Skills, traits, and values in hiring

We were in conversation with Lea Hickman, a former VP of Product at Adobe and Invision, yesterday and asked her about her reflections on hiring over the past three decades. She said the biggest change was moving from hiring for past experience/hard skill fit to hiring entirely for folks who enjoyed collaborating, exhibited an appetite for continuous learning, and demonstrated grit.

This was fascinating for 2 reasons. I found it interesting that her hiring criteria evolved from a focus on “intercept” to a focus on “slope.”

And, second, it reminded me of Ray Dalio’s insistence that most conventional hiring managers have their priorities backward because they insist on testing skills instead of understanding how the candidate’s abilities and values fit with the role.

Hiring for intercept versus hiring for slope

When we’re hiring for a role, we could choose to hire for slope or intercept.

Hiring for slope means foregoing a bit of goodness in the short term for someone who you believe will learn quickly and deliver good long term results. Intercept, on the other hand, is looking for someone to solve the current problem well.

Most organizations experience this conflict when hiring for new roles. Often, they ignore¬†internal transfers because they believe the¬†candidate with the perfect experience is out there somewhere. However, in the long run, a high potential internal candidate may be a much better choice as they’ll ramp up quickly while also deliver great performance within the context of the organization’s culture.

There isn’t a right answer here. I think the right mix is likely going to be somewhere in the middle. However, many organizations like to believe that they’re always on the look out for potential. But, more often than not, hiring managers are encouraged to look for intercept over slope.

A question for every hiring manager and organization then – how often do you hire for slope versus intercept? And, is it the mix you desire?