If you’re like a lot of us at Relus, chances are that you wait with baited breath for HBO’s hit Game of Thrones every Sunday. As we wrap up the 2nd Episode, Stormborn, the showrunners have made it very clear that the trio of dragons possessed by Daenerys Targaryen are Westeros’s ultimate weapons of destruction. She’s torched one city with them already, and the only reason King’s Landing didn’t go up in flames in the second episode was that she realized her “pets” were too powerful and would cause horrifying collateral damage. I’m speculating, but it’s only a matter of time before Daenerys unleashes them on The Lannisters. We can agree on this, right?

Only when Daenerys unleashes her dragons on Cersei Lannister and her merry band of sycophants, Cersei will have a plan, right? After all, they used wildfire to own Stannis Baratheon in a battle they should have lost, turned back a rapidly advancing Robb Stark with one carefully plotted betrayal, and did a long setup to vaporize the Great Sept of Baelor.


A Plan of Sorts

So of course, Cersei and her dwindling crew will develop some kind of plan, likely something with a morbid twist to it, to deal with Daenerys and her dragons. As Maester Qyburn, the Hand of The Queen, walks past the skulls of long-dead dragons to show off the cutting-edge invention that he’d been working on, the music rises. He explains that “the finest archers and blacksmiths have been laboring day and night” to create it. Sinister music swells. Dragons are “powerful, but not invincible,” he says, mentioning like the famed science doer he is that “if they can be wounded, they can be killed.”

Flashing a toothy, cheshire grin at Cersei, Qyburn whips off a sheet to reveal … a um … uh, a large crossbow. Impressive? Meh.

Yes… meh.

Consider for a moment that The Lannisters have had months to prepare for these dragons and for the impending war. They’ve enjoyed the insights of spies who tell them where Daenerys is and who she is allying herself with. They’ve heard accounts of her heroics. They’ve witnessed trusted allies switch sides.

And with all of this, knowing what the stakes are, the best anti-dragon weaponry they can build is a large, flammable version of a weapon that already exists?

And there are three dragons and it only appears to be one giant crossbow in the whole warehouse!

And it only appears to work if you point it directly at a stationary, centuries-old dragon skull, from like 20 yards away!


Did you just watch this clip and see Cersei’s delight in a solution? Cersei only has one solution in front of her and she’s elated. She’s running out of options and the bad ones, like a crossbow that could be incinerated by a dragon, looks like her salvation. Was it delight in a solution or the salvation from her desperation?

I ask because I’ve seen this look before – this type of delight – on the faces of hiring managers when they think they have “the one” after weeks or maybe months of looking for the right candidate. Cersei is making a desperation hire, and desperation hires are about as useful as smothering a fire with gasoline.


The Perils of Desperation Hires

Like you, Queen Cersei, brave and intuitive, would never lower her standards and accept this answer, but she has. As a Hiring Manager, Desperation Hiring occurs when you lower your standards, dummy down the job, or take the next warm body arriving at your doorstep. You begin to sense you have no hope, or light at the end of the tunnel that you’ll see any better candidates than the ones you’ve seen so far. You think you are in the crosshairs of the giant crossbow.

You begin that destructive thought process of “better a warm body than nobody in that seat.” It’s symptoms include:

  • You can’t bear the thought of interviewing 2 more candidates, balancing both the open position and your own job.
  • Customers are screaming for your deliverables.
  • You’re only doing part of your job.
  • Your colleagues and team members resent you because they are buried under extra work.
  • Your boss is on your back and having your boss ask you one more time when you’re going to fill this role will make you snap.
  • You start to worry that your performance review is going to be a sadistic exercise.
  • You’re starting to feel humiliated.

And worst of all, your boss might say to you tomorrow morning “you’ve done without this position for so long, it looks like you don’t need it – let’s not hire for the role.”

Suddenly, you are not the Jon Snow you thought you were, are you?

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and given the weight on your shoulders, you cave in, and succumb to making a desperation hire. Every single time you allow this to happen, you take your team, department, and organization one step closer to the middle of the bell-shaped curve – average, mediocre, and minimally qualified. Is that the legacy you want to leave when folks look back at your management or leadership track record?


Be The Jon Snow You Think You Are

One of the key elements that causes desperation hiring is waiting for the last minute to start looking for a replacement. If it takes 3-4 months to find, attract, and hire a top-notch candidate, don’t start the process 3 weeks before you need them to show up for their first day of work.

Instead of waiting for a solution to magically appear, you have to build your team with purposeful hiring, or alliances. Jon Snow demonstrates his ability to create connections with other Brothers of the Night’s Watch, Wildlings, and Houses of the North. When he networks and leverages teams outside his own, Jon often comes out ahead. Don’t confuse Jon’s reluctance with doubt; instead take that reluctance as his means to concentrate on putting aces in their places and figuring out where the skills gaps are on his teams. All in all, his hiring style marks him as a leader who creates opportunity within his ranks, harmony amongst his teams, and gets his coalition through stressful scenarios which are pretty prevalent on this show.  

And remember, when you are hiring, Cersei might have said it best: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

About Brian Fink

As a member of Relus' recruiting team, Brian Fink focuses on driving talent towards opportunity. Eager to help stretch the professional capabilities of everyone he works with, he's helping startups grow and successfully scale their IT, Recruiting, Big Data, Product, and Executive Leadership teams. An active keynote speaker and commentator, Fink thrives on discovery and building a better-recruiting mousetrap.