You can’t work for me until you work me

The interview process is flawed and it’s impossible to fix.

(1) It’s slow. Really slow. Job post, resume looking, first interview, technical interview, team interview, culture interview… and 3 months fly by.

(2) People lie. The candidate says what he thinks will get him hired and conveniently covers up the blemishes. He lies to himself about what he wants and lies to the interviewer to get the job.

When the hiring manager shift to sell mode, he glosses over the bad bits, exaggerating the good ones (“Everyone here is really creative, and there’s no office politics…”)

(3) The important qualities can’t be measured through a conversation. Courage, leadership, empathy, enthusiasm and the ability to learn, to name a few.

(4) People don’t know themselves. If you watch American idol, you would see many people who think they’re incredible singers who are terrible, the people who think they’re terrible singers and they’re incredible, and the people that think they’re great singers and they’re great. That last bucket is really small.

Now, this may not work for you and it certainly does not work for every job. Here’s the way I’ve been the happiest with it.

You can’t work for me until you’ve worked for me. I’ll hire freelancers. I’ll hire people to do project work. I’ll pay extra to hire several people for the same task. I will work with people and then I’ll offer them a job.

That means the vast majority of the workforce is not available to me. The vast majority of the workforce will not come to work with you for two months as a temporary project manager because they have a day job. That’s ok because in exchange they get to have the best job interview in the world— actually working on the job. That’s how you find out if they can do it.

How about “maybe, perhaps, or if”

Instead of telling others how they “should” be doing things (which sounds like guilt), what if they “could” do it because it’s a better way? Or because it’s worth it?

I used to think that people have to act in a certain way. I was caught unhappy, most times. So, I accepted people should act the way they want to act.

And if I want others to act in a different way, then it’s my responsibility to help them see. Maybe perhaps we could (not should) do it this way instead. What do you think?

Counter metrics

Goodhart’s law states that when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

When the Soviet Union factories were given targets for how many nails they needed to produce, they make small and useless nails.

When the hospitals in Britain were penalized for wait times longer than four hours. The hospitals asked their ambulances to take the long road to the hospital. Even though the roundabout path hurt patients.

When Uber took on an aggressive win-at-all-cost expansion strategy, HR covered up a sexual harassment case from a high performer. It blew up in their face and the CEO got fired.

There is nothing that focuses the mind like a single target. But when money is the end goal, we easily forget our health and family.

There is a solution. As pointed out by Andy Grove in High-Output Management, it’s important to have a target but it is equally important to track counter metrics for context.

For customer service, it could be the speed of tickets closed and counter that with customer satisfaction.

For engineering, it could the percentage of ticket closed and counter that with the importance/priority of the ticket.

For sales, it could sales revenue and counter that with the renewal revenue or returning customers.

Life is never about one thing or one purpose, at all cost. When it’s the case, it ceases to be a good measure. What’s your target and what’s your counter metrics?

Tools for pandemic resilience

Panic is a hobby. Hobby in the sense that it doesn’t produce a useful outcome. That is something we can choose to do or not do, based on how we tell ourselves a story. 

As I looked back, I identified some tools that have helped me along the way.

Worst-case planning – let me look into the worst future and imagine it. Once I’ve accepted (death), there are very little things that I need to be panicking about. 

Tim Ferriss’s fear setting exercise allows me to shine a light at the boogie-man. And the boogie-man is only scary because it exists in our heads. Turn on the lights, and it’s gone. 

I do the 5-minute journal every day. It is 4 simple questions that help me plan my day, be happier and get it done. 

I ditch the gym commute and practice The Happy Body every day, 20mins a day. It’s like yoga with weights at the comfort of my room. 

60% Revenue – is a planning exercise to see what you’ll do when your salary or revenue is cut by 60%. It might feel ominous to do it. But it prevents stupid decision when the hair is on fire. And in my experience, having a plan B in place is the best way to be prepared. 

Canned Sardines is a great source of protein and can last for a long time. If you can be happy with that, you’ll be a happy camper. 

Similarly, toilet paper is a luxury. The human has survived as a species without toilet paper for a long time, and I’m sure I can do without. This could be a real skill to live without, back to the basic. 

Organise a zoom lunch. If you’re the organiser, you’ll always have a seat at the table. Bring people together, to have lunch, to work, to play a game together. 

Learn how to get an online side-gig. It could be writing, research, coding, designing or video editing. Pick something you are interested in, start a profile and learn a skill that can make some side income online. 

This pandemic is not new to the human race. We’ve been through the Berlin Blockade, Cuban mission crisis, the Vietnam war, HIV, 9-11 and the 2008 real estate crash. There is no avoiding it. It’s coming. We’ve done this before and we’re going to do it again. Together. 

Curing Racism

Just yesterday, a Singapore lady was transferred to my hostel dorm. Upon learning that one of her roommates is from China, without saying 2 words, she jumped up and complained that the hostel is irresponsible. Is she racist or is she fearful for her safety?

If we notice, most small companies run by female founders have primarily female employees. Similarly, companies are dominated by people of the same race. Is it really hard to be diverse or is it that the hiring manager only knows to evaluate their own ‘kind of talent’?

If you don’t know by now, we are all born racists. Not because we want to be divisive, in fact just the opposite. It is because it is the easy thing to do.

Now, we have laws and quotas to help. And those are great for the short-term.

But in the long term, that is not a magic pill because the real culprit is fear.

Curing racism begins with accepting that we are fearful. We resort to easy thinking for safety and most importantly, we can change it.

It is through the work of continual understanding and learning. Drip by drip, one generation to the other, one person at a time.