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Opening Arguments

Musical chairs

We have an interesting column on today's page from Eleanor Marine, chair of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic board, about the ongoing search for a new music director for the orchestra. It's a lot bigger and more complicated process than you might imagine for a philharmonic in a city this size. They got more than 275 applications. Based on the applicants' resumes, that field was narrowed to 100, each of whom was asked to subit a videotape showing direction of an orchestra. Through other processes, they got it down to 20 and then to eight. Those eight each had to conduct two concerts with the orchestra and go through dozens of interviews with board member, musicians and community members:

The successful candidate will need to be a superior musician with great communication skills and an interest in music education and the community at large. Conducting is only the most visible part of a music director's job. He or she must also be the public face of the orchestra, plan the programming, guide the music education efforts, and work with the board and staff in fundraising.

After all that, I'd be willing to bet that the person who finally gets the job will win because of the gut instincts of the people charged with making the decision. Eight finalists out of 275 applicants are likely to be roughly equal in talent and experience.

That's one of the dirty little secrets of hiring. One of the most important factors -- how right or wrong the person seems for the job, a highly subjective judgment -- is one of the most important factors and one of the least talked about. It isn't very "fair," after all, and could land a company in court in a heartbeat.