Follow by Email

Monday, March 31, 2014

David Brooks, "The Employer’s Creed": Looking for Trouble? Consider My Résumé!

Are you seeking employees? David Brooks has some advice for you.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Employer’s Creed" (, Brooks offers a list of suggestions, which "may correct some of the perversities at the upper reaches of our meritocracy." Brooks suggests:

  • "Bias hiring decisions against perfectionists."
  • "Bias hiring decisions toward dualists."
  • "Bias toward truth-tellers."
  • "Don’t mindlessly favor people with high G.P.A.s."
  • "Reward the ripening virtues, not the blooming virtues."
  • "Reward those who have come by way of sorrow."
  • "Reward cover letter rebels."

Brooks's conclusion:

"You could argue that you don’t actually want rich, full personalities for your company. You just want achievement drones who can perform specific tasks. I doubt that’s in your company’s long-term interests. Plus, think of the effect you’re having on the moral ecology, the kind of souls you are rewarding and thus fashioning, the legacy you will leave behind."

Heck, if you had followed David's advice, you might even have ended up hiring me, but it probably would have been against your best interests and have proven a big mistake.

Perfectionist? Somewhere along the way, I lost interest in my GPA and searched for quiet niches in the basement of my law school library where I could get some undisturbed sleep.

Dualist? I left my job at a Wall Street law firm in order to volunteer for the army.

Truth teller? For a certain government job, I needed to undergo polygraph exams and afterwards didn't hesitate to investigate what, for many in that institution, was a sacred cow, i.e. potentially their next place of employment.

My G.P.A.? Something like an airplane in a tailspin. Back then, I had come to the conclusion that if you can't practice, you teach, and in some instances, I had grown openly contemptuous.

Reward the ripening virtues? Sure, I have an excellent "sense for how events will flow," but do you really want to know?

Come the way of sorrow? Care to learn about my PTSD? I don't think so.

Reward cover letter rebels? Today, I can't even bother to try to sell myself.

Trust me, you should not have hired me.

True, a certain financial institution suddenly woke up to the fact, after I quit, that I had saved them millions of dollars in annual costs. However, they had also come to believe that I had blown the whistle on certain of their dubious activities and had come to realize that I was not a "fit" for the highest positions in management.

As I near self-imposed retirement from the world of business, I can honestly tell you that employees who have "followed the cookie-cutter formula for what it means to be successful" also have their advantages. Such people are predictable, and from the standpoint of most employers, there is much to be said for that.


  1. Jeff, your candour and your c.v. have impressed me.
    I would like to offer you a position.

  2. Jeff, in all fairness, you are not entirely the "bad boy" that you make yourself out to be. You also raised awareness of, and funds for, small innovative companies seeking remedies for cancer and blindness. Go easier on yourself.