Hiring? How to Spot a Diamond in the Rough

Which would you choose to attend, a blockbuster TED Talk or a blockbuster movie? Do you read more non-fiction or fiction? How do you feel about documentaries? Do you listen to anything other than music in the car?

We all seek out a mix of pleasure and purpose in our daily lives. However, the mix that’s right for each of us varies. Paul Dolan and Daniel Kahneman introduce this concept as the pleasure-purpose principle in their book, Happiness by Design.

When you think about how you spend your free time, do you find that you’re more of a Pleasure Machine, or are you more of a Purpose Engine? Maybe you land somewhere in the middle, spending your time equally on pleasurable and purposeful activities. If so, you’re not alone, most people land somewhere in the middle, but some land solidly on one side or the other.

Pure pleasure machines love to play. If at all possible, they’ll find a way to make their living playing. Purpose engines live on the other side. They love to get things done.

When hiring, we usually hope to find a purpose engine. This is because, while purpose engines may not be the most fun at parties, when presented with a clear mission, effective tools, and autonomy, they are powerhouses. And who doesn’t want a powerhouse on their team? 

Therefore, the first task in assessing a job candidate is to determine where they land on the pleasure-purpose scale. You can achieve this by delving into how they use their free time.

Avoid asking hypothetical questions, because they’re speculative. Instead, focus on their past actions. Past actions always speak the truth. They even reveal things people don’t realize about themselves.

Find out if they watch TED Talks. Learn about their favorite TV shows. Ask if they read much, and if so, what they’ve read. What are they reading now? Uncover what they do with their time when they go on vacation. How much time do they spend hanging out at the pool versus checking out local museums or climbing mountains?

These types of questions may appear to have little to do with the job, but they will tell you a lot about the person sitting in front of you. Remember, you’re not hiring a part or a cog, you’re hiring a person. Learning about what makes them tick is the key to spotting a diamond in the rough.

Feature photo by Gigi on Unsplash