Monthly Archives: August 2013

Crazy about Passion

In last week’s blog post, we wrote about a study showing that entrepreneurs face a distinct disadvantage when applying for traditional wage positions.  We shared our surprise that the employers in the study didn’t see value in traits commonly associated with entrepreneurs—traits such as risk taking, dedication, innovation and passion.

This week, we’d like to continue the conversation on what traits employers value and zero in on one of those traits in particular:  passion.   Since writing last week’s post, we came across this fascinating article, which describes how an ad agency in Turkey analyzed the brain waves of potential interns to find the most passionate applicants.  After a traditional interview, the best applicants were equipped with an EEG headset and asked to watch screenings of legendary advertisements.   The company then enlisted the help of a neurotechnology expert to analyze the data and determine which applicants had the greatest emotional reaction to the ads.  These results, along with interview performance, were taken into consideration when selecting the interns.

So, here we have a company going to great (and unorthodox) lengths to measure in applicants one of the traits seemingly discounted by the companies in the study mentioned last week.  How can the recruitment priorities be so different?  Now, one could argue that both the industries and the positions were different and therefore they demanded different qualifications, but what company wouldn’t want passionate employees among its ranks, regardless of position?  One could also argue that passion isn’t necessarily critical to an entrepreneur and shouldn’t be associated with self-employed candidates, but what person decides to go it alone and establish a business in a field about which they they’re not passionate?  Again, we’re not talking about technical or even functional competencies required to do the job; we’re talking about soft skills that are nonetheless critical to success.

If anything, these two articles underscore the complexity of recruiting in the 21st century.  Finding the right talent isn’t easy.  Great candidates can be easily overlooked if recruiters are guided by limiting criteria.  And yet once those criteria are set, it can be difficult to find an effective way of assessing them in a large pool of candidates.  Did the ad agency really have to go so far as to monitor brain waves to get at a candidate’s level of passion?  Had the ad agency taken the opposite approach of the companies in the UK study and actually looked for entrepreneurial experience on applicants’ resumes, we wager they would have discovered candidates with passion—no neurotechnologist necessary!

We can’t reveal all the secrets to our successful recruiting strategies at Anderson I Biro, but we can assure you that we have never used an EEG machine.  Until next week…

The Value of an Entrepreneur

Seemingly every day,  new articles surface that pose fascinating questions about what traits we value in employees and how we evaluate those traits during the recruitment process.

One such article, “The Reason Entrepreneurs Have Trouble Finding Jobs,” reveals that candidates who were previously self-employed at some point in their career receive adverse treatment when attempting to re-enter the traditional job market.   The finding comes from a two-year experiment conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Erasmus in Rotterdam and two other European institutions of higher education.  In the experiment, the researchers sent in 192 job applications to 96 open positions offered by employers and recruiting agencies in the UK.  There were essentially two sets of applications, which were equal in terms of years of experience, education and professional affiliations; the only difference was that one group had periods of self-employment, while the other worked consistently for companies in wage positions.

Out of the 192 applications, 95 evoked no response and 75 evoked negative responses.  Of the 22 positive responses, only 6 were for applicants from the self-employed group while 16 were for wage earners.  For the scholars, the takeaways were clear:  “The choice to become an entrepreneur can result in an involuntary lock-in, a factor that should be taken into account in planning one’s future career.”

The researchers also concluded that the reason entrepreneurs weren’t assessed more favorably was because the traits associated with entrepreneurs—namely a bias for risk-taking—aren’t the same traits associated with success at larger, more traditional companies.

What’s surprising about these results (to us, at least) is that there are plenty of other traits associated with entrepreneurs—dedication, innovation, strong work ethic, passion—that one ought to consider highly valuable to a company competing in the fast-paced, ever-changing economy in which we currently operate.  Even risk-taking is increasingly necessary, no matter the size of the business.  Had the applicants been real, it would have been interesting to follow the careers of those hired to see what kind of impact the different candidates had on their respective companies.  Would the risk-averse, but dutiful wage earners actually outperform the former entrepreneurs?  Or would the more entrepreneurially-minded employees be the ones to push business into new, more prosperous territory?  Some companies might argue that it’s actually riskier to overlook the entrepreneur than it is to hire her!

Let us know what you think. Would former entrepreneurs have a place in your business?