The Foundational Secret of Hiring

Generally speaking, there are two categories of opportunity.

The first category is what Peter Thiel calls secrets of nature: undiscovered things about the physical world. For example, how to defeat gravity and get something into space was a secret until the Soviets launched Sputnik 1 into orbit on October 4, 1957. So was the knowledge of the relationship between sides of a triangle until Pythagoras unlocked it with his theorem.

The second, more dynamic category is secrets about people. These are things that people don’t know about themselves or things that they intentionally hide from others. Salespeople have been exploring and leaning into these secrets for thousands of years. So has every coach, parent, teacher, and leader.

Before we move on, let me just say that in my opinion, secrets about people are far more interesting for two reasons:

  1. They are more accessible for nearly everybody to explore
  2. Because of that availability, they are under-appreciated

For the attentive reader, that combination should sound alarm bells of opportunity. Did it for you?

Secrets about People in Hiring

While both types of secrets are valuable and worthy of earnest effort, chances are good that you’d be better off acquiring a greater understanding of people than solving a previously unproven mathematical proof.

Especially when it comes to navigating the hiring process.

Over my time leading hiring at Tread Athletics, I observed something interesting: many people don’t understand hiring from its foundation. They treat it as a physical world activity when it is — to its core — about people.

The foundational secret of hiring (and companies in general) is that a company isn’t a natural world entity, but one of the irrational world of people secrets.

Think of it this way: a company is the sum total of a group of people organized to produce a stated economic outcome.

I know that sounds extremely boring & scientific, but it helps to think about a company from this perspective. Because as soon as you do, you start to see the secret that the hiring process isn’t a battle between you and a mechanistic entity called a ‘company’, but rather a series of interactions between you and one or more people that represent a company.

It’s a subtle shift, one that might even slip past your conscious awareness, but this realization can have far-reaching effects as it seeps into each interaction.

We’ll explore many of the implications of this secret over the next handful of weeks, but one that I’ll hit on today is the concept of rational behavior.

As Nassim Taleb’s pointed out, “There’s no such thing as a rational or irrational belief — there is only rational or irrational behavior.” While we usually think of rationality as one’s decision or behavior which provides the most utility, “rational” behavior is actually whatever ensures a person’s survival.

So why are we ending this article about hiring with a side point about rationality? Well, it’s simple, really.

Once you realize that you’re not interacting with somebody in a purely rational sense but have the opportunity to influence people through less rational (but more effective means), a whole world of creativity opens up to you.

One that wouldn’t exist without understanding this foundational secret of hiring.

More on that soon.

Reflection Question

  • Do you agree or disagree with the statement that the hiring process is about people change your perspective?
  • If you agree, what have you done in your own career that reflects
  • If you disagree, what is this argument missing? (If this is you, please send me an email with your thoughts.)