The Snowball


I am currently engrossed in reading Warren Buffet’s biography, The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life. This investment genius, who began his career at the age of 13 and is still very active today at 85, owns a fortune valued at more than $63 billion. Over the course of his very long and fortuitous career, he has shown that accumulating relevant data on companies in which he wanted to invest, just as a rolling snowball picks up ever more snow, was indispensable to him.

A similar parallel can be drawn with recruiting. The more information collected on a candidate in which you are interested, the better and more informed your decisions will be. Therefore, in addition to the traditional CV analyses, reference checks and medical examinations, administering cognitive tests, personality inventories, in-basket exercises, role-play and interviews with an organizational behaviour specialist helps develop an extremely detailed profile of your perfect candidate. However, just like Mr. Buffet, with a complete portrait of your target, you may decide not to select the candidate, as the return on investment will not be high enough. Candidates who at first appeared to be that highly sought after rare pearl might lose their lustre!

To avoid being too cautious and passing over some interesting candidates (you don’t always need that one-in-a-million employee), your challenge is to define how big your snowball needs to be. Is the position to be filled extremely critical to your organization, thus requiring a large quantity of information, hence a larger snowball? Or is it a position for which less information needs to be collected, but in a more targeted way? A rigorous exercise must be conducted before launching your hiring process, to determine, as Mr. Buffet is so apt at doing, what information must be obtained.