Think from First Principles, not by using proxies

I recently had a candidate ask me during an interview (I’m paraphrasing here):

Candidate: so I looked at the backgrounds of your leadership team, and it doesn’t seem like they’d have the background to be the reason you’re so successful.

Bo: huh, interesting… tell me more about what you mean?

Candidate: you know, they didn’t come from companies like Uber.

Bo: [trying to keep a straight face]…

This is one of the most egregious forms of reasoning by proxy that I’ve been unfortunate enough to witness. I suspect questions such as “how can you tell how much of Uber’s success to attributable to which person” and “so who then would have ‘had the background’ to be hired at Uber in the early days” are not questions that keep this candidate up at night.

Our job to to think from First Principles. If indeed we notice that people with a specific background tend to pass our interviews at a higher-than-baseline rate, or do better here after they join, it’s our job to Dive Deep into the possible causes and try to pinpoint them. We do this by making falsifiable propositions (rather than generic statements) and then testing them. We don’t somehow backslide into assumptions such as “everyone at Uber is excellent” and “only people from Uber could possibly run a business that bears a resemblance to Uber” like this candidate did.

P.S. Feel free to replace Uber with [x] for any company name [x].