Grades Shouldn’t Be a Part of the Hiring Equation

By April 9, 2020 No Comments
Hiring is hard. In the tech sector, great recruiting might actually be more rare than a unique and useful product. It’s time-consuming, frustrating, and even demoralizing at times….especially as a small business. This is partially a factor of how the supply of available talent matches (or rather, doesn’t match) the demand for talent. The other, less readily acknowledged reason for this, is how we approach hiring. Are resumes really the best way to make hiring decisions?

Let’s start from the beginning. Fresh graduates are evaluated almost purely on their education. As Scott Galloway points out in The Four

“We all need filtering mechanisms and simple rules of thumb to wade through our choices and it’s just too easy to think ‘Yale = smart; U of Nowhere = not as smart.’ And in the digital age, smart is sexy.” 

Ivy Leagues > Universities > Colleges > Certificates. If that information isn’t enough to draw conclusions, we turn to GPA. Suppose, for the sake of argument that academic achievement is in fact a good predictor of performance in the workplace. Consider this:


Candidate A 3.5
Candidate B 2.5


Is Candidate A smarter than Candidate B? Is a GPA of 3.5 better than a GPA of 2.5? 


GPA School’s Average GPA
Candidate A 3.5 3.8
Candidate B 2.5 2.3


Now which candidate is better? We make these judgements without context almost all the time. Our imperfect data is surely going to yield imperfect results. 

Entry-level hires are heavily based on alma mater, and thus we begin the spiraling shit show of bad hires. Yes, some great hires will result from the classic information on a resume – but what about that well of untapped talent brushed aside by our veiled caste system? How do we find them? 

As a small business, finding hidden talent is pivotal to your success. The ‘obvious’ talent is hunted daily by tech giants with more attractive brands and deeper pockets than yours. Your challenge is to build a team that works harder and smarter, with limited time and resources. So, how do you do it?

Enter the age of data. Many people believe that data can be used for anything from improving process efficiency to generating more profit. There are already a plethora of companies claiming to fix your hiring problems by selling hope in the form of algorithms. It’s a seductive proposition. 

To help you from falling prey to these so-called solutions, let’s draw parallels to the dating industry. Online dating has become a multi-billion dollar industry by selling the hope of meeting your match online. If matching sites actually worked, the industry would be much smaller – because you’d find your match and live happily ever after. Anyone who has used an online dating site before knows that isn’t the case. 

Much like dating, hiring is about chemistry. There are two things to consider before letting a ‘secret algorithm’ influence your hiring decisions. First, humans are imperfect, irrational, and unique. Second, not all teams require the same kind of talent, both in terms of skill-set and personality. The notion that an algorithm that doesn’t know your team can predict what constitutes ‘the best’ for your team is a prescription for failure.

Hiring is an art that demands Authentic Intuition, not Artificial Intelligence. There are no shortcuts to good hiring – well, maybe some task automation can help – but at the end of the day the decision should be yours.