In Chapter 12 Tjan takes up the challenge of making judgments about people, presumably so that we can become better at selecting the "right" people to join our efforts or organizations. I will get to the specific tools and techniques that Tjan advocates shortly, but I want to start with some more basic obervations and assumptions.
First, there is something a bit more complicated about the notion of judging other people that needs examination. In most cases we are judging other people in reference to something that we ourselves are doing (e.g., taking a mate, planning a party, admitting a class, hiring a staff, guarding the border). The basis of judgement in each case has its foundation in our own understanding of ourselves. If we do not understand ourselves fully (and who does?) we can easily go astray.
Second, the way we think about the foundation of our judgement of other people can also lead us astray. If we think about our judgement as identifying those good enough to join us, we can easily get carried away and develop a distorted view of things. If, however, we think about our judgement as identifying those who can thrive under our own set of weaknesses and strengths, then we may be able to maintain a more balanced view.
Let's consider the 12 screening questions Tjan poses.
1. Do you believe this person is self-aware?
Although this is a good question, it is difficult to apply in practice. Self-awareness is a long journey and most of us are in the earlier stages. Perhaps a better question is whether there are signs that someone can grow in self-awareness.
2. Does this person feel authentic or obsequious?
Someone's ability to feel comfortable enough to be their authentic selves depends heavily on the circumstances so assessing this is typically complicated by context. Our strategy to control for context is to standardize the conditions under which we observe people (e.g., a standard interview setting and protocol), but what if different people respond differently to that standard? We do try to vary the circumstances of a candidate visit, but we may still miss the conditions that allow someone to act authentically.
3. What is the talk-to-listen ratio?
This question seems more useful for screening out those who talk too much than it might be for learning anything about those who are more quiet. Perhaps a better question would focus on the capacity of the individual to engage in a conversation where there are instances of initiation and instances of appropriate responses.
4. Is this person an energy giver or taker?
This is more difficult to assess than Tjan suggests, despite his guidance on observing people at cocktail parties.
5. Is this person likely to act or react to a task?
We try to tap into this by requiring completion of a relevant task during the hiring process.
6. How does this person treat someone he doesn't know?
This is an interesting question. We implicitly tap this by seeing how individuals treat different people they encounter in our hiring processs.
7. What is the spouse, or the partner, like?
Tjan suggests getting to know the spouse or partner of the individual being judged. I am absolutely certain that most of us have no capacity to use such indirect information well. However, if the spouse or partner is expected to play some role, then getting to know them might be helpful.
8. Is there an element of struggle in the person's history? How does he respond to setbacks?
This question seems like it was drawn from a college application where the candidates are encouraged to highlight some dramatic struggle that has characterized their life. Perhaps asking about a recent failure and how they responded (e.g., being late for an interview because of a delayed subway) would be more indicative of how they would handle more typical setbacks.
9. What has this person been reading?
This seems like a great question for a library hiring process, but we should also recognize that there is great variation in reading habits in any population. This question could be broadened to include other experiences that contribute to human development, including: hobbies, volunteer activities, religious activities, sports, etc.
10. Would you ever want to go on a long car ride with this person?
To this question, I might add "Would the other person ever want to go on a long car ride with you?"
11. Is the person comfortable with idiosyncrasies?
The question is directed at the idiosyncracies of the person being judged but it might also be turned to focus on whether the person being judged is comfortable with the idiosyncracies of the group he or she is hoping to join.
12. Is the person multidimensional or multidisciplinary?
In our setting where we are looking for those who can combine a defined set of skills with an interest in learning and education, we have always been on the lookout for multidimensional and multidisciplinary individuals or at least those who aspire to being so.
The 12 questions do offer some interesting dimensions related to Tjan's notion of goodness and they do broaden our thinking about judgements of people.