Recruitment and selection: more important than breathing

The selection of John Barilaro to a trade job in New York has focused attention on recruitment and selection practices both specifically in relation to that appointment and more generally. Whilst the selection appears 'unusual ' this blog post more broadly canvasses best practice in this area. As a now retired head of HR I came to understand that staff selection and promotion is more important than breathing.

A quality selection exercise is a great return on the investment. A sloppy or unsophisticated selection invariably produces a mediocre or problematic outcome with its attendant grief and  monetary and emotional costs.  

Merit is the cornerstone of good selection practice. Yet the merit principle can be so easily compromised. What follows are some thoughts around selection practices,

1 A selection panel must be comprised of persons with a good  understanding of the job and at least one person needs to have expert knowledge 

2 Boss/subordinate panels are to be avoided. The reason ought be clear as the latter will always be under some pressure to fall in behind the former

3 Panels of three are preferred over those of one or two 

4 Panels should always have a gender mix 

5 Key selection criteria ( KSC) need to be framed in as fewer words as possible that capture the key job elements

6 Credentialism ought be avoided. This is where formal qualifications  are listed as being mandatory. For example for a head of human resources it might state - ' A degree in HR is essential' .  Yet a quality candidate with say a Diploma in HR and a Commerce degree would be ruled out. So the word ' desirable' in the KSC would overcome the problem.

7 KSCs ought avoid jargon or spurious descriptors like verve, panache, wow, which are just code for other things like sex appeal.

8 Rigid specificity ought also be avoided - for example - ' at least 10 years in a similar role' would rule out the candidate with just 7 years. Further, rigidity also causes potential candidates to self-select out

9 The panel needs to determine the tools to be used in the selection process and frame questions to be put to candidates that are consistent with the KSCs 

10 Shortlisted candidates presenting for interview need to be assessed against each KSC .The following variables help discriminate each candidate's claims -  Outstanding; Superior, Fully Effective,  Requires Development, Poor.

11 For a candidate to be regarded as Suitable overall that person needs to be rated as  Fully Effective or better on EACH KSC

12 Final ratings need to factor in a referee's report. This might mean adjusting or moderating the panel's interview ratings against specific KSCs

13 Referees ought be contacted for at least the very best candidate. Also referee reports can help discriminate  those suitable candidates who are rated closely. Written referee reports should be avoided as you will never see a bad one

14 A referee's  report from one who has been well placed to observe the candidate's on-the-job performance is of critical importance.

15 Referees need to be given an over-view of the job and its level and be asked to comment on each KSC. Some folk hold to a view that referees can overstate or understate a candidate's claims on the job yet this is not my experience. Also it is often valuable to afford the referee silence when taking a report as the referee will typically offer more to fill the silence

16 A comprehensive referee report for say a middle management post should typically take about 30 minutes

17 Where there are two or more suitable candidates their respective claims must be discriminated in a comparative assessment to finally determine the best person overall. In arriving at this conclusion all things ought be considered - job application, case study or scenario tests, performance at interview, referee reports and reputation (where known)

18 The selection panel ought not be determinate. It ought recommend to a higher level  of management - often referred to as the delegate

19 The delegate needs to carefully review all documentation submitted by the panel. Should the delegate have any doubt in relation to the recommended outcome she or he needs to engage the panel or at least the Chairperson of the panel. ln my experience it is very rare for a delegate to reject a recommendation

20 Finally, members of a selection panel need to satisfy themselves that claims made by a candidate are verified - this can include: citizenship, work permit,  qualifications, membership of professional bodies, mandated clearances like working with children, criminal record etc.  Members need to be alert to the fact that all too often a deception is later discovered in a selection.

Sadly many form the view that a selection exercise is an irritant in that it deflects them from key and critical business. Those who hold such a view fail to understand that the selection process is the vehicle by which they can populate their ranks with outstanding  operatives who can breathe new life into their incumbency. This why the recruitment and selection process is more important than breathing.

  The author is a retired head of HR and worked as a Recruitment Advisor with the APSC in latter years. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APSC

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