Monday, September 26, 2011

On why Ikea furniture should be used for job interviews for anything from astronauts to taxi drivers,but specially for aid work

I moved recently, so have familiarised myself closely with the nearest Ikea. You know how it goes, a few weeks in and I’m on a first name basis with most of the shop keepers. 

Given my extensive experience on the moving business  I’ve been to many an Ikeas around the world. Like most people I know, I am both grateful humbled by Ikea,  and also hate it with a vengeance.  It doesn’t matter how many times you swear you will never step foot in an Ikea again, you will be back, because they have what you need, it’s right there, it’s cheap, and usually actually kind of pretty.

Only recently has it struck me that Ikea furniture could have an entirely different use in life and development: it should be used  for job interviews. You know all those sophisticated systems with questions, role playing etc… no need for that anymore.  Just take a group of potential hires, hand them a few ikea items in their box, and sit back to observe.

Ikea furniture requires absolute attention to detail. If you overlook the slightest detail, like assume that two parts that look the same can be interchanged, that a bolt can be facing in or out… if there is the smallest thing that you have overlooked you will find yourself in the biggest pickle down the road, and that is when it starts to get interesting. Something else will not be able to be clicked on or screwed in. It won’t be obvious, so you assume that you are doing something wrong at that stage, when in reality  you lost that battle long ago, before you hammered in those nails which are not actually intended to come back out, and you’ll need to work out how to do it without ruining the whole thing.

You can observe attention to detail, as well as how the potential hire handles stress and frustration. Soon each applicant’s character will begin to emerge: there will be one that sits  back in despair, another blames that blames it all on  the fact that his instructions were not followed earlier on, (and he may be right, still, do you want that guy on your team when something goes wrong in the field?). Another will talk and talk  but actually accomplish little and come up with no useful suggestions, (that guy might be good for fundraising, but keep him out of field work too please). There will a  strong willed and determined  one who will try to get the job done through sheer force, and might indeed be able to get that screw in, but will just regret it further down the line, when something else can’t fit and there is no way back. You will have the quiet one that observes in amazement, overwhelmed and might at some point run out of the room in tears.

A couple will look annoyed, frustrated, and quietly sit down to go through the steps.  They will work out how to take apart bits that were never intended to be separated again, or find creative ways to slid in something the team had forgotten to insert before. They will not be bothered by the fact that they have a couple of extra screws left over, as long as the piece feels solid, and depending on what the ultimate purpose is (hint: if it will be carrying china or a baby  the tolerance level should be lower).  This group will bond and laugh a little about the whole thing. They will make fun of the test and of you when they think you are not listening. There will be a leader who keeps and eye on the big picture and raises a flag when something doesn’t make sense, a handler that takes care of the logistics and one who can guide them through the intricate path, and they will naturally allow each other to reign where they have proven to be competent. They will even let the strong guy do the heavy lifting, the quiet guy hold the small parts, and the talkative guy go get coffee. These are the guys you want

See what I mean?

PS I very randomly came across this cartoon after I'd written the post and failed to find any documentation of my own process. It was in a russian blog (here) so have no idea who it is or what it is normally about. not even if the guy (girl) is the author or not.  So yeah, this is my attempt at giving credit

DISCLAIMER: all genders used are TOTALLY INTERCHANGEABLE, really, they are.

1 comment:

vicente ocaƱa said...

Concerning spatial perception, you seem to be a very female stereotype :-)

Thanks for your posts, they are always insigthful and tender.