The ability to select the right person for an organisation is one of the most prized skills of leaders – because people drive an organisation’s success.

Simon Sinek famously tweeted:

“The responsibility of a company is to serve the customer. The responsibility of leadership is to serve their people so that their people may better serve the customer. If leaders fail to serve their people first, customer and company will suffer.”

And Branson is often quoted saying:

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

If your people drive your ability to deliver client value, hiring the right people sits at the heart of your competitive advantage. If you recruit by filtering – the most common type – you will almost always miss the power of recruiting by selection. That’s because filtering deals largely with the what of candidates, whereas selection gets to the how and why…and is the proactive, pinpoint targeting of the right person for your role and wider culture.

Signs you might solely be recruiting via filtering

After sourcing candidates, the first cut is typically to see if they have experience that could match the role. This early-stage filtering is necessary and efficient. However, after that first cut, here are some indicators you might still be filtering, rather than strategically selecting:

  • The process is focused on uncovering a resume that’s great for the role
  • A judgement call has been made purely based on a resume and some quick assumptions
  • There’s no evidence, beyond the candidate’s own claims, that they have the skills and attributes needed
  • You haven’t defined the behaviours you need to see in that role
  • Interviews are mainly wandering chats about common interests
  • Interviews are used to reinforce a choice that’s largely been made around the preferred candidate
  • You’ve headhunted someone based on resume achievements or reputation, with no in-depth questioning of how they reached those achievements

Filtering the whole way through will fail you almost every time. We have often been engaged by clients who were fairly sure of the winning candidate via filtering, before the interview and, 30 minutes in to a selection-based interview, they soon realised they didn’t have the desired attributes. Imagine if they hadn’t started actively selecting.

Critical steps to ensure you’re intentionally selecting

Great recruitment is about understanding the behaviours that will determine success in a role. A selection-based process drills in to find out how a person operates…the behaviours they bring to the table…and linking those to a clear understanding of what will be successful in your organisation. Some pointers:

  • Use your phone screenings as your first points of selection. From the outset, start delving into the things that aren’t necessarily in resumes – typically around behaviours. This will help you strategically narrow your shortlist.
  • Base your exploration around specific behaviours not broad skills. For example, you should never be looking for the what of ‘problem solving’, because there are several approaches to solving problems. If your organisation is deeply committed to collaboration, you need to know how and why a candidate tackles problem solving – such as whether they would engage a cross section of your team and even seek input from outside your organisation because they believe in the power of diverse insight.
  • Use interviews to rigorously uncover how a candidate has behaved in past roles. You can read more about that here
  • Wrap your key selection criteria around methods and motivations. Selection criteria are often wasted on things that can be easily uncovered in a resume, such as industry experience. Instead, they should get candidates to focus on how and why they respond to challenges or opportunities the way they do.

In all, use each stage to ensure you’re getting the right profile on each candidate, and deeply understanding the story behind the ‘data’. It’s worth the journey. Our clients frequently make offers to people who wouldn’t have made it through a filter-based process, but were clear leaders in a selection-based process. Investing in selection also reduces the cost and other risks of a mis-hire and, more importantly, ensures you’re building a team able to make your organisation succeed.

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash