Saturday, October 26, 2013
“We don't know where our first impressions come from or precisely what they mean, so we don't always appreciate their fragility.” – Malcolm Gladwell
Thin-slicing is a term used in psychology and philosophy to describe the ability to find patterns in events based only on "thin slices," or narrow windows, of experience. It’s been around since the early 90’s and was popularized in Malcolm Gladwell’s book titled “Blink” (2005). The concept has been applied to a variety of subjects and situations including bird-watching, art criticism, athletic prowess, gambling and speed-dating. Marital expert, John Gottman has even built a predictive model using thin-slicing. He has shown that by looking and listening to a relatively limited amount of interaction between couples (recently married or soon to be married) one can successfully predict if the marriage will survive.
We all “thin-slice” and are “thin-sliced” whether we realize it or not. It is a major factor in the hiring process. Many employers go to great lengths to minimize negative “thin-slicing” when it comes to selecting, interviewing, evaluating and hiring people. And a few of them actually have some success. They find a way to hire the most qualified person, not just the one the hiring manager likes the most. But most of the time what really happens is that companies just end up hiring the one that the hiring manager likes the most.
So how do you minimize the negative effects of “thin-slicing”? Employers need to have a meaningful job description with specific requirements that go beyond prior work history and education. Know what you really want this person to do and identify the proven abilities, skills and prior accomplishments which correlate most closely to success in this role. And then force yourself to objectively measure candidates against these requirements. Likewise, candidates need to understand the specific requirements of the position. Assuming that a candidate is, in fact, qualified, the challenge is then communicating that to the hiring authority.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a closer look at the positives and negatives of “thin-slicing” from three different perspectives: employer, candidate and headhunter.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Some things in life are complicated and there are no easy answers. But my experience has been that most of the challenges one faces in life are not all that complicated and the answers are right under ones nose. The hard part is not that you don’t know what to do; the hard part is doing it. Take, for example, my nosebleeds.
For most of my adult life I have had occasional nosebleeds. Always from the left nostril. Sometimes severe and sometimes just a drip or two. Like a lot of kids, I got my nose mashed in a couple of times playing sports, running into things and forgetting to duck. I always figured those events contributed to my nosebleeds. I also suffer from seasonal allergies. So I spray stuff up my nose and take over-the-counter allergy medications. According to my wife, these self-medicating efforts were the primary cause of my nosebleeds. As I grew older, the nosebleeds seemed to become more frequent. A spike in blood pressure, spicy foods or alcohol all seemed to trigger a nosebleed. If I happened to have taken an aspirin or an ibuprofen or a naproxen, the nosebleeds could last for a while. Frankly, my nosebleeds had gone from an annoying inconvenience to a potentially serious problem.
So I read all that I could about nosebleeds. And I started using moisturizing saline sprays and Vaseline to keep my nasal passages from drying out. I invested in a humidifier. I stopped drinking alcohol. I developed meditative rituals and tried to pray when I felt like my blood pressure was going up. I avoided certain foods and even experimented with vitamin K (which was really stupid). I thought about going to an ear, nose and throat specialist, but that would have made too much sense. So I kept trying to figure it out. I considered that both my father and his father had both suffered from nosebleeds as adults. Both of them had undergone cauterization to fix their nosebleed problems. That seemed like a pretty drastic and primitive way to address what was clearly a lifestyle/nutritional/environmental problem.
Despite my best efforts and various attempts to find a cure, the nosebleeds continued and even got worse. Something had to be done. As a last resort, I finally decided to see an ear, nose and throat specialist. (OK, my wife forced me to go see an ear, nose and throat specialist. But, I agreed with her. So it’s sort of like I decided.) Still, I could not stand the thought of major surgery to my nose and sinuses. I am terribly claustrophobic and the idea of having all of the post-operative packing and swelling in my nose just freaked me out. So with much fear and trepidation, I showed up at the ENT’s office. He looked up my left nostril and declared that he could see the problem. A vein protruding on the inner side of my left nostril, not too far back. Wow, this is exactly where the blood came from when I had a nosebleed. This guy was good. He said he thought he could fix the problem with chemical cauterization. Cauterization? Really? I mentioned that my father and grandfather had the same problem which was corrected via cauterization. He was not surprised, noting that this type of nasal bleed problem tended to be genetic. So he numbed the area and proceeded to use some silver nitrate to “burn the bleeder” and seal it over. He told me not to blow my nose for a couple of weeks and call him if I had any problems. That was two months ago and it would appear that cauterization was indeed the simple solution to a simple problem that I had lived with for a long time.
Some might say that there are simple solutions to many of the problems America is facing today if we just had the courage to act. Some might even say that it’s time to “burn the bleeders” so to speak. Maybe so. I don’t know. I do know that it’s nice to be able to once again enjoy a cold beer and Mexican food without having to worry about a nosebleed.