Humans just aren't that good at hiring (pt.1)

Lab Confidential
How HR prevents innovation

Diversity is good for the bottom line. That’s what research institutions from all over the world have found time and again, throughout the last couple of decades. Also, many organizations prefer diverse teams, once they have experienced their winning qualities.

Candice Morgan, Head of Diversity at Pinterest (1)

As Candice Morgan, Head of Diversity at Pinterest puts it: ”When people come from similar backgrounds, they tend to get stumped by the same problem at the same time.  Just by having someone who can look at it from a slightly different perspective, we have more ways to solve difficult problems." (2)

Sheela Søgaard, CEO at Bjarke Ingels Group (3)

Sheela Søgaard, CEO at the architect firm Bjarke Ingels Group agrees. She says, that making good decisions in teams is all about different angles - even if they lead to conflict; because conflict secures the consideration of many aspects. And solutions that arise from a diverse set of input - as a “compromise” - are often really good decisions (4).

But not only team performance and decision making, also the innovative potential of a team benefits from the differences between co-workers.

According to IDEO partner, Diego Rodriguez, most innovations arise from transplanting what works in one field to another, bringing two separate ideas together, or by simply noticing what’s already there. And most innovative organizations do all of this routinely, because:

  1. the knowledge base of their employees spans a broad range of intellectual disciplines

  2. they represent a wide range of life experiences and circumstances

  3. as individuals, they’re able to listen carefully to the viewpoints of others

The key to this list: diversity. The more diverse the people in your organization, the more points of inspiration it will contain. (5) Simply put, diversity is the engine of innovation.

But most hiring processes focus on “cultural fit” and therefore lead to the opposite of diversity in our organizations.
Why? Because: “when we hire based on how well someone will fit in, we tend to choose people similar to those already around us.” says Rodriguez.

Picture by Jared Lindzon,

A recent New York Times Magazine article says, that - according to decades of research on the topic -humans just aren’t that good at hiring.
Overall, companies rely too much on flawed human judgment when they recruit. And despite the digitization of job listings, human-resources departments have not changed much from the analog days. A study of top banking, law and consulting firms found that similarities in things like leisure activities and personality were the most important factor in their evaluation of candidates. So: ”Hiring now resembles choosing a romantic partner more than an employee”, says Lauren Rivera, an associate professor of management and sociology at Northwestern and the author of the study. (6)

And global workforce diversity data displays this issue very well.

Even with so much transformation occurring in organizations over the past 10 years, we still see very few companies that hire really diverse.

Female representation (or underrepresentation) in many sectors and especially in executive roles is just one example for this. The number of women in executive suites and on boards is not much higher today than it was a decade ago (7). And the notion that there aren’t enough able women is nonsense, according to Ric Marshall, executive director of research at MSCI Inc., which tracks board diversity. A statistic from researcher Equilar Inc. is telling: Four in five of the top female executives at public companies just aren’t hired on any boards (8).

In Denmark, 27% of all leading positions in organizations are held by women. 60% of all HR directors think that their female employees are not interested in getting promoted; while more than half of the women asked (57%) state that they actually are interested in advancement. (9)

There are plenty of excellent candidates, but we are entrenched in a system that does not consider the different perspectives that diversity brings to an office.
Whitney Wolfe, the female co-founder of Tinder, was allegedly told by her partner that “having a woman on a board ‘makes the company seem like a joke.’” (10)


But by failing to hire a diverse set of competencies into our organizations, we’re failing to boost innovative potential and team performance. Two crucial qualities to stay relevant in tomorrow’s dynamic and highly diverse environment.

So, what can we do about this?

Find out in pt.2 of this article: Humans just aren’t that good at hiring - and what to do about it. Coming soon.