One of the most critical jobs a leader has is recruiting their staff. Yet it’s the task that most, if they are honest, are least well equipped for. Now don’t stop reading because your head has said to you ‘I’m well equipped for it so this isn’t about me’. Why not read along and see if you still think that when you are finished.
First off, just think of the people that you’ve worked with or inherited when you took over teams or departments. How many of them did you feel couldn’t do their job that well? How many have you said ‘I wouldn’t have hired him/her’? How many have you restructured out or into other roles or even fired? I would be surprised if the answer is zero, but think what that means. It means that people just like you made ‘bad hires’ and when I say ‘just like you’, I mean managers that thought they knew how to recruit people, were good judges of character and were supported by the same processes as you. So what’s the chance, given that history, you will do any better?
The only difference is you versus them, and would you say that they had no idea what they were doing? Or did your previous bosses make any of the same mistakes that you could if you don’t work hard to avoid them. Let’s look at just some of the pitfalls we notice managers falling into when recruiting.
- The ‘Hurry Hire’ headache. You need someone and you need them now. See where this is going? I’ve even seen clients recruit someone that has red flags all over their 91 Day risk report because ‘we need someone to do the role and can’t wait’. The problem: Short-term expediency meets long-term issues in a recruit that someone else may have to remove.
- The ‘I like the cut of their jib’ catastrophe. There are people you will be naturally drawn to and people you aren’t. Remember that in an interview situation you are asking the candidate to impress you and some can be quite good at that. You can have the kind of conversation that you like to have, and before you know it, they are the candidate for you. Even if all of the other testing has shown that there are issues (see above red flags in our 91 Day Report’. The problem: Filling the world with mini-me’s is never a route to success.
- The ‘I’m a good judge of character’ conviction. Often linked to issue 2, I’ve never heard a senior manager say they weren’t. For some reason, seniority bestows upon you some wonderful talent for divining good people just by shaking their hand (kind of like medieval royalty and their perceived ability to cure disease by laying their hand upon you and just as believable). If you believe this then go back to the analysis above, throw on the ones you did get wrong (that wasn’t you that was someone else?) and then see if the data backs it up. Few of us have the ability to sense if someone is as good as they say they are in their interview, full stop. The problem: Fundamentally nobody can judge character in an interview. Even the experts. Don’t assume you can if they can’t.
- The ‘CV canyon of doom’ disaster. The thing about CV’s is that they tell you where someone worked and what they say they did. There are also people whose job it is to help other people make their CV look better. There are also people who move between jobs because when they get there, it seems they can’t quite deliver, so we ‘move them on’. Then it’s ‘Wow, what great companies you’ve worked for, what great roles you have had, let’s make you a GM’ all because they had good ‘experience’. Really good recruiters work hard to verify this. They know you have to really dig deep to get an honest comment on a past employee because none of us like to sound like we were dumb enough to employ someone that was that bad. The problem: 91 days later is the wrong time to find that you brought in the wrong person for the job you are looking to fill.
That’s just four issues in recruiting, and professional recruiters will tell you that they have to deal with more than that.
So what’s the answer? Ignore your opinions and don’t delude yourself by making sure you test and verify. The minute you think someone is right for a job, test your own assumptions, biases and drivers against this list of four and then check with your recruiter as to whether they think you are getting too invested and ignoring the facts they are finding for you.