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  • Jude Mahony

Recruitment is like dating - it's all about tolerance levels

A wise woman once told me “If your reality doesn’t meet your expectations – change one or the other…”

How much tolerance do you have between your expectations and reality when recruiting?

Are you a leader who:

  • wants the “perfect” candidate

  • will review hundreds of CV’s of candidates who are “not quite right”

  • changes the role profile multiple times based on candidates you meet

  • does the work upfront on what is actually required of the role

  • identifies your essential criteria

  • knows what your appetite is for development

  • reviews shortlisted CVs and matches as closely as you can to your essential criteria

  • has no idea where to start so scatterguns and hopes that you get lucky

  • wants to review all CV’s received, because you will “know” the perfect candidate when you see them

  • tries to identify what is required in the role based on what the last person did and how they did it (even if they were not a good performer)

  • decides at interview that you “like” the person (with no basis except emotion)

  • hires based on gut feel

  • selects the first or last person you interviewed

  • doesn’t follow any formal process, relies on “luck” or “intuition”

  • only hires from referrals

  • uses multiple assessments to make sure you have a conformer

  • recruits for attitude, trains for skills

  • does second, third, fourth, fifth round interviews and wonders why the candidate declines when you ask for a sixth round

  • wants someone in your team who went to the same university as you

  • has to ensure everyone logs on at a specific time and doesn’t log off until you do

  • wants a new recruit who will be in the office full time and has to swipe in and out so you know they are working

  • expects your new recruit to “hit the ground running”

  • wants someone to start “tomorrow” but have known your current team member has been leaving for a month

  • is so busy you keep rescheduling candidate interviews

Any of this sound familiar? Having been involved in the recruitment and HR field for many years, I have seen and heard multiple combinations of the above. (My recruitment connections will also have many more to add to this list, I’m sure!)

What I know, is that people are people.

That means they can be volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous. They are not widgets or lighting plants. You cannot expect them to conform to very specific and exact sets of criteria as you would if you were manufacturing parts or moving lighting plants into different positions in an open cut mine.

There is tolerance required - on both sides.

We haven’t got to the point of genetic engineering that we can create a perfect candidate or a perfect leader! We know that AI and machine learning has played a part in recruitment over the years, trying to refine the process of identifying the “perfect” candidate. We also know that the coding is susceptible to the bias of the individual who codes it and it is still being improved.

You may remember Amazon’s attempt at AI and how their algorithm quite quickly skewed towards male applicants… There have been huge shifts in AI to eliminate bias and actually assess a candidate based on the skills required for the role. (Read more on AI in hiring here).

Science can help you to a certain degree, and then there’s your own “gut feel” (bias by any other name…) Having other people’s input upfront, not just your own, can help by giving you diversity of thought and to check your bias.

The magic combination of:


  1. what you think you need,

  2. what you actually need and

  3. who is available


is always a big melting pot.

You don’t know everything. Smarts come in all shapes and sizes. Emotional intelligence, common sense, curiosity, creativity… you get it...

You don’t have the same experiences, environment, skills and personal attributes as anyone else.

You may have many similarities of environment (where you grew up for instance) or skills (you went to the same Uni and studied the same degree), but what you don’t have is the ability to understand how that other person’s combined experiences, environment and skills shaped their thinking and gave them a different perspective from your own.

We know that the criteria used to assess a candidate is open to the bias of the leader and/or the recruiter. Broaden the pool of who has input into the criteria!

Ever heard the saying,

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”?

Me too… I’ve adjusted it though…

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you need to remove your head from your own @rse”…

Don’t be so arrogant that you think you know everything and yours is the only opinion that counts. Give others the opportunity to provide input. It’s not all about you!

Use those around you. Get inputs from your customers, stakeholders, anyone who has contact with the role you are trying to recruit, no matter what department they are in – especially if it’s not your own team or function.

Engage an expert. You may be lucky enough to have an internal team available to support you in your recruitment efforts – use them. Listen to them. They know your business, they know the market, they know the agencies to work with and (hopefully!) they know you. And if they don’t, then give them a chance to know you – find time.

Do the work of what is required in the role. Or in your team.

Skills come in many forms – technical, achieving, relating and thinking . Behaviours also come in many guises. Motivators (or values) are the same.

Networked teams require different profiles for each stage of the process – you will not hire the perfect candidate for each of those stages, but you can select the optimal candidates to build out your team, using a combination of skills, behaviours and motivators.

Understand the profiles you need to deliver the work at each stage of your process and then source, assess and recruit against those.

Start as you mean to go on:

  • put the time in,

  • engage with experts,

  • listen to other people,

  • work on your own bias,

  • understand your tolerance levels.

You are not looking for widgets – you are hiring real-life people who have their own idiosyncrasies to match yours.

All relationships need a level of tolerance – on all sides! No-one is perfect. We all have our own foibles and ways of being. One thing I do know, is that the perfect candidate and the perfect leader don’t exist.

Having the right people in your team is critical to your own success and that of your business. Don’t scrimp on effort, time or money when you’re hiring. And don’t scrimp on the same things after you’ve recruited – it takes all of those things to build an engaged employee and a high-performing team.

Flexible working is not just about where you work from and when you work – it is also about building flexibility into your teams. Your tolerance level for non-perfection is also what needs to be reviewed, adjusted and flexed!

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tolerance


NB (In relation to the reference to dating: replace “candidate” with “match” or “spouse” and “leader” with “self/friend”…. See the parallels?) 😊

Author: Jude Mahony

13th July 2020


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