Raising The Bar is a One Dimensional Concept

In the context of hiring, I often hear people saying that they want to “raise the bar” or not “lower the bar”. My problem with this is that I don’t believe that they (or anyone) has any idea where the bar is or who is above or below it.

But, the bigger issue is that a bar that is raised or lowered and that people are under or over is a one-dimensional concept. Using this metaphor for hiring will result in one-dimensional hires. It’s clear from the past few decades of the tech industry what this has led to. We over-index on 20-30 minutes of code performances as the only predictor of success at software engineering.

Even if our interviews include other attributes, they aren’t treated as equal to the coding interview. You can’t even get to a more nuanced interview if you bomb the technical-screen.

So, to change this, I would first say to ban the idea of a bar from your vocabulary and thought-process. Instead, imagine something more multi-dimensional. Start with something like this:

Use the nodes to pick the attributes you think are important to your team’s success. Coding is probably one of them, but so is writing, team-focus, customer-focus, etc. The key is those things are peers, not successive gates.

Along each dimension, you might have a minimum, but don’t just set it high and make it a gate again. Wait to see the whole person.

And, use it to honestly assess your current team. Where are your gaps? Is the right new hire one that fills them?

Remember that whatever shortcoming the new hire might have may be offset by their strengths, and some things (like coding skill) can be improved by training and mentoring.