Are you still asking that question?

In a recent article on how to hire the right person, The New York Times offered “unusual questions that will reveal a lot about a candidate”, including this one—


A person’s natural strength is not about their current title or what they studied in college. It is a particular skill or ability that, for them, comes as naturally as breathing but that others may find difficult. Other ways to ask this question: If everybody is in the top 5 percent of the world at some skill, what is yours? Or what is your ninja skill?

Discovering people’s natural strengths — their superskills — is critical to spotting and hiring hidden talent.

But asking the question will not yield the information you need to make the right decision.

Here is why—

  1. Candidates don’t actually know their hidden superskills

  2. Candidates’ self-rating is influenced by unreliable reference points

  3. Science shows that the least competent candidates are most likely to overestimate their own skills

  4. Managers can’t “convert” subjective answers into any reliable, useful metric

  5. Managers can’t compare answers across candidates

Q&As are the hallmark of assessment, the 20th century paradigm that has seen virtually no innovation for over 50 years.

Beyond the poor information they produce and the false sense of confidence they might provide the decision-maker, Q&As are a time-consuming method that neither scales nor works across cultures.

Moreover, Q&As, and assessment more broadly, can’t help companies overcome their talent blindness, a key obstacle on the path to spotting talent they need but can’t see.

Lastly, Q&As make people feel dumbfounded—even interrogated—as they’re put through a poor candidate experience.

In the skills economy, discovering people’s superskills is key to making the right talent decisions in business and education. Taking the smart digital path to uncovering people’s superskills will make all the difference.

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