Is recruitment an art or a science?

Posted on by Nancy Slessenger This entry was posted in Grapevine, Recruitment and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


Here’s a question I needed to answer recently, along with what store you should set by résumés / CVs and how much experience you should be looking for or if experience even counts at all.


A few principles that I believe are important in recruitment.


Being able to explain


In any recruitment I believe in starting from the position that you should always be able to explain openly and honestly to any candidate why they did or did not get the job. If they failed this includes:

•    What extra skills they would need to get the job
•    What they would need to do differently to get the job



Art or science?


When I am told that recruitment is more of an art than a science, I feel my blood start to boil. This is a sloppy excuse for not letting people know how you have made your decisions.


Some of Helen's art in Cape Cod

Some of Helen’s art in Cape Cod

My old friend Helen McLean is a brilliant artist. We were once at an exhibition together. She asked me which of three paintings I thought was the best. I pointed at the one on the right. She asked me why it was the best. I had no idea. It was just a ‘gut feeling’.


“Would you recognize this man (the one in the painting) if you saw him?” She asked me.


I said I would. She then went on to point out several other features that made that painting quite clearly the best. I was stunned by the experience. In just a few minutes I’d learned a lot about painting. And it all seemed strangely obvious once it was pointed out.





Helen McLean's workshop in Wexford

Helen McLean’s workshop in Wexford

Which is probably what makes her such a wonderful art teacher. (She does run courses in Wexford, if you can go I highly recommend them.) You can see the kind of work she does here: and find out about the classes here:


It’s the same with recruitment.



Recruitment should be about evidence.


If you are clear about what you need, and you measure people’s ability to do it, then you

Font in church from above

Font with mosaic designed by Helen McLean

will be able to let them know how they need to improve in order to get a similar job next time. If you can’t do that, you need to look at your recruitment process, your job description and person specification.


Next time we’ll look at the issues of experience and the CV or resume.





2 Responses to “Is recruitment an art or a science?”

  1. October 16, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Hi Nancy,.
    Here is some nit picking from a spelling Nazi.
    Perhaps the title should read “A few PRINCIPLES that ………

    Take Care


    • Caroline Hogarth
      October 16, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Thank you Pin, glad to have your eagle-eyed help, title has been duly corrected on behalf of Nancy!