Hiring is Like a Game of Chess

Hiring and chess have a lot in common.

Anyone can pick a person they like, or move a piece on a board.

The rest is extremely complex.


It’s all about having the right strategy.

…but neither problem has actually been “solved.”

Not chess.

Not hiring.


Of course, we still know a whole lot about both, even though we don’t know everything.



Stereotypes about people shouldn’t influence hiring or chess strategy

But they do.


Hiring can be biased by something as simple as seeing a candidate’s name on their résumé, which implies gender, ethnicity, or national origin.

This can eventually add up to diversity issues and legal problems.


Even expert chess players use stereotypes. For example, male players tend to use more aggressive strategies when playing against female opponents.

And they are more likely to lose to female opponents because of it.


Time of day shouldn’t influence hiring or chess strategy

But it does.


Interviewers are much more likely to select high-quality candidates early in the day.

This doesn’t sound all that bad until you realize that interviewers tend to reject the other high-quality candidates. Everyone has worse chances later in the day.


Same basic idea when it comes to chess.

Chess players tend to make smarter decisions earlier in the day.


When people get tired…they go faster!

You might think that getting tired should slow people down.

But that’s not what happens when we’re talking about hiring, or chess.


When people try to read through tons of résumés or conduct too many interviews back-to-back, they get overloaded.

The result is that decisions are reached faster and faster. And decision quality suffers.


Same goes for chess. As the day goes on, chess players tend to become faster and more aggressive. And more likely to lose as a result.


What have we learned?

Chess players would probably be better off not knowing what their opponents look like. And perhaps they should try not to play when they’re feeling aggressive or tired.


Recruiters and hiring managers would probably be better off not knowing irrelevant details about job candidates. And perhaps they should try not to overload themselves with so many résumés and interviews.


Knowing this is the first step toward an even better winning strategy.




Image credits: Jotam Trejo, Dennis Skley

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