Why do we keep hiring ourselves?

Guest post by: Cristin Merritt, Partner Manager, Alces Flight Limited

Back in 2014, I attended a program looking at leadership skills.  At the time I was doing a lot of recruiting for the company I worked for and would spend hours listening to what the manager wanted in their candidate – from preferred degree types down to personality.  As a woman in tech, it frustrated me to a fairly great extent that we weren’t as diverse as I wanted.  Not just male v. female, I noticed we had a ‘type’ that came through the door that would get an offer.  I noticed a ‘type’ in management and a ‘type’ in various departments.  I was at a loss for what to do.

Prior to attending the leadership course, I took what seemed like a million ‘personality-like’ tests.  I didn’t fully get the point of them until I was sitting in the room having the group results explained to me. It was there that I learned one of the most fundamental lessons of recruiting and working with people: We hire and desire to work with people who are like ourselves.

This isn’t 100% terrible.  You should, as a common rule, want to have a pleasant working environment and so having people who share common interests can help things along.   Where things go off kilter is bringing in people who are almost ‘clones.’  When interests are too aligned, backgrounds too similar, experiences far to close in being shared – your blinders are on for more than just, “Did I hire a man or a woman?” You could be actively hurting your career and not even knowing it!

So what did I do?  I started asking myself, “How can I find someone who compliments my skill set?”  As in, how can I expand and grow in my job role without crushing someone who I bring in under my set of personal goals or finding someone who will make my job super comfortable by basically being another me?  By looking to hire outside of my circle of comfort not only was I able to diversify the pool of candidates in more ways than male/female, but I was also inviting in new insight and experiences that would help me seek out opportunities I would have otherwise missed.

I am applying this lesson where I work now slightly differently, as I am part of what would be considered a flat management structure.  The group does very well in constantly challenging their set of core thoughts on where the focus will head on strategy.  As such I now focus on participating in ‘active compliment’ to my colleagues. Basically, I’ve taken the time to learn the strengths of my colleagues and adjust capabilities to meet theirs.  Not overpower them or let them overpower me, but actively work towards expanding skills so that when we go to client meetings or are working on a project I work to let the results of the group shine.  I also go more willing into suggestions and ideas rather than shut them down, especially as we’re dealing with technology whose capabilities aren’t yet fully known – so remaining open and humble can only result in progress.

So – if you are looking to hire what do I recommend you do?  First, look – REALLY LOOK – at your (and your teams) skill set.  Don’t skimp on this because being aware of where your ‘comfort’ is the first step to diversity.  What kind of person would come in and make you and your group shine brighter?  What different skills – soft and technical – would compliment those that already exist?

Understanding ourselves is one of the first steps you can make towards allowing more diversity into your personal and work lives.  Actively pursuing knowledge of self can help you avoid falling into the circles and bubbles of comfort we often subconsciously build.  So get out there and look beyond your borders.

About the author:

Cristin Merritt, Partner Manager, Alces Flight Limited

  • Cristin Merritt, Alces Flight with her poster at the WHPC workshop at ISC.

  • With over fourteen years experience in change management for technology, Cristin brings to the table a wide range of experience in end-user training, enterprise-level integration, and relationship management. Considered a relative newcomer to the world of HPC, she enters at a pivotal time where the possibilities of computing are switching from exclusive to inclusive, something that is right in her wheelhouse. With the Alces team, she’s explored the multitude of options that have entered the market, working side-by-side with clients focused on harnessing new technology for global impact. This has resulted in projects ranging from traditional to strictly cloud-based in their creation. Originally hailing from the United States with a degree in Classics from the University of Florida, Cristin moved to the United Kingdom ten years ago so she could experience the actual changing of the seasons.