Fair Selection – Wizard or warrior

The early days of arcade and fantasy were terribly socially prescriptive. Never mind assuming an avatar’s sexuality or dietary preferance; one was either a Wizard, a Barbarian, a Dwarf or a Valkyre. Good lord.

It amazes me, forty years after Atari’s Gauntlet game, that people, formally trained in the arts of management and fair selection, lazily slip into a confident coma of hiring people they have “a good feeling about”.

Fair selection isn’t about giving that “bird” a chance. Its not about making sure you hire someone in a wheelchair… And its certainly not about picking someone “shit-and-butter-colour” like me. Its about giving fair chance (yes) AND fair warning. It is as equally bound to a fair description of what you want (in the description of the role), to the hiring of the person, best “weighted” for it.

Wait.. “Weight”? What’s this got to do with Gauntlet on the Atari?

For those of us fortunate enough to discover the joys of videogames as a legitimate (multi billion dollar industry) entertainment passtime, there is no greater pleasure than creating your own persona in a Role Playing Game (RPG). Height, weight and sex not withstanding, defining an avatar’s dexterity, strength, agility, intelligence and weapon crafting skills dictate how you move forward for the next 40-100 hours.

In the old days before computers, we had 12 sided dice. In modern management and recruitment we model our question grid and (then after) our job description and weigh the scored questions, toward aspects that we need.

If you need someone to wield weighty axes, we ask for more experiences of lifting n’ shifting. If we need someone who can think on their toes, and independently, then we ask MORE questions of that nature. The numbers will do their magic and you’ll get what you need.

Fair selection is the clear defining of a role, and a symbiotic questionnaire grid that scores an applicants answers to those questions, from 0 to 4. In the end, the highest scored wins the job.

What people forget is that the amount of questions you ask about aspects of that role will tip the scales from dedicated grunt to free thinker.

Speaking to a tech lead buddy recently (who was having a bit of trouble) I reminded him that there were many different types of “Good” developer. But it depends on what the team needs. With a strong design element, you need a developer who sticks to the rules to a high level of detail. A project with a tight deadline, where people are running an gunning will need someone who can spot mistakes in the design and/or eager to offer alternate suggestions.

“You could also…” is the best thing a developer can say, and I myself would always ask a dev what influences they’ve had on previous projects.

I told him that if you hire all your devs off the same job description (and questionnaire), you’ll end up with a board full of pawns. No rooks, knights or bishops. A small cluster of questions can be all the difference between someone who goes straight, diagonally or jump hurdles when you need them to.

Office chemistry can absolutely be catered to. There’s no rule against asking someone to tell their best (or worst) joke. It’s your game, and so long as the rules are stated (“must be willing to listen to techno-trance while working”), its open, honest and fair.

The wonderful distraction… The slight of hand that this methodology plays, is that; if in the end you hire a one legged, colour-blind carnivore bisexual with a penchant for making dad jokes and bringing baked goods to the office… Well that’s just an added bonus, right?

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