Help Wanted: Only Clones Need Apply

I just saw this quote: “When two people in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.” Why? Because without disagreement or different ways of looking at things, effectively one person becomes a clone of the other. Very little extra value added, even if work gets done.

And yet, in the world of recruiting and hiring, all too often clones are exactly what companies are looking for. And that’s a problem not only for job seekers, but for the company itself.

There are  a lot of people looking for work right now who are exactly what companies need for a diverse, vigorous workplace. But a good number of these job seekers don’t have a chance with the “let’s not take any risk” hiring crowd, who prefer to bring in more of the same types of people to minimize (or so they think) chances that the new hire won’t work out.

But is this low-risk policy costing companies in the long run?

Where do all the great ideas come from if there are only clones?

As companies become more and more homogenized, they miss out on opportunities to create workplaces staffed by people with new ideas – and people willing to share them. Instead they are left mainly with yes men and yes women, who also catch the same worry bug – choosing safety over diversity, and therefore self- censoring suggestions that may be exactly what’s needed. 

Fear in  a workplace is palpable…and can be catchy.

Staffing with people who do not all look alike and think alike – while encouraging different ways of looking at things – is the best way to ensure an ample supply of great ideas.  But if a company is stuck in a pattern of hiring the same types of people with the same types of opinions – rewarding agreement while punishing the odd man/woman out – then you have a company that will most likely be looking for a new CEO in the not-too-distant future.

But if you say any of this to the vast majority of HR people, good chance they’ll look you in the eyes and agree. They’ll say that they think diversity is a great thing…and then proceed to weed out resumes that somehow “feel” like they might not be right for the culture.

Then again, it’s not all their fault. A lot of employers let it be known that is exactly what they want – either directly or by commenting on failed hires who didn’t fit the mold.

Staffing an organization is harder than most people think. True…someone who is extremely button-down in thought and action is probably not going to feel comfortable in a high-tech environment without walls or ties or clear-cut boundaries. Then again…can you really tell all that from the interview process? Is that interview impression really the true picture of how they will fit in?

And sometimes having square pegs – or just folks who aren’t exactly like the rest – are just what a company needs.  And as the company moves more and more toward a model with no clear-cut clone type, they increase their chances of creating a strong, creative team, ready to offer ideas and take on new projects without fear of not fitting in.

Might be time for a new lens

I think all-too-often we want to have clear-cut answers and so we use narrow-focus lenses when we look at resumes & cover letters as well as during the interview process. Especially true in a time when hiring personnel are bombarded by applicants. But I think you are overlooking a lot of good people who could add an important element of new thinking to the work environment.

Yes…it takes more work and some great interview probing & listening skills. But I just want remind everyone in a position to select potential employees that part of the art of hiring is finding the rare gem. And they are the very ones who can easily be pushed to the “no” pile during a too-tightly focused screening process.

Just had to get that out of my system.

Meanwhile…good luck to all of you job seeker gems out there! And where you can, please help screeners and interviewers as much as possible by clearly connecting the dots for them with your resume, cover letter and interview answers!


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. So very true, you need to get this published on the front page of the WSJ, email it to every Company. Of coarse they would need to take of their blinders to read it, other wise they would not even see it.

    • I agree with you Mr. Muse! Ronnie, this article explains why so many of us are still looking. When you are not a “Yes Man” (or woman) they don’t see you as a “team player.” When in fact you are the most valuable asset to the team because you have the “balls” to go against the group for the better of the company or organization. This also has perfect timing with the Penn State scandal/tragedy. The new info emerging about the former admin in charge of discipline who was asked to resign in 2007 because she bucked the system (aka JoePa) when it came to the football team. Had she been allowed to do her job she maybe would have saved them from at least some part of this sick circus they are in

  2. Thanks, Dennis and NikkiP for adding so nicely to the discussion. I really do wish everyone would get this point.

    Not sure I can get it in the WSJ, Dennis, but I can at least speak out. Hope more people do.

    Great point about Penn State, Nikki. And so many other companies…BP for instance, where I hear people were told to shut up or fired when they pointed out flaws in their drilling practices. Would be nice politically too if critical thinking replaced blind clone mentality. But I do digress.

  3. Companies should definately take some chances and from time to time inject ‘new blood’, young and fresh minds into the organisation – they bring with them innovation, new perspectives and new ideas.

    Being a Business Analyst for most part of my career, even if the above does occur, the challenge is that the company’s culture, environment and leadership must encourage and facilitite innovation and change. If the leaders embrace change then the fewer the clones you’ll see in the organisation, otherwise they’ll quickly shut out any ideas coming out of left field.

    Innovative companies that come to mind are the likes of Google, Atlassian, Linkedin, Apple…it’s really which direction the leaders would like to steer towards so it’s up to the leaders – short sighted (who takes lower risk?) or long sighted ones (who takes higher risk?)

  4. Still, if a slightly outside-of-the-box candidate presents himself as the solution to a problem the company has, he is more likely to get the job than someone who is simple “square peg” for its own sake. That is, HR is more likely to hire someone who earnestly and enthusiastically wants to work with the company, rather than someone who simply wants to be himself. And this is perfectly reasonable.

    Jess Alexander

    • You’re so right, Jess. Great point. No matter what shape a person is, if they come showing how they can add to and help solve problems for the company, most interviewers will see them as potentially good candidates. Still…I’ve sat in on many after-the-interview discussions and you’d be amazed what kinds of things get brought up, even for smart well-spoken interviewees. I think any company can benefit from staying open.

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