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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

A Totally New Way to Think About Hiring

Most people hire by having a checklist of things they’re looking for: a certain set of skills, a range of experiences, a particular educational background, and so on. And then that list is balanced by the soft factors, like personality and fit within the rest of the team. Simply put, hiring is an art.

But Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of politics and sports reporting site FiveThirtyEight, has turned the process into a science. Silver spends approximately 90% of his time interviewing potential journalists, and has a pretty unique system that he swears by.

As TIME recently reported, Silver believes that all journalists fall somewhere between the extremes of two different spectrums. The article explains:

Silver judges potential employees by a set of coordinate axes he has saved on his computer. (‘Because I’m a dork,’ he says.) The x-axis runs from ‘quantitative’ to ‘qualitative,’ the y-axis (top to bottom) from ‘rigorous and empirical’ to ‘anecdotal and ad hoc.’ All FiveThirtyEight employees, he says, need to land in the upper-left quadrant of the coordinate plane, where they are quantitatively inclined, rigorous and empirical.

Silver is quick to mention that people who fall elsewhere can be successful journalists—some of the nation’s best reporters, for example, fall in the upper right quadrant. They’re just not right for the vision he has for FiveThirtyEight.

So, what’s the takeaway for you? While this method wouldn’t necessarily work for all companies (after all, the best teams are often made up of people with different and complementary traits), it’s an interesting way to look at hiring for a particular function or team. Take sales position, for example: Most salespeople fall somewhere along the spectrum of friendliness and aggression, and tend to be either improvisational or by-the-books. Think about the perfect combo for you, then consider where each candidate falls in that matrix. It might just help you find the perfect people.

Photos of magic wand and papers on desk courtesy of Shutterstock.