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There is of course never a single answer that perfectly encapsulates the choice we would each make when hiring people. I have hired some great candidates in my career and made some dud choices too. With each hire, you learn something a little different.
There is also no guarantee that the choice that we make, no matter how considered, will meet with the perfect end result.
Going for Green
While the fresh-faced young graduate may be a little jarring to deal with in certain circumstances and leave one climbing the walls as a result of their lack of experience, they can be the most impressionable candidates around.
They will make their faux pas and engage in their millennial behaviour, they may seem very knowledgeable, over confident, cocksure and bullish. But they also may, in fact, be perfectly suited for tasks and roles that are not exactly what you started out looking for.
Unlike actual green bananas, they often tend to be quite malleable - they will bend to the will of others in some instances, and not snap - this makes them quite versatile, if inexperienced. You can get a lot out of a graduate if you have the patience.
If you pick someone who is young, energetic, motivated and new to the job market and you want them to quickly start performing, then you, of course, need to provide an environment that is conducive to making them more appealing to a wider audience.
These guineos verdes can be transformed through mentoring and coaching with guidance and nurture. Think of it as simmering!
An experienced mid-career candidate presents you with what will, in all likelihood be a completely expected and anticipated outcome. They are in demand though, so you're up for some stiff competition in hiring.
For the impatient who won't choose a green banana and want someone who will hit the role running, they want the 'peel and eat immediately' experience. If you can find them, you're likely to pay top dollar depending on the market.
More importantly, though, you need to be conscious that if you buy such bananas you don't really know just how long they have been ripe for. They may come with a load of baggage but they may also come with a treasure trove of past experiences and knowledge.
The yellow banana, like the mid-career candidate, is in their prime for a finite window of time though. Leave it too late and their motivation, enthusiasm and energy levels will possibly wane - particularly if they feel jaded and consider the job beneath them or too mundane to care.
Mid-career people come in all shapes and sizes but they do need some careful and considered handling - keep them keen, keep them fresh, task them with very specific work and roles and you can likely get some excellent performance out of them. Just don't assume that all mid-career candidates are the same.
Is Brown Really Out?
Finally, we come to the freckled or brown spotted banana. What can we make of these?
Their external appearance may be quite extremely at odds with what you think you want. Some might call it ageism, but in truth, the older candidate may not be that old at all! They may simply have been mishandled in the past and that mishandling has taken its toll. A black banana that is black because it was refrigerated may actually be a superb banana, it may also be green, chalky and bitter, you can never be 100% sure!
Appearances only suggest that they are not a good banana at all. Some people really crave the sweet overripe banana over the underripe and even the ripe. The consistency isn't always squishy either. The older candidate actually may be very set in their ways or in fact be just as pliant as the younger candidate. You could almost say that certain types of organisations actually seek out the more mature and experienced candidates as employees. These candidates are often recognised as the most dependable, the most reliable and the most committed to the business or the cause.
Often a vintage or veteran candidate is able to read audiences well and read their colleagues more astutely than they are often given credit for. They may or may not be likely to be a willing mentor or coach - you never know. Having at least some more mature skills in a candidate, even if they are in older techniques or technologies say, is probably an advantage.
Mixed Fruit Bowls
Just as for mixed fruits, if you throw bananas and other fruit all in together then this accelerates the ripening process. This can be a tremendous benefit to the team.
The more junior people learn from the more experienced but sometimes the experienced employee feeds off the more junior people and you can end up with a fruit salad of epic performance. It's a balancing act.
My Top Choice for Bananas
I am a fan of the banana that looks green but is actually ripe. There are a lot more of them out there than you might think. They need to be given a chance to visibly ripen. In the candidate world, I think this type of banana comes in a variety of forms.
It's often the mid-career candidate who has pivoted from their previous career trajectory and is trying something completely new. It's also the younger candidate who on face value only has a year or two of work experience more than a fresh-faced graduate. With these young-but-old candidates, there may be tremendous intellect and work potential accompanied by great ideas but they've been overlooked because there is no headroom in their current organisation for them and they are not prepared to wait around for someone to retire or move on.
Among the older candidates, you may find some that are just genuinely in constant learning mode. You cannot really pigeonhole them either way. They have a massive capacity to take on new challenges and are up for it. Their appearance may be neither green nor yellow nor freckled. They may, in fact, be a different kind of banana altogether - they may be a red Dacca.
My advice? Choose that banana carefully!