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Selecting in and Selecting Out – Recruiting for what you need

Liza Walter-Nelson Uncategorised

Recruitment – do you begin with what you want, or what you don’t want?


I was asked recently if I could help with some selection methods which could rule out, or spot, those who didn’t display certain traits, styles, or more specifically, even pick out liars – The answer of course is yes, to a degree.

But, what does this approach say about the current culture? Selecting Out is not a new approach, but it can be a negative one – especially if we are to suppose that people will come to their interview and blatantly lie? Now, the HR director in me says that everyone lies about something on their CV, but do I want to search for this when selecting, or do I want to focus on the potential to find the person who will add something to my organisation and Select In?

Starting an employee on a journey with such negativity seems to me to be a fruitless exercise, one fraught with pitfalls now and later. I know that organisations are ever more concerned about confidentiality, protecting their data and property (intellectual or otherwise) and also concerned about malicious insider threat. I know that they want to try and prevent that kind of behaviour, but the truth is, those kinds of attitudes can be developed in house, if the climate is negative.

For example, toxic behaviours such as micro managing, ‘checking up on staff’, overly complicated and seemingly punitive appraisal systems, could also lead to staff either leaking, ‘forgetting’ laptops in bars, sharing secrets or trading them, especially where the environment potentially makes them feel justified in doing so (a sense of getting back at the organisation for not supporting them, for not looking after them or trusting them).

Even when there is an external threat to security in an organisation, it is not enough to simply put in place mechanisms to prevent hacking or leaking, the culture needs to be addressed, to get buy in and adherence to new regimes or processes. To help staff understand why there needs to be an increase in security protocol there needs to be clear and consistent messaging (consistent with the existing culture paradigm), so that it doesn’t feel like everyone is being punished because of the few. This has to start at entry into the organisation, but it doesn’t need to be negative.

Selection is the first step into the organisation for the prospective employee; we know instinctively that people often come to interviews with feeling nervous, that they may have some things they said they could expertly but they are more middling with that particular subject etc.

Lets not however, have a process that starts them on this journey by looking for the negative, for the worse.

Instead, search for the truth tellers – look at where they really light up and ask more questions around that. This is likely to be their strengths, and you will get more from building on this than focussing on any perceived weaknesses. Look for where they are in flow with regard to their responses, look at how easily they describe something, a project perhaps, and poke around to see what made them perform at their best in that scenario.

Then, you can make decisions about which candidates responded with the type of attitude and behaviour that you want to have in your organisation, rather than the ones you don’t – when you just focus on ruling things out, you may end up settling for the person with the least amount of ‘wrong’ and some of the ‘right’; rather than finding someone with the most amount of ‘right’ and maybe a few ‘wrongs’ that aren’t actually deal breakers.