Recruitment needs to be less like the X Factor

Does recruitment sometimes feel like an episode of the X Factor? Job applicants get a moment to shine with their CV, having to create enough of an impression in that moment that they are then invited to perform in front of a panel of judges. The vast majority of hiring decisions are then made in a relatively short interview process which tries to assess someone’s “talent” for the role on offer.

We all know that you can’t build a great company without great people. The problem is: How do you know who the great people are?

We all know the impact that the wrong people leave behind them – time wasters who seem determined never to meet the deadlines you’ve set, office whisperers who like nothing better than to spread the seeds of discontent and the jobsworths whose job description doesn’t include that task. All of these must have persuaded the recruiter that they were “right for the job” at the time, so just what went wrong?

There are some key reasons why new recruits subsequently fail in the role:

1.  Coachability: lacking the ability to accept & implement feedback from others

2.  Emotional intelligence: lacking the ability to understand & manage their own emotions or assess others’

3.  Motivation: lacking the drive to achieve their full potential

4.  Temperament: attitude & personality not suited to the particular job & work environment

5.  Technical competence: having the functional skills required to do the job

It is clear from these that having the relevant skills for the job is significantly less important than having the right attitude. It is also clear that it is not just about having the right attitude towards the job, it is as much about having the right attitude towards others and having the emotional maturity to be able to process our performance and make changes if necessary.

After all, what you know can change but who you are doesn’t. Or, in the words of the song, “I am what I am!”

The most common mistake that we make when recruiting is to find someone with the right skills, but with the wrong mindset and then think that we can change them. This is often because we start the recruitment process when it’s already too late, so we hire someone who will do the job right now with minimal training.

Let’s start by remembering that the single best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour so we should provide a recruitment process that identifies what behaviours each candidate brings with them & then compares them with the ones needed for this role. Of course it’s also important to identify when skills or knowledge are essential for the role, but don’t forget these can often be learned in a relatively short timescale.

So, just what should we be looking for? Some good behaviours to look for are:

  • Ability to learn – how quickly do they develop new skills
  • Ownership – who is responsible for their performance & development
  • Initiative – what have they done without being told to
  • Judgement – how do they show good decision making & common sense
  • Work ethic – when have they gone beyond what was required
  • Flexibility – how do they adapt to change
  • Positivity – how do they handle life’s ups & downs

The extent to which candidates have these traits can be identified through testing, proper questioning, observation &, most importantly, quality time with them. The more time you invest in making a decision, the more likely you are to ultimately make the right choice.

In today’s environment, it is clear that success in a job depends far more on these behaviours & competencies than it does on experience alone. If you choose the person with the right attitude you can teach & train them the skills they need & you will have made the better choice than the one that hits the ground running in terms of experience but falls at the first hurdle because they lack resilience or flexibility.

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