Hiring Manager Sins – No.1: Hiring Your Mates

Speak to any in-house recruiter about hiring manager sins and every single one will roll their eyes and say, ‘They do this thing where they hire their mates.’ Here’s my story about this sin…

I noticed the chair, just at the last second, and hurled myself to the floor as it flew past where my head had been and crashed in to the wall behind me, in a crescendo of noise and breaking plastic. I didn’t see the pen that followed it and winced as it pinged off the side of my head.

What, you may ask, was the cause of this hail of office accessories? Well, a hiring manager had just been told by his peers that the two people he really wanted to hire were not up to the job. I actually think the silly sod had offered the individuals jobs because they had worked for him before and, classically, he thought this was enough. It wasn’t – not anymore, anyway.

This was the first time I had used a method of blind interviewing. Actually, I’d only thought of it the week before. I was in a ‘show & tell’ session, which involve members of the team sharing their client work or research with the purpose of getting feedback (or, as is usually the case, getting torn to shreds – constructively, obviously) or passing on some emerging nugget of brilliance. In this case it was the latter. We had been running correlation studies between factors such as personality, intellect, motivations and previous experience on low, mid and high performing staff in a variety of organisations and our research was starting to unveil the fact that previous experience was a poor predictor of future performance. Just think about that for a minute; everything that our recruitment industry is built around is an untruth. One of the young consultants then pipes up with, ‘It’s obvious. Who cares about what the person has done for the last 10 years – all our clients care about is what they will do for them in the next 10 years.’ WOW…and bingo!

With this information in hand, we started to run analysis on the roles we were hiring for in a large telecommunications company. We were interested in what the data told us were the most reliable predictors of performance. By running data analysis of high, mid and low performers in the organisation and augmenting this with data from other organisations working within a similar business context, we could identify the key performance behaviours and, using Chemistry’s 5 Box model, then identify the Intellect, Values and Motivational make up of the individuals who exhibited these behaviours. We then generated exercises and behavioural interview interventions that analysed each candidate against the identified performance behaviours. We also used customised psychometric tools to measure the Intellect, Values and Motivations of the individuals.

To make it really objective, we did not allow the hiring managers to see the CVs of the individuals until after they had been ranked by the macros and then discussed by the hiring managers and everyone had agreed who we were offering jobs to and who we weren’t. The hiring managers did, however, get to observe the candidates perform the exercises and they participated in the behavioural interview process. By running the gathered data through a bunch of excel macros for weighting and comparison (we now have a cloud-based platform that uses algorithms to do the same thing), we were able to not only identify the individuals who were exhibiting the performance behaviours but also those who had the potential to do so within the organisational context and with the right development.

The chair-thrower had tried to avoid the process by seeing his two ‘mates’ off grid. Unfortunately for him his Sales Director was totally bought in to the process and insisted his mates go through the experience with everyone else. The result? They placed last and second to last of the eight candidates on the day. According to their CVs, they had the right experience, but with an objective, data-led assessment and removal of a key source of bias (the CV), the hiring managers all agreed (except one, of course) they were not right for the job. As it turns out, the chair-thrower was not right either. Some time after, he left the organisation. I’m sure he was fine – after all, he had a great CV 🙂

As a result of this day, we hired three individuals who had no previous experience of selling telecommunications services. The triad comprised of a Coca Cola salesperson, a shipping lease salesperson and a consultant, and they all turned out to be not only high performing sales people for us, but all went on to do incredible things in their career.

May, 17, 2017