Having been in the executive search business since 1987, I found the article about hiring techniques very interesting ["The New Science of Hiring," August]. Over the years I have seen virtually no changes in the way companies interview the candidates we provide. The majority prefer to rely on an internal team's impressions of the candidate and, often as an afterthought, references. Some of our client companies that tried to move to a more formal interviewing process faced opposition from both interviewers and applicants. Interviewers felt that the process of asking specific, previously agreed-upon questions was too cumbersome. Senior-level candidates reported that the questions were needless and rather insulting given their track records in the workplace. As a result, only one of our clients uses a systematic, formal interviewing format.
Fairfield, New Jersey
Institutionalized hiring methods have removed a manager's responsibility and authority from hiring. Corporate America would do well to stop letting psychologists, test companies, and personnel jockeys do the manager's primary job, recruiting and hiring.
The new canard is the same as the old: Interviews should be objective. If that's true, then the most objective interview would rely only on tests and forms and eliminate any human interviewers. (Your psychologists would love that, eh?) The best managers are those who hire well. They are not objective. They are biased toward candidates who will fit the team and do a good job.
Behavioral interviews are all talk. It's not true that "bluffing becomes close to impossible." Every job-hunting book on the market teaches how to blow through a behavioral interview. It has become the new "what's your greatest weakness?" Put the candidate in front of the job, and let her show you how she will do it. Even if she's not yet skilled at this job, a good candidate will ask the right questions.
Open-ended questions are supposed to be good because they reveal the inner candidate. (Exactly how do we objectively rate answers to open-ended questions?) The real purpose of open-ended questions is to correct a problem that HR experts created. These questions are intended to catch a candidate off-guard so you can see what she's really like. The only reason that's necessary is that "scientific" and "objective" interviews are deconstructed in thousands of guides that teach candidates how to beat the interview. The best way to help a candidate get past memorized answers is to introduce her to your team and let her show what she can do. People are at their most real when they're doing what they're good at--their work.
Lebanon, New Jersey
The only people who would hang around for the exhaustive, insulting hiring process that your story suggests are people with no other options. I remember bailing out of one of these grueling processes back in 1998. It included multiple tests, never-ending reference requests, and an endless parade of adversarial interviews. I doubt many of the CEOs who use these techniques would sit through such a grilling themselves if they were looking for a job.
In Defense of Patents
David H. Freedman used aberrations to dismiss the importance of patents and other intellectual property ["Relax. Let Your Guard Down," August]. For every bizarre story he mentioned, I could give you several other stories in which IP protection was enormously important, especially for smaller companies. Just look at how Polaroid's instant photography patents stopped the predatory piracy of the much larger Kodak, and how one patent enabled Bell Telephone to successfully fight off the more powerful Western Union.
Sure, most patents are worthless. That's partially because few patent claims capture the essence of an invention in a way that effectively protects the invention. But high-quality patents can be extremely helpful and even crucial to real companies in the real world. Otherwise, the pirate companies with the cheapest manufacturing costs will usually put the innovative companies out of business.
Law Offices of Kevin Roe
I enjoyed David Freedman's controversial article on intellectual property. What I find interesting is that our science, engineering, and academic communities have done such a fantastic job of spreading the popular wisdom that IP is the key to economic prosperity, if not survival. In fact, very little IP gets commercialized. And only a small percentage of American businesses are actually built around a new technology.
Strategic Design Management
Though it's true that only a small percentage of patents are commercially successful, that small fraction represents the substance of America's wealth. Because of our patent system, America has grown to be the fountainhead of the world's technology and science.
Professional Inventors Alliance
Publicity on a Budget
Inc.'s response to Michael Wolverton's question about hiring a PR firm offered incomplete advice [Ask Inc., August]. Hiring a $36,000-a-year in-house publicist may actually cost more than the $4,000 per month ($48,000 per year) in retainer fees for an outside firm once you add up training, taxes, insurance, and an operating budget. You also missed the opportunity to suggest several money-saving options, including asking for other pricing models besides retainers and finding smaller PR firms that charge lower rates.
Don't Get Caught
I would add one recommendation to Inc.'s advice about do-it-yourself representation. Invest in some media training for the CEO or spokesperson. Press interaction--even when solicited, but especially when undesired--is fraught with peril. Better to learn the lessons of effective interviews privately, with a sympathetic expert, than publicly, on the front page.
New York City
Everybody's Gone Surfing
David Freedman is right about employees wasting time on the Internet ["Stupid Productivity Tricks," August]. If a lot of employees are seriously goofing off, you have much bigger problems. My mother used to say, "Look for the good and you'll always find it." It sounds corny, but if you're putting locks on the Internet, you've already made a judgment about all your employees. Surround yourself with trusted employees and get rid of the rest.
Charles E. Faber
David Freedman's column was an interesting counterpoint to Norm Brodsky's tirade on his solitaire-playing employee [Street Smarts, August]. As a boss, I have often wondered about this very issue, especially when I see employees using the Web for things that have nothing to do with work. But one of the offenders is me. I do it for a mental time-out sometimes. But I also work hard enough to earn my keep. I assume the same about my staff.
Monitoring employees sends a message of distrust that is counterproductive. We need people to be creative and innovative. Nothing drives that out like fear.
National Center for Employee Ownership
Our list of the top Mideast importers of U.S. goods ("Mideast Boom," July) omitted Israel. With an anticipated $11.4 billion in imports from U.S. businesses in 2006, Israel should have topped that list.
In the September Inc. 500 issue, we misspelled the name of the CEO of SunRx. His name is Gerard Ferro. We also listed incorrect employee counts for two companies. As of Dec. 31, 2005, the Go Daddy Group had 899 employees and Vurv Technology had 353.
To alert us to an error, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. To submit a letter, write to email@example.com or Inc. Letters, 375 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Letters may be edited for space and style. Submission constitutes permission to use.