You just have to fit....

One of the delights of giving up this gig, is that I have a little (just a little) more time to myself. While I manage to spend most of this extra time unproductively, I've managed to spend a little bit of it in a manner that leaves me very briefly proud of myself.

I've been auditing this class with Prof. Davis, which means I get to sit in, but do none of the work.:)
I really like the class: I don't know how much of it I'll be able to keep with me, but these are the kind of conversations I like to be part of...

He made an observation in class that friends had brought up before in conversation. I don't remember the exact phrasing, but he said something to the effect: "I worry about the diversity of thought in organizations, for example McKinsey, where I have quite a few friends but they tend to hire people who think like them."

Sounds familiar?


I think that's part of it, but there's more to it than even that. It's not just that people in companies tend to hire people "like them". The signal they send out is that "act like us, think like us" and we'll hire you (and you'll be successful). So friends I know, who aren't really "like them" but are just really smart people, by the time the interviews rolled around were thinking like them (or rather acting like it.) My sense is, once they begin work it'll be the same. There is a formula for success in most companies and they will follow it, even if it is something that is not natural to them. They'll do it because they want to succeed. In some cases, this will be a good thing, and allow them to develop certain skills, but things could go in the opposite direction as well. Now I'm picking on this firm in particular (probably because it's the biggest of the lot), but I think this holds true for all firms, (and to some extent) across most industries. In fact, of the consulting firms I interviewed with I found I had the some of my most pleasant interactions with these guys. There was only one other consulting firm where I liked the people more.

But here is what really gets my goat; when they take it to the next level and come dangerously close to the line between fit and narrow-mindedness. Here's what I remember an Associate Principal saying here at the GSB at a recruiting presentation, where there were about 150 first-year MBAs present.

"I look for 3 things in people I'm interviewing. One, can they do the job i.e. are they smart enough? Two, can I put them in front of the client, i.e. are they polished enough? And three, for fit. i.e. can I spend eight hours at an airport with this person? In fact, I find that most of the time even if I pass people on the first two parameters, I refuse to hire them on the third."

What the @#$W%#?
Think about what he's saying for minute. He's telling you before hand, that your ability to do the job will amount to nothing, if he doesn't believe you can keep him entertained should the need arise. "Fit" is important to the extent you need to be able to work well with the people you're stuck with, but the fact that you're making it seemingly acceptable to ding people because you don't think you can party with them, is downright ignorant. And as a company, if you start institutionalizing it, it comes dangerously close to the discrimination. Over the line? Perhaps...but I'm in a grouchy mood today.:)

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