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Life is Like a Box of Chocolates: Do you really want to gamble on employee selection?

May 10, 2012

In 1994, the American epic comedy-drama romance film, Forrest Gump, won 6 academy awards.  This beloved story follows the life of a simple Southern boy, played by Tom Hanks, that floats through life’s trials and tribulations like a feather in the breeze.  Seemingly random events such as friendships, war, peace, natural disasters and more mold and shape the outcomes of his life.  Interestingly, a very popular line of the movie is when his dying Mother tells him that “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”.  So popular that if you google “life is like” this line is the first suggestion on the list!  Great dramatic line!  Just like the Grandma in Parenthood that compared life to either a rollercoaster or merry-go-round.  She preferred the rollercoaster by the way.

After practicing I/O Psychology for almost 20 years I know that life doesn’t have to be like a box of chocolates as depicted in the movie.  I don’t like nougat or jelly filled chocolates.  I like Pecan Turtles!  What’s not to like about pecans, caramel and chocolate?  Fortunately for me, lots of people like Turtles.  So much so that I can buy a box of Turtles and know that I am getting exactly what I want every time I pick one out of the box.  Simple but effective.

Guess what, a company’s talent selection process doesn’t have to be like a box of chocolates either.  Unfortunately, many companies continue to hire the old and ineffective way that they have for decades.  Fill out an application, complete an unstructured interview and go with the gut?  The movie producers knew what they were getting when they picked Tom Hanks for the movie role.  After all, he had already been nominated twice for an Oscar and won his first one the year before Forrest Gump was released.  Hiring Managers may have the next Tom Hanks of the sales or IT department in front of them but passed him up for Larry the Cable Guy due to a good gut feeling.  What a costly mistake…just think…Larry the Cable Guy as Forrest Gump?

Talent Management leaders can fill their candidate pool with their favorite chocolates.  Using, well validated, competency based assessments along with a structured/behaviorally based interview in the selection process will help you hire the best talent available.  You may not get the next Tom Hanks or a Pecan Turtle every time but the odds are stacked in your favor.  Maybe you’ll find the next Richard Burton (7 Oscar nominations and 0 wins) or an Irish Cream Truffle (my second favorite chocolate)?

John Mirtich John Mirtich is a Senior Consultant and Business Development Manager based in the Cleveland office of PSI. After joining PSI, he honed his I/O skills by implementing entry-level selection systems, designing leadership development programs and managing the executive assessment process.