Good vs. Nice in Hiring

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Several times in the past, I have mentioned my respect for head-hunter Nick Corcodilos' commentary on job hunting, which often also deals with the subject of how companies go about finding the right employees. Corcodilos advises long-range, conceptual thinking, by both parties, about the hiring decision. This approach is starkly opposed to the common practice of the potential employer honing in on a narrow skill set and the potential employee casting out a resume and a formulaic cover letter like a fishing line. To wit:

Anyone can hire people with specific skills and deploy those skills to get a job done. The best managers hire talent rather than skills, because when you have talent, you can develop all the skills you want. The best managers know that talented employees can handle new projects because these employees can acquire almost any skills they need to do jobs they've never encountered before. [bold added]
This is just one aspect of the hiring decision, but I think it illustrates my point about why I like Corcodilos: He is arguing that the hiring process needs to be thoughtful to be successful in the long run. A trained monkey might work out for an immediate need, but success can't come from doing the same thing over and over for eternity.

This morning, I ran across an employer who may or may not have heard of Corcodilos, but he sure sounds a lot like him. Brooke Allen advises fellow employers to hire good people as opposed to nice ones, and no, he is not buying into a commonly-held false dichotomy that equates getting ahead with walking over corpses:
Good and nice are not the same thing. The opposite of good is bad. The opposite of nice is unlikeable.

Nice people care if you like them; good people care about you. Nice people stretch the truth; good people don't. If you tell a nice person to do something evil, they might do it because they do not want to upset you; a good person will refuse to do it.

You might think you are a good person, but you are fallible, so if you want to avoid inadvertently doing something evil you must surround yourself with good people, not nice people.
Just about all I could add to the above might be, by way of clarification, to insert "or foolish" after "evil" in the last sentence.

The rest of the article is similarly thought-provoking, and, as with the work of Nick Corcodilos, I would recommend it to anyone on either side of the hiring/job seeking process for reasons that Allen makes crystal clear. The employer-employee relationship is a trading partnership: Allen's "nice" employees, by worrying about being liked more than about what the facts are, are failing to look out for themselves. And if they can't or won't look out for themselves, why should a potential employer think they'll look out for his company?

-- CAV

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