Three eggs, Swiss brown mushrooms, some parmesan and sea salt flakes. First fry the mushrooms with some virgin olive oil. No butter required. Add the sea salt to the olive oil.
Then whisk the eggs and pour them into the pan once the mushrooms are brown. Then the parmesan. Flip one side onto the other and after one minute flip the omelette over. Serve warm.
That’s one way to do it. But of course there are other ways.
Obviously there are different ingredients. But more importantly, even if the exact same ingredients are used, there are different methods of making an omelette. Things can be done in a different order. The timing can change. The temperature makes a difference. And so on.
It depends on the individual, their skills, the effort they make and even their mood. Because we all do things in our own unique way.
So if you want to hire a chef, ask her to make you an omelette. Why an omelette and not something more complex? Because with an omelette there are no excuses. Pretty much everyone has eaten one and knows how to make one. The aspiring chef can’t say she isn’t familiar with the recipe, hasn’t had time to prepare or needs special equipment. It’s simple: either she makes a great omelette or she doesn’t.
To continue the omelette metaphor, most hiring decisions are made based on where the candidate learned how to make an omelette and how many omelettes the candidate has made in the past. Sometimes candidates are also asked to explain how an omelette is made. But rarely are candidates asked to perform in a real-world scenario.
To make good hiring decisions, you need to see candidates in action. You need to see how they perform relevant tasks.
The omelette is symbolic, of course. It represents the core activity of each role. For a doctor it might be the art of diagnosis. For a brand ambassador it might be the greeting. And for a graphic designer it may be designing a logo. It needs to be a simple activity that is repeated many times in the role.
If you want to find out whether someone will do a great job, ask them to “make you a great omelette” so you can see them in action.
But “great” according to who? A panel of expert judges? The international association of egg farmers? The sunny side up society? Who decides?
In the case of an omelette it will initially be other chefs at the restaurant, and ultimately the diners of that restaurant, who decide. Just like you know how you like your omelette to taste, only you know what makes a great employee in the role you are trying to fill. There is no perfect answer. There is only the right answer for you.
Set your candidates a simple task they will need to do every day on the job. Then watch them do it.