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The Marshmallow Test

Oakstone International executive search: the marshmallow test

We are all used to getting things when we want them, and we are growing ever more impatient, wanting things right now, whether that be food or a new car. Why should we have to wait? – we work hard at what we do and deserve to get things when we want them – don’t we?

What if it is better to wait and you could have something better if you were willing to wait a little longer? Take the Marshmallow test for example….

‘It began in the early 1960s at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School, where Mischel and his graduate students gave children the choice between one reward (like a marshmallow, pretzel, or mint) they could eat immediately, and a larger reward (two marshmallows) for which they would have to wait alone, for up to 20 minutes. Years later, Mischel and his team followed up with the Bing preschoolers and found that children who had waited for the second marshmallow generally fared better in life. For example, studies showed that a child’s ability to delay eating the first treat predicted higher SAT scores and a lower body mass index (BMI) 30 years after their initial Marshmallow Test. Researchers discovered that parents of “high delayers” even reported that they were more competent than “instant gratifiers”—without ever knowing whether their child had gobbled the first marshmallow.’

The test shows that waiting longer for something could mean getting something better. In executive search we couldn’t agree more.

If a job is worth doing, do it properly.

Searching for a new employee can take a week or it can take a few months – depending on what skills, experience and role you are looking to fill.  It’s not only finding the right people that takes a long time but it also takes a long time for the right people to make the decision to move positions.

Moving positions is a career decision – and the brightest people will take time to strategically think how moving will affect their career.  Moving positions is more than money, package and benefits it is about commitment, investment and knowing what the company can offer them.

This is how we would expect the marshmallow test would look if done with hiring….

Initial Marshmallow

You or an Agency advertise the job online, receiving hundreds of applicants sending in their CV’s.  You look through all these CV’s and you pick 2-3 to interview.  They are all mediocre – to good candidates with limited experience, but you hire someone after 2 weeks as this is the best person that applied to the position.  After a few months you realise the wrong decision has been made and the process needs to start again to find someone more suitable, or even worse – you keep an average performer in the position for 3 years.

A Bigger Marshmallow after 5 minutes

Your internal recruiters put up some job adverts on their website and attract some good applicants and CV’s. They also search for talent in a limited number of places, calling upon their limited network however do target more qualified people. They take 3-4 weeks before compiling a group of people to interview. The talent is ok, but you know you could get someone better. You hire someone after 3 weeks.

You make do with the person you have hired but you know that hiring someone better for the job would have benefitted the company more.

2 Big Marshmallows

You’ve partnered with an executive search company.  They target passive candidates who are highly qualified to do the job role and extensively qualify them on their experience and skills.  They speak to each candidate and find out about their motivations and drives, and then decide which ones are suitable for your job role.  They organise interviews and initial talks with you and the candidates. You hire someone fully qualified and experienced for the role after 4-10 weeks.  The person you have hired over achieves and adds value to the business.

Oakstone know that if a job is worth doing, its worth doing properly, and a well-executed hire can take a little longer. Time is precious to everyone – so do the job well once, rather than doing it badly multiple times.  Great talent are not looking for new positions because they are constantly sought after.

Some benefits of a great hire:

  • More revenue

  • Stronger team

  • Better culture

  • More attractive, can-do attitude

  • Hire more, better people

If you want top performers you need to take the time to brief, commit, invest and profile what you can offer them and what they can offer you using the right methods to get them on board.  A little patience can go a long way.