I have been involved in recruitment for a long time, both as an appointer and an appointee. So perhaps my first experience, this week, of a blind or unbiased recruitment process for a national opportunity was a little overdue!
I have also heard from several reliable sources that the recruitment market has been changing a fair bit as a result of remote working. Agencies are able to gain work and candidates from a much broader geographical spread. We are a considerable redistribution of work in the future out of cities (London, looking at you). I also read an article that says that TikTok is setting up a recruitment platform, as it sees it as an essential part of its growth plans. Hm — perhaps I should have a business account.
It has got me thinking about recruitment processes — from all angles. I’m going to suggest three areas to think about. This applies on both sides of the table — whether you are the candidate or the decision-maker in a business.
1 — The quality of the candidate experience
I do think the quality of the candidate experience tells the prospective employee a lot. Do you really want to work with folk who don’t treat you well at this “showing our best side” stage? I think if you look carefully there will be clues to the organisational culture in that experience. To give an example, the blind process has made me think deeper about the organisation’s values and I want to work with them more. At the very least, it shows it has paid attention to such things — the culture is so important to a recruitment decision.
Likewise, from an employer perspective, it is worth thinking about their experience. You may not be getting the best out of your candidates if you don’t. Do you want candidates who are prepared to tolerate shenanigans? And people share war stories — bad recruitment experiences can really affect organisational reputation, believe me.
2 — Does the employer know what they want? What they really really want?
As a candidate, a few years ago, I carefully researched an organisation and their needs — only to find I was unsuccessful. On feedback, they wanted something completely different. Really exasperating. I was gutted. I had that experience they were looking for. But they never asked about it. In retrospect, there had been signs (conflicting information on my research) and if it happened to me again I take that as a warning light. I’ve turned down opportunities subsequently when I couldn’t really “buy the vision”. As a candidate or as an employer — watch out for that lack of vision. You run the risk of making a bad decision if you don’t.
3 — We need experience. Is the past truly a predictor of the future?
We value experience, as a society, and rightly so. And I think it is particularly valued in organisations that feel insecure, are going through change, or need a strong leader. Two decades’ experience as a CFO has given me insights and skills I couldn’t even have dreamed of as a callow twenty-something.
But it is also true that in a complex world, what happened in the past may not be that strong a predictor of what will happen next. Put another way, many of the skills I learned twenty years ago are wholly redundant or irrelevant (Lotus Notes 123 anyone?), and I need to learn new skills as much now as ever. And whether those with much experience have the flexibility of mind to deal with a complex world is a completely different matter.
So my final point is, watch out for the word experience. It is of value, absolutely, but it can sometimes be a lazy proxy. By asking for experience, a weaker organisation can shortcut doing the difficult work of thinking about what the organisation looks like in five to ten years time*. But that difficult work is necessary, and valuable, if you are going to thrive. Good organisations recognise that, and recruit accordingly.
Book of the week
This week was Matthew d’Ancona’s Post-Truth — the New War on Truth and How to Fight Back
An interesting read, and I enjoyed it. Its only a couple of years old but I could do with a post-Trump update already! I think he really illustrates the corrosive effect of a decline in the value of truth. Trump is a consequence, not a cause. He posits there are increasingly two ways to look at the world, and yes, you do have to make a choice. He asks if you are on the pitch, or content to stay on the terraces. I’m hoping to stay on the pitch.
* = We all need to do this thinking, no matter what sector we are in, Climate Change requires that we do.