The Three Stages of Knowing… have you heard of it? It’s a powerful form to use in the hiring process. The most triggering though for people responsible for hiring is a self assessment using the form.

Fernando Flores, a guru in the ontology of business, first presented the Three Stages of Knowing as a way to help people get clear on where they need to develop professionally or to recognize they are not knowledgeable and can be dangerous to themselves and their company by acting as if they are. The application of this form in the hiring process are many. Here are the basics of the form: 

Three Stages of Knowing

  • Familiarity – you can recall lightly what “it” is about, perhaps with some detail, but unable to safely act to make decisions, teach, or produce a product.
  • Understanding – you can describe in detail what “it” consists of and how it appears in the world, but it’s not something you’ve actually done. The breakdowns that happen are mysterious and seemingly come out of the blue.
  • Knowing – you can describe in detail what “it” consists of, how it works in the world, what breakdowns are likely at different phases, and make reliable, successful choices. This is muscle memory.

If you are acting as if you know how to hire but instead are only familiar with it or understand it, you could be INCREDIBLY dangerous to your company. A mishire can cost a company from 1-3 times the annual salary of the new hire. Clearly the stakes are really high!

A Self Assessment

You may be familiar with the concept of hiring. You get that hiring often requires an interview and an application. And perhaps you know that in an interview questions are asked and answered.

You can also understand hiring. You have read about and include open ended questions in your interviews. You recognize that you have to give information about your company as well as get information from the candidate. You have learned that you need an onboarding plan or specific paperwork and particular times.

But you don’t know hiring until you’ve mishired, seen things in the interviewing process that you dismissed that then became big problems within days, wasted your employees’ time and good mood training the recruit, and/or upset a customer. You don’t know hiring until you’ve gotten it right multiple times and get deep in your bones how to spot a great new team member.

A Practical Application

If you are clear on what you need from a candidate skills wise, with the Three Stages of Knowing you can change the binary opinions you have about candidates (yes they have the skill or no they do not have the skill) to a clear view for what it would take to get this candidate up to speed if you hired them… what would you have to invest in a person.

With each core skill you are looking for, rate candidates as a 1 (they are familiar with the skill), 2 (they understand the mechanics of the skill), or 3 (they know the skill). You will be in a much better position to compare the success for your company of choosing one candidate over another.

Where are you being dangerous?

Back to you and your company’s ability to gain the talent you need. If you were doing what most do when they see a rating scale, you’re already pretty clear on what your level of knowledge is about hiring.

If you are a one or a two and you continue to hire, you could be quite dangerous for yourself and your company, costing your company an unacceptable amount. How are you going to move yourself to a three? How will you get to know hiring and not just understand it?


Miche Rayment is the Founder and Chief Facilitator for The Hire Effect™. The Hire Effect provides the tools and thinking to build high performing teams.