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Saints & Sinners

Publishing Date : 07 May, 2019

Stuart White
The World in Black-N-White

A question I like to ask in interviews is ‘what have you learned about your self recently which was impactful?’  It’s something I also like to ask myself because if I am not learning it normally means that my eyes and mind have been closed and with a closed eyes and mind I am metaphorically in the dark.

  My story this week is about a recent instance of blinkered judement on my part, for which the  the moral might be that you are never to old to learn or maybe there is no fool like an old fool – you can decide. You have heard of the accountant who goes broke, the doctor who gets sick and the lawyer who loses his court case, so I am going to tell you about the recruiter who can’t recruit and that’s me!  This is how it played out:

If the only thing that is constant is change then in today’s rapid-changing  world, it’s critical you swiftly, efficiently and effectively respond to that change. In the world of work it is no different. When I think about my own small businesses, only 6 months ago we were considering a whole host of strategic options that today have been thrown out or turned on its head. Where we were thinking of closing a business, we are now aggressively expanding it, instead of designing a leaner organisation we are looking to fatten it up to fulfil expansion plans and staff who were critical and integral to our business have left and there is a new team on board.

I don’t have a high staff turnover and when staff do leave its mostly because people find better opportunities as a result of having joined my business at the entry level and then acquire more skills which they use as a stepping stone to move to bigger or better jobs. Our environment trains graduates well because we insist on high standards of quality, encourage people to use their initiative and judgement and all of this takes place in a work environment which is constantly changing and is thus, challenging. 

Add this to the mix of a willing graduate with potential and what we spit out in a few years is a pretty worthwhile and valuable product. Suffice to say that a few of these products have been picked up by other companies which has left a few gaps on our shelves and so we have been hunting for replacements. In one of our mission critical roles we promoted one person to a more senior position in a sister company and in another the staff member left for a fabulous opportunity that even if I could stop I wouldn’t because it is such great and deserving opportunity. So I am sweating, just a little  but you know what, that’s change so I just get on with the recruitment for two replacements – pronto!

The problem was that like the plumber with the leaky taps,  I  failed to carry out due diligence at my own home.  My recruiters brain was clearly focussed elsewhere  when one of the people whom I employed turned out to lack passion and energy, even though I knew that these were prerequisite capabilities for the job. In my mind I argued (albeit rather sloppily and lazily) that as she was intelligent (the test results proved this) this was enough for the hire, all the while ignoring my knowledge, experience and research which posits that intelligence on its own is not an indicator of job success.

Similarly, but on the other hand, the next person I employed had passion and energy (loved the bubbly person in the interview) but was short on the brain power (the test results proved this) which is needed to handle the parts of the job where initiative and judgement is required. Now while I subscribe to recruiting for strengths and not for the absence of weakness you can’t ignore critical essential characteristics required for a job, otherwise you are going to run into trouble – and I did.

Things are tried and tested for a reason and while you may get anomalies and outliers from time to time – surprises which for unknown reasons work - for the most part  you need to work with what you know to be sound and true, whether it is in recruitment or making a purchasing decision as a buyer. Here is what I know and what I ignored:  Suitability for a job and predicting job success is best measured on a score card.

There are a number of boxes which you have to tick, and while you do not necessarily have to tick every box the more boxes you tick the better the chance that you have of doing well in the job. The more unticked boxes the higher the risk and the chances are of getting it wrong. In both these instances I had forgot the score card, electing in the one instance that intelligence was enough and in the other passion.

So I am still learning, learning that I can get it wrong, ignore what I know and make mistakes. It’s humbling but really its more annoying than anything else. I took a snapshot of a personality, lost sight of the full picture, wasted a whole bunch of time and energy in the process and committed the cardinal sin of recruitment which is to recruit for the appearance of one characteristic or trait. 

It’s like the halo effect  where we make an immediate judgement based on one positive characteristic of the person, in this case intelligence or passion. This distorts decision making and assumes that from that sole positive trait, that is suffieicnt to make them suitable candidates. So now it’s back to the drawing board after a flawed recruitment process that led to a failed recruitment.  As one of my staff remarked, jokingly, I hope, “Your halo has slipped, Mr White!”



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