I Worked With Them
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I Worked With Them

Job performance is invisible

“If our performance is invisible, maybe we should be too” they thought

You’ve worked somewhere for 5 years, over which time you have come to be known as the person who ‘gets stuff done’, who consistently presents work of the highest quality, is organised and punctual to a fault and, when it comes to performance reviews, always receives glowing praise.

Now say, that you decide you want to leave, you’re a star performer, people will be beating down the door to hire you right? You prepare your CV and share it with the world waiting for a flood of interviews and job offers.

You wait, but they never come.

What happened? What’s wrong with this picture?

The problem is, that wealth of information on you, your performance, the views of the people who would advocate strongly for your abilities, are invisible to everyone else. When you go looking for a job and put everything down on your CV it is incredibly difficult to stand out for a few reasons:

  • People only show their ‘highlights’ on their CV and due to limited space (a consequence of CVs being scanned and reviewed so rapidly either by humans or Applicant Tracking Systems (‘ATSs’)) often anyone can come up with a handful of highlights that make them seem like a superhero so there is little to differentiate on paper.
  • They aren’t checked. Most of what is written on a CV is ‘massaged’ to make it seem better than it is (if not a downright lie), sure it is the interviewer’s job to identify these ‘white’ lies but then you are introducing an agency problem by relying on the interviewer’s skills and by then the candidate may already be in the room and can talk around it.
  • There is rarely anyway that you can easily compare CV points across candidates, so making a relative assessment is incredibly difficult.

In an ideal world, your entire performance history would be shared transparently with the world, the good, the bad and the ugly. Employers would then make objective assessments as to who would be the best fit for the role and for their company. In a lot of ways if this information was available then the interview process would be largely redundant as it removes the problems inherent with interviews. However, this is a pretty idealistic scenario when in reality this information is not readily shared (often highly protected), companies (large ones at least) rarely give specific references about employees (opting more for the generic “worked here from x to y and was a z level manager”) and when it does come to performance reviews you introduce a further agency risk in that the company must have a fair, unbiased process of doing so themselves.

So, what is the best proxy for an employer of how good someone is to work with?

Well, if you consider Bain’s infamous and widely-used metric of NPS (Net Promotor Score), which essentially revolves around the question of “would you recommend this product to a friend?” we could quite easily bastardise it and say “would you recommend this candidate to a friend?” or in this case, to another company.

The benefit of this approach is it introduces reputation and (if a monetary benefit and penalty were introduced) brings skin into the game and so there is risk involved.

I can think of but a handful of people that I would recommend or that I would only recommend for specific roles in these situations. What about you?

If you found this article interesting, you can find more on the topic here, and don’t forget to check out I Worked With Them.



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