Do You Subordinate “Merit” in Hiring Decisions?


“I’m all about merit,” a human resources manager said to me.  “But my company sometimes struggles with this concept.”

“Can you give me an example?” I asked.

“Yes.  We had four internal applicants for a position that required job knowledge unique to our company.  Three candidates had advanced degrees but knew little about our company’s creative ways of managing the tasks.  After considerable debate with management, I selected an employee who had acquired superb knowledge about our processes but had no degrees beyond high school.”   

“How well did the person perform?”

“She exceeded expectations.”

Managers typically use degrees, certificates, and professional exams to backstop their selection decisions.  While credentials may aid in selection, they may also eliminate capable candidates. 

Most hiring and promotion decisions, in my opinion, place too much emphasis on degrees, certifications and experiences.  Further, diversity and inclusion requirements add additional complexities to decision making. 

Understand, I do not suggest that selections ignore certifications and legal and ethical guidelines that ensure fairness to all.  Rather, I argue that “merit” be prominent as well.

Long term success depends on hiring and promoting persons with the best set of skills and behaviors that match job responsibilities.   

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