The thin end of the recruitment wedge
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to start letting your standards slip without realizing it’s happening?
The Ugg boots
My colleague, Dave Nicol, recently confessed to me that he had become an Ugg boot fan and has actually bought himself a pair. I was astonished. I had previously been under the impression that Uggs were the domain of teenage girls.
He told me just how incredibly comfortable they are and how much he like wearing them. He was in keen to insist that he only wears them in the house.
Then as we spoke, I heard a clatter on Skype and he confessed that he’d just taken the rubbish out as we were speaking, whilst wearing the Uggs.
He had left the house in the Uggs
And that’s how it starts. First it’s the trip to the bin, then the corner shop, and before you know what’s happening, you’re in the pub wearing them.
It’s just the same with recruitment
I was recently recruiting for a client in Australia. We had conducted an audio interview of one of the candidates over Skype as part of our normal process. The candidate was good in many ways, but did not meet one of the key criteria. She was not procedural enough.
Procedural people get stuff done and they love to follow procedures. Sometimes they don’t seem as exciting as people who have a profile that is not very procedural, but they are much more reliable.
The role required someone who will follow a large number of procedures to the letter for all kinds of reasons, including safety.
However, my client was keen to interview her himself.
Where do you draw the line?
When you are recruiting it’s very important to be clear about what you need and have a clear set of criteria. If, for some reason you don’t get any applicants who meet your criteria, then you need to reassess the situation.
It may be that you work out which skills you need the candidates to have already and which they could learn. That can work well.
It’s dangerous to start changing the criteria on the personality traits, so be very careful if you do that.
Make sure you are clear on the criteria
It’s OK to change the criteria as long as you know what you are doing and you have good reason. The key thing is not to let them slide without realizing it’s happening. This is the sure route to disappointment and the cost of recruiting the wrong person.
How to deal with people who are just plain wrong
Do you recognize this scenario?
You are talking to someone who just won’t listen and is completely wrong. You know
the kind of person: someone who is stubborn and keeps arguing with you and dismissing your (excellent) points.
You spend all your time thinking of things to say to them that will convince them that they are wrong and you are right. But it doesn’t work.
Here’s another way to tackle them.
How to deal with people who just won’t listen
The first thing to do is to listen to them. Why should you listen to them when they won’t listen to you?
The answer is that someone has to break the cycle and it might as well be you.
You run into these problems because there is a lack of understanding, and, as the old Chinese proverb advises, you should always:
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
But what if they are wrong? I hear you ask. It doesn’t matter. The strategy is still the same. It enables you to move from a shouting match or argument into a negotiation.
Ask lots of questions to find out what is going on in their head
You need to thoroughly understand what the problem is, why they think what they think and why they are being so unreasonable. The more frustrated you get with them, the more difficult it will be for you to understand.
So take a step back, keep calm, and start carefully asking kind and thoughtful questions. Here are a few to get you going:
• What happened?
• How do you think this will help?
• What is it you want to achieve?
• What is the background to this?
• What are your concerns?
• What was your reasoning here?
• What will the cost be?
• What are the advantages of this approach?
• How did you come up with this strategy?
The way you think is important
When you ask the questions, make the assumption that the person you are talking to is completely reasonable and sensible. That will ensure that your tone is helpful and interested rather than sounding like the Spanish Inquisition.
If you assume the other party is an idiot (be honest, has that thought occurred to you?) then it will certainly come through in your voice.
Very often, when you ask these questions honestly and openly, you’ll find that the other person has got some good points that you didn’t think of or weren’t aware of. Or (and this happens quite a lot) they will start to change their mind as they go through the questions. Don’t whoop for joy or say anything about them being wrong or you being right.
Just be graceful.
Even better, avoid the situation completely
Let’s face it; this is a road we all recognize. We have travelled every step of the path many times. So we should be able to spot the signs early on – well before we’ve ended up in at daggers drawn.
The best strategy is to become very aware of the earliest point that you are heading down that road and plant some early warning signs, just like the ones I saw in Australia.
They were fixed above the exit of a car park.
GO BACK YOU HAVE GONE THE WRONG WAY. TURN AROUND NOW.
I’ve never seen anything like them here in the UK. But it struck me that there are places where they could be quite useful.
Listen to your feelings
You can do this by becoming more aware of your feelings and the kinds of situations when this happens. You’ll find there are common factors. It may be particular people or particular topics, but the factors will be there. Once you are aware of them, then you can mentally put up those signs.
One of the earliest warning signals is a thought that the person you are speaking to is ‘wrong’ about something. So next time you find yourself thinking that, step back and start asking questions.
Just see what happens.
You’ll find them very helpful.
Why impatience can cost you $100k
Most mornings I go for a run along the lanes where I live. I don’t particularly like running,
but I know it’s good for me. So I’ve found ways to make it less unpleasant, I don’t expect it to be enjoyable. Usually this involves listening to some kind of recording, my preference is a drama or thriller.
Whilst on a plane this year I listened to part of a Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. It was so exciting I had to search it out and buy the whole thing while I was away in Chicago. Now I’m working my way through the whole series while I run.
Waiting is a skill
During one of the chapters, Reacher is ambushing an unpleasant group of people who are planning to kill him. (Don’t worry; there are no plot spoilers here.)
He says: “Waiting is a skill, like anything else.” In his situation he describes how you need to think nothing, do nothing, have infinite patience and wait in a kind of trance. Then you burst into action. It made complete sense.
But it had never occurred to me that waiting was a skill. And one I really need to develop.
The most difficult part of recruitment
I always think the most difficult part of recruitment is waiting for the applicants. When you advertise sometimes you get lots of applicants, sometimes only a few. The thing to remember is you only need one. The right one.
In our process we do our best to eliminate candidates who don’t match the criteria as early as possible. We do this right from the start with the advert. This means that you get fewer candidates. However, it saves your time and it saves the time applicants who really would not have liked the job.
Of course, this makes the waiting worse. Getting lots of applicants, even if they are no good at all, somehow makes you feel better.
Sometimes it takes a while
When we’ve worked with clients who need obscure skills, sometimes it’s taken quite a while. One of our clients got just four applicants over a couple of months, but one was exactly the person they were looking for. We had another who got just one serious applicant, but again, she turned out to be the just what they wanted.
“Marry in haste, repent at leisure.”
We’ve had some clients who needed posts filling as “soon as possible”. I know they are desperate, but I also know that’s the easiest way to make a mistake.
You can always justify why you should cut corners when you are desperate. When I worked out the cost of doing that with a client just today, we realized it he agreed that he would never do it again. However, knowing him, I promised to remind him of the costs next time (between $100k and $200k over just a few short months).
Learning how to wait
So I’m working on this skill. Here are the tips I have so far – if you have any to add, please let me know.
- Be prepared for waiting and plan to wait – in other words remind yourself how long it can really take to get the results you are looking for
- Remind yourself of the cost of being hasty
- Remind yourself of the rewards you’ll get if you wait for the right person
- Distract yourself with other things (but don’t eat too much chocolate)
- Practice, practice, practice
Do you allow your emotions to rule your life?
Are you able to identify emotions?
Try this simple test: Can you tell the difference between a happy dog and an angry dog? I bet you can – and being able to do this is vital.
What are emotions?
Darwin thought they were a very fast way of communicating (so that you can spot that angry dog very easily and know you need to run away).
As well as this, emotions perform other functions. They filter how you interpret your experiences and they modify your behavior. That’s how you know if someone is in a good or bad mood. And it’s why you know that an angry dog is much more dangerous than a happy dog.
But do your emotions control you?
Probably far more than necessary. Using them effectively is a part of Emotional Intelligence.
My daughter was not a great lover of spiders, to say the least. So when she left home I thought it was about time she learned how to deal with them.
We took a day off and went on the Friendly Spider Course at London Zoo. At the end of the
workshop, she insisted on holding “Maggie” the tarantula as a final test. Unfortunately this meant I had to do it too. That wasn’t part of my plan. However, we both came through with flying colors.
In just one afternoon we learned how to experience some very different (and much more relaxing) emotions around spiders.
You are more in control than you think you are
I was working with a client recently who told me that he was always in a bad mood when he visited his old family home. He was convinced he’d need some serious help to overcome this problem.
When we looked at the situation, he was unintentionally making it worse. What he was doing was accessing lots of unpleasant memories from his early years there.
This only served to make him even more stressed and unhappy.
I suggested he find some happy memories. At first he frowned, as though there weren’t any and I had to make a few suggestions. However, very quickly he started to tell me about some great times when he had had friends over to stay.
The more he told me about those situations, the happier he got.
A very simple tool
Once he got going, I could hardly stop him. He seemed surprised at how easy it was to change his emotions.
It is easy
The key in these situations is to be aware of what you are doing and what you are in control of. You have a choice, even though you may have been unaware of it. You can choose to recall happy memories or unhappy memories.
It’s the same with work
Imagine you have to deal with someone who you normally find very annoying.
Remember, your emotions affect how you behave and perceive the situation. So you can choose to think of all the annoying things the individual has done over the years, or you can access some more pleasant memories, perhaps not even involving that person.
It’s up to you
Just try it out. Even just paying conscious attention to the memories you are accessing and asking yourself how they are helping is a good start. You’ll be amazed how at how effective this strategy can be.