flowing motion

Beating the odds in recruitment and selection

Posted on: July 4, 2009

338187446_682b87504a_mOne of the biggest complaints we hear from businesses is that they cannot hire the skills they want in the UK market.  It’s called the talent war.

I want to show you a simple calculation I did for someone that might explain what is giving you a headache in your recruitment and selection.

Person specification

This little firm was looking for ‘partners’ to work in a role similar to agents or franchisees.  Their partners don’t have to have any particular qualification, so they should be easy to recruit.  After a little thinking and talking, this is what we came up with.

  • The partners don’t have to be super-bright,  just normal bright and have finished high school .
  • The partners should be energetic & persistent and are likely to have demonstrated this energy by excelling in competitive sport, the arts, or some activity that has required them to make a clearly great effort than their peers.
  • The partners should be entrepreneurial.  They should have a history of trying things out and be just as happy when things don’t work out.  They are curious.
  • The partners need to be honest.  I don’t mean financially meticulous – I mean wanting to deliver a good service.  They are likely to have done something well in the past even when people around them wanted to take shortcuts.

Running the numbers

Now we can add some figures to this model and here is where you might get a surprise.

Let me remind you of some figures.

  • The midpoint on any characteristic divides the world 50:50.
  • The next step up divides the world 83:17.
  • And then next level up divides the world 97:3.

These splits correspond to 3 standard deviations on the right hand side of a normal curve.  You might recall that?  We could use finer divides but we will start with these to get a preliminary fix on where we are going.

Intelligence

The people we are looking for do not have to be super intelligent.  University and above is at the 83:17 divide.  We are happy at the 50:50 divide.  Below that, people may have trouble filling in commercial documents.

Energy & persistence

We are looking for someone who stood out in some way – played at the highest levels of school sport, for example, or raised a lot of money for charity, or even did well at academics.  Probably at the 97:3 split.  Someone who took a big prize at school.

Curiosity

These people don’t wait for someone to tell them what to do.  They work things out and find new opportunties.  They aren’t people for the sausage-machine of institutions. They are the people who make us think, “I wish I had done that”, or “How did you think of that?”  And they view setbacks as adventures.  97:3

Honesty

Unusual levels of integrity and sincerity.  At least once in their lives, they’ve done something properly when people around them were spinning, skiving or taking shortcuts.  97:3

How many people in the UK fit this description?

There are 30 million people in UK of working age.  How many of them fit this description and are candidates for our recruitment and selection drive?

Half of them have the intelligence required: 15 million

3% of the top half of intelligent people are very energetic and persistent : 450 000

3% of these have unusual levels of entrepreneurial spirit or curiosity:  13 500

3% of these have the commitment to integrity that we need: 405

(and this is from aged 16 to 65 – 405 people in the UK match our specification).

And how many of the right people are looking for a job?

Well, first of all let’s look at turnover.  It is usually 14% a year in the UK and that includes the high churn sectors like hospitality and catering.  Even if we bump up the turnover rate arbitrarily to 20% for the recession, we have only (.2 x 400) =80 people in our group who are looking for a job.

And of course some of these are doctors and lawyers, and some people are in the wrong sectors or wrong part of UK.  They are not available to be recruited or selected by us.

Not many left are there?

Shocking isn’t it?

I am used to the process of selection and to these numbers, yet they still shock me.  So please find my error and dm me.  I am hoping you will find my mistake because the numbers are shocking.

My point – and it is a serious point –  is that you cannot have one demanding requirement after another.

There simply aren’t enough people in the UK to meet your demanding needs.

There aren’t enough exceptional people in the economy to run it if is based on exceptional talent.

Our businesses need to run with normal people.

  • When we are selecting, it’s best to set the minimum requirements of the job, preferably from the candidate’s point of view, and begin there. Trim your list.  Ask, “Is this feature absolutely required,  and if so why?”
  • Stop adding requirement after requirement!  No more than three requirements!
  • After that, be ruthless in thinking about this recruitment assignment from the candidate’s point of view.

Ruthless in thinking about selection from the candidate’s point-of-view.

No one taught you that at uni, did they?  Yep, we like to keep some secrets to ourselves.

But now, it’s yours.

Review your HR specifications.  And keep it real.  Let your competitors be the ones to live in the world of make-believe.

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