Hypothetical Hiring Challenge: College, Porsche, or Marathon? All three?

I met Geoff Graham a couple of years back when I was still doing web sites for a living. Working with him was one of those rare professional experiences where things get done, but everyone is still in a good mood. Can you imagine? Enjoying your working life?

Geoff posted the following question on the twitters yesterday with a poll: “You must hire one of three candidates: The first is a college graduate. The second completed a marathon. The third owns a Porsche. These are all the facts that you can know before you make your decision. Which one do you hire?”

I feel uniquely qualified to respond to this question because I have done all three of those things at different times in my life. I’ll lay out my mindset for each and the best answer.

College

I went to college because everyone is supposed to want to go to college. I did not want to go to college. I wanted to be a guitar player in rock bands. Later, when I dropped out of college, after a lot of money wasted and teeth gnashed, I played guitar in rock bands for a few years. Now that was an education.

I think if my parents had gnashed teeth even more they could probably have forced me to finish school and get a degree. If so, I would have been a positively terrible hire. I know because I had more than a few jobs in those years and I was a positively terrible hire. No degree could have changed that about me.

You don’t know when you’re hiring a college grad whether they actually cared or whether they finished because their parents shouted them through it. If the latter is true, when you hire them, you’ll be taking over the job of shouter in chief.

A Porsche

I am a car guy. I have been a lifelong fan of Porsche. When I owned one years ago I hung around with other Porsche owners. There are cool Porsche owners and complete jack-legs. Merely owning a car is not a marker of either. All it means is someone had the money to spend and the will to spend it.

Porsche enjoys a reputation as a performance car brand which they richly deserve thanks to their history of commitment to motorsport. Porsche owners, on the other hand, are just people. The former is not transferable to the latter.

If you want to hire someone with a commitment to the art of performance driving, hire an SCCA or NASA or other performance series driver. They’ll most likely be in a Miata.

If the applicant owned a particularly cool example — say, a real RS America, a real 550, or a 959 — maybe that would say something about taste or refinement. But hire-ability? Meh.

My car was 26 years old when I bought it. It needed a lot of care and that care was not cheap. If you hire a Porsche owner, they might be a little more willing to stay with you because they need the money to keep their car on the road, but if that’s the case you might as well hire someone with a modest drug habit.

A marathon

“Marathon” is a word that gets misapplied. I have heard someone refer before to a “10K marathon.” I think there are also a lot of half marathon runners out there who occasionally leave the word “half” off when they describe their experience. There were nearly four times more finishers of half marathons than marathons in 2016.

As a marthon, ultramarathon, and Ironman finisher, I can tell you: forgetting the distance, there’s a big difference between a half marathon and marathon. It happens at about the 20 mile mark. If you have never run through that, you just don’t know what it’s like. A person committed enough to run through that might be a good hire.

Remember: Running a marathon isn’t just the act itself. It’s months of preparation in addition to one’s normal commitments. Most likely the marathoner has been running for years, doing 5k, 10K, 13.1 events.

I’d say of the three choices the marathoner is unquestionably the best, given that you don’t know anything else. Other factors might play in. Like, let’s say the college graduate put herself through school while raising two kids. That’s someone who knows how to manage her time. What if the Porsche owner built the car herself? What if the marathoner walked the whole thing?

Of course, it’s a thought experiment, so we don’t know. But Geoff asked for a few more suggestions. Here are a few more ideas:

  • A single mom who is cutting it
  • A Certified Sommelier+ (i.e. Level 2 or above)
  • A thru-hiker
  • Someone with a handful of summits (14ers, Mont Blanc, not Kilimanjaro)

Have any more ideas?

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