Are You Hiring Wristwatches or iPhones?

If wristwatches didn’t exist would someone still invent them?

Their introduction was simplicity itself. A Frenchman by the name of Blaise Pascal took his pocket watch and in or around 1650, tied it to his wrist with a piece of string.

The precise date is unknown. An early case of irony.

At eighteen, Pascal had invented the first calculator. He then developed the science by which atmospheric pressure is measured. And along the way, invented the first roulette wheel.

He was 39 when he died. Had he lived another ten years it’s possible we would have had the iPhone very much earlier.

The wristwatch is a testament to reliability. It performs a precisely defined function immaculately. It is also an indicator of personal taste. And age.

Because with rare exception, as Sir Ken Robinson points out, people under thirty don’t wear watches. They don’t see the point of single function devices.

People under thirty get the time from their iPhone or iPod, or computer. Devices that are central to their understanding of what it means to be alive.

They do so because because phones and ipods have become multi-function platforms that can do limitless other things besides their original purpose.

Slowly, around the world there are signs the economy is turning the corner. The trailing indicator is employment. Once that begins to change (and this morning saw the first indications that it might be), the recovery will be well under way.

In the United States, companies with 99 or fewer staff, employ as many people as businesses with more than 2500 employees.

Which means that re-employment will be driven as much by small business as big.

Given that the talent pool has never been as deep in our lifetime, hiring the right people is crucial to fueling your company’s rebirth.

When we help clients during the hiring process, we typically try to find iPhones.

Specifically, that means focusing on two areas. The candidate’s ability to articulate why this is such an important opportunity for them. And their adaptability.

Anyone can write a good looking resume these days. Descriptions of past experiences, and glowing references are not sufficient discriminators between the bad, the good and the great.

Chemistry and commitment will get both candidate and company much further.

If a candidate can explain why a job is important to them, it mattered enough for them to have already thought about it. Surprisingly rare in many people looking for a job.

And adaptability is often seen as a weakness by employers. Too many experiences as an inability to commit. Sometimes that’s the case. But you can also uncover jewels.

There is one other aspect to an interview that is often overlooked. It is one that I advise all of our clients to apply. Brutal honesty.

Too many employers try to sell the job. And unquestionably it’s important to present the opportunity as a significant one. If it’s not, why does the position exist?

But the candidate needs to understand there is a consequence to mis-representing their own enthusiasm and commitment. We tell them it’s a Three Job Bluff. The one they gave up to take this one. The one you will remove them from if you discover they’re not what they claim to be. And the one they’ll need if you fire them.

Hiring the right person is perhaps the hardest aspect of running a business.

And occasionally you’ll need to employ a wrist watch.

But unless you’re certain that need will never change - and today never is somewhat fragile - you will grow a better business if you hire iPhones.

Making sure you use them wisely is a subject for another day.