How Can you Tell Who is Right for the Job?


If you care at all about hiring, education or even football, don’t miss Malcolm Gladwell’s riveting article in The New Yorker.  “Most Likely to Succeed – How do we hire when we can’t tell who is right for the job?”  

Seriously.   The article is long, but worth every word.   Here are a few key points:  The students of a good teacher will, on average, learn a year and a half’s worth of material, while the students of a bad teacher will learn just half a year’s material.   That’s a difference of a year’s worth of material in a single year.  Since a good teacher costs about the same as a bad one, one of the biggest improvements school systems could make would be to hire great teachers to replace poor teachers – except for one detail –  it’s devilishly hard to determine who would make a great teacher in advance.

In predicting teacher performance, none of the “resume” credentials seems to matter, not teaching certification, not a master’s degree, not even test scores.   Great teachers exhibit qualities like “with-it-ness” (translation: “eyes in the back of your head) and “regard for student perspective” and giving direct individualized feedback to students.

Good luck finding “with-it-ness” in a job description, or a resume, or even in an interview sequence.  Hmmm, why oh why do I think this conundrum does not just apply to teachers?