Hiring is like playing roulette. You sit at a table, trying to score the perfect candidate, knowing well that the wrong choice can cost you (and your organization) dearly. Do you pick the candidate with all the practical experience that the position needs or is your choice someone with less industry experience but a better cultural fit? Do you let your instinct guide you about the person or do you have someone do a background check? Do you put experience over enterprise or initiative over expertise?
Bill Gates’ style is singular.
He reportedly chooses “a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it”. Not that he’s the first boss to put his stock in the indolent individual.
The famous anti-Hitler German general Hammerstein-Equord, who was known for his “cutting displays of disregard”, used to put most faith in “clever and lazy” officers. He would appoint them to leadership positions, saying they possessed the intellectual clarity and composure necessary for difficult decisions. In other words, like Gates’ pets, they found the easiest and fastest way to accomplish any mission. The “clever and diligent”, the general would keep as staff officers. The “stupid and lazy” chaps were tolerated and given routine duties, but the “stupid and diligent” were declared the enemy, to be watched and, if needed, fired “because they would always cause mischief”.
In today’s organizations, the “clever and lazy” chaps, one guesses, would be the CEOs: avoiding pointless activities like long meetings and conference calls, taking only essential decisions and delegating the rest to juniors to implement. In other words, being effective and productive without burning the midnight oil. The “clever and diligent” guys would be in middle management: ready to take instructions and slog at whatever they’re told to do. The “stupid and lazy” as well as the “stupid and diligent” would probably be doing clerical work or punching digits at call centres; with the latter being monitored very closely by supervisors.
It’s probably to get the classifications right that recruiters from six Japanese companies got 50 young graduates to play mahjong as part of a hiring drive in Tokyo on Friday. The youngsters played the game—which needs skill, strategy, calculation, and a modicum of luck—in a bid for jobs in fitness, education, technology and real estate. The first such tournament was held in 2012 and is popular with both wannabe hires and recruiters. The kids say playing mahjong is much more fun than sending in long, boring resumes, which, in Japan, have to be written by hand. The recruiters say watching the kids at the game reveals much more about them than any resume or interview can, as the players’ real character, intelligence and communication skills come through in the game.
Eight students made it to the next round of the selection process after Friday’s tournament. Wonder if any “clever and lazy” candidates made the cut, and what comes next. Hopefully, it’s not Russian roulette.