct reports as well as with indirect leadership, and has the ideal DISC profile to be self-motivated, energetic, results driven, prefers numbers and facts over gut feelings for critical decision making, and who’s product mirrors yours but in a different sector, wouldn’t you want to at least speak with him? Wouldn’t you want to have an open mind on a Product Leader who has grown no less than 5 different products – all successful and still operational?

Hiring the right candidate isn’t about poaching from the exact company on your short list; it is about spotting talent with TRANSFERRABLE CORE SKILLS, then growing and leveraging that talent inside your organization.

Our Suggestion: Open the aperture in the short term while continuing to source that purple squirrel, perfect candidate. You could get lucky and find that perfect candidate, but as your grow the business, the bullets on the resume become less significant compared to opportunity losses. Getting the wind into the current product’s sails with an exceptionally strong (but not perfect candidate) will produce ‘lift’ immediately. Be willing to make trade-offs. Get 90-95% of what the position requires and find a super smart, highly motivated ‘do-er’ to execute the organization’s strategy – under the appropriate guidance and direction.

Best case, the person flies high. Worst case, you will know quickly that this is not the best fit. Result: Little risk, potentially significant upside. With pointed conversations about clear objectives and goals, and clear metrics of success, you can mitigate risk and enhance reward. Additionally, you won’t have to pay ‘marquee’ costs to get this candidate in the door (salary, perks, relo, etc.). Wins all around!