In Recruitment, if You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get

Written by Joëlle Warren Thursday 03 August 2017
You can’t hire the right candidate if you don’t ask the right questions – above all, ‘do they share our values?’
A girl in a interview

You’ve found what looks to be the perfect hire and it all seems so right, on paper and intellectually. Allbases appear to have been covered – capabilities and fit assessed, references taken and colleagues consulted.

You’re delighted and excited but, for some inexplicable reason, disproportionately nervous.

The head rules the heart and the paperwork is signed. After much fanfare, your new appointee gets started and all seems well...

Two weeks in and your anxiety has not been allayed; four weeks in and your worst fears are being realised. Can you really have got it so wrong? After all the time and effort you committed to the recruitment process, could you still have made a terrible mistake?

You will try to convince yourself otherwise; you might agree to some coaching input, you give feedback and you try and try to make it work. In the majority of instances, the outcome will be the same – it doesn’t work.

The reason it doesn’t work is because you have indeed made a mistake.

So what went wrong? If you have followed a robust process, the mistake has nothing to do with the experience or competence of the candidate. Rather, it is simply that you asked the wrong questions.

Much of what you assessed will have been important, but it’s likely that you didn’t incorporate values in that assessment. Think of values as your organisation’s blood type. If a patient’s pre-op questionnaire asks 100 questions but fails to clarify blood type, the outlook could be grim.

Get values aligned and the future is bright – all the benefits of an external hire with alignment to the values that make your organisation unique.

To do this, you must start by understanding the values of your organisation – the all-encompassing ‘what matters to us and how we do things round here’. Values link the words on the website to actual behaviours and the culture of the organisation.

But you can only assess the values ‘fit’ of the candidate if you truly understand the values of your organisation. And you need to ensure that the values are embedded at every level in your organisation (in job adverts, role descriptions, shortlisting criteria, interview questions and reference-taking); that managers manage and leaders lead with the values in mind; that the values are discussed as part of appraisals; and that you regularly check that you’re living up to those values.

Only then are you ready to make them the key to successful recruitment.

You’ll be seeking to understand the candidate’s personality in action. You’ll be establishing if they will thrive in your organisation. These are questions about how they influence, their approach to collaboration, their attitude to risk and to customers, and their integrity.

Then comes the tricky part: evaluating and assessing what they say. This will be much easier now you’ve done the upfront work and defined not just your values but what behaviours lie behind them.

A final word of caution. If you subscribe to the definition of personal values as a set of enduring beliefs that a person holds about what is right and wrong, and what is good and undesirable, and which dictate how they behave, then these tend to change very little over time.

But organisational values can change. Many of our clients have in recent years recognised the benefits of greater diversity in their teams and have had to revisit their values.

But define your values, and then recruit, induct, manage and lead with them in mind. Then you’ll find you can recruit and retain the right people, who will perform better and be happier at work.

Joëlle Warren

Joëlle Warren

Joëlle Warren MBE CCMI is founding director of executive search consultancy Warren Partners. This article first appeared in BQ magazine