Pre-Hire Selection – Our Mercury 7 Astronauts

On July 21st, 1969 Americans, and millions around the world were glued to our TV screens watching Neil Armstrong take the first step on the moon’s surface. Like all world-altering occasions, we humans often remember exactly where we were and what we were doing at the very moment of triumph or tragedy. That was certainly the case for me nearly fifty years ago, but that’s a story for another day. My favorite book this month, as reported in this newsletter, is “American Moonshot”, by Douglas Brinkley. Brinkley eloquently describes the space race between Russia and the USA. I particularly enjoyed learning more about the historic journey that ultimately led to the momentous accomplishment. Of course, like most journeys, there were decades of essential steppingstones that enabled President John Kennedy to proclaim that the Americans would put a man on the moon before the end of the 60s. On the topic of pre-hire assessment, what more visible illustration of a selection process than picking our first seven US astronauts. The book provided some information on the methodology, but I wanted to dig a little deeper. Many of us know that all candidates had to be under six feet tall (to fit into the early capsule). You many not know that they each contender went through over 30 laboratory tests. In addition to all the physical testing there were a multitude of psychiatric interviews. A battery of 13 psychological tests for personality and motivation were delivered. Basically, the 31 original candidates spent a week living with two psychologists. All in all, they picked quality candidates with the “right stuff”. It could be argued that they were all white men. No diversity. That wouldn’t fly and shouldn’t fly today. The Russians never made it to the moon, but they did put the first women in space in 1963. Valentina Tereshkova ably accomplished her mission and to a degree embarrassed the Americans. BTW, there were some studies done during that time, in America, that suggested that women were better candidates for space than men. Well; I don’t want to start something so let me end by saying that I am glad that today we realize that people of every race and gender can accomplish any task where their capabilities and motivations align with the job. In summary; we make a heck of a lot of mistakes in hiring. And, we all know that a bad hire is costly. So, consider your hiring process. TLG and others are qualified to help you vastly increase your odds for having the best fit. – Tino