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Recruitment and Selection

Subcategories from this category: Talent

How many of us know our company’s values? It’s obvious that they should be more than something to paint up on to the wall and leave there as decoration – but would you advocate prioritising those values over employees’ skills, their ability to do the job?

A number of blue chip companies are increasingly orienting their recruitment and training processes around their values, with the goal to create a culture where every employee ‘lives and breathes’ their work. The reasoning behind the approach is simple, that skills can be coached in a role but having the motivation and drive to excel and the ability to ‘fit in’ are a lot harder to develop.

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Care for carers

Posted by on in Recruitment and Selection

Reports have recently emerged that many carers of the elderly are not providing the kind of service they should for this vulnerable group, indeed, that there are numerous cases of lack of respect and even abuse. So, why is this happening?

In terms of paid carers, part of the problem stems from poor selection by local authorities or private providers. They don't necessarily select carers on their compassion, social skills, patience or their emotional intelligence. In many cases, I suspect, they are just looking for people who are prepared to do the job, tolerating the unsocial hours and the hard physical side of the work. This is clearly not the appropriate criteria for what should be a caring and supportive role.

In addition, even if they are selected with these psychological criteria, the stressful nature of the job can erode the compassion, leading to disinterest or even burnout. It’s a physically and emotional challenging role that’s not always appreciated, whether done by relatives or paid carers and maintaining high standards of service is not easy. Those working as carers need support themselves, before their behaviour turns into inappropriate treatment of their charges.

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Today’s blog has been written jointly with Ben Moss, the Managing Director of my University Spin-off company, Robertson Cooper – he’s been following the Apprentice closely this year...

So Alan Sugar’s ‘Apprentice’ was finally chosen last night – and congratulations to Stella English, she really has earned her new job over the last few months in front of an audience of millions.  Last week we saw the episode where the final five candidates were interviewed by Lord Sugar's associates.  As a piece of television entertainment it was immensely enjoyable, but it also raised a number of concerns. Before I explain what I mean, I want to say that I realise The Apprentice is a TV show with a remit to entertain its audience and that it can never fully represent real life....

But the problem is that the candidates are all real people going for a real 'six figure salary' job with Sir Alan.  They will inevitably be emotionally and physically affected by the selection process and, of course, its outcome.  In that sense it's important that the whole thing feels fair and they are all treated with respect throughout - and that's where the concern lies.

I was struck (as were the candidates) by the general aggression of the interviewers in last week’s show.  It seemed like the whole purpose of the exercise was to catch the candidates out through a combination of intimidation and an over-the-top forensic examination of CVs.  It was as if all the weeks of good performance in task after task could be swept aside because someone had chosen to emphasise the wrong thing or used certain words to describe an achievement on a resume.  To me it felt like a lazy approach to interviewing and I thought that the way that Stuart Baggs’ integrity ended up being questioned because of a semantic difference of opinion and his subsequent 'firing' was extremely unfair.

A number of the candidates clearly felt that one of the interviewers had a particularly bullying style – you could say that he came straight out of the 1980s.  He seemed determined to put the candidates on the back foot before he would talk to them and didn’t seem to be giving them a chance to answer the questions.  The point that the producers and the employer are missing here is that recruitment is a two-way process - it's not about 'grilling' or interrogating candidates to get the truth out of them; it's about creating a mature conversation between two parties to try to find whether there is a fit for a particular role (the actual role on offer has hardly ever been mentioned – was it a sales, project management, product development, marketing job?)  Of course, during any interview the candidate should be challenged to show his / her best, but the employer's representative - the interviewer - cannot act with impunity.

And that's the key point - all of Lord Sugar's associates are essentially representing his business and his employer brand.  They are giving the candidates an insight into the kind of culture they'd be joining and the kinds of people they'd be working with if they accepted a job offer.  I have to say that if I had been on the end of some of the treatment dished out in those interviews I'd have rejected any job offer that came my way out of hand.  I wouldn't want to work in a culture where that kind of behaviour was acceptable among leaders and could therefore be copied by staff.  The finalists are undoubtedly talented people and they would have no problem getting well paid jobs elsewhere.  Employers have to understand that the best people have a choice about where they take their unique bundle of skills, ability, motivation and personality - in short, you have to sell the job to your candidates no matter who you are.

Such outmoded approaches to interviewing potentially set a dangerous example for recruiters.  Most big businesses have moved beyond this way of selecting staff, but there is a real risk that SMEs or less experienced managers out there could watch this programme and think that this is the right way to conduct interviews.  Next year it’s time to find a different way of including an interview stage: personally, I'd set it up like an assessment centre with exercises, interviews and psychometric personality assessments.  For the interview element one of the interviewers could be a qualified business psychologist who would challenge the candidates in a legitimate way that could still be entertaining; another interviewer could be an entrepreneur who understands the recruitment process like, for example, James Caan from Dragon’s Den.

Ultimately, programmes like The Apprentice have a duty to set the example for business – in many ways it succeeds in promoting an entrepreneurial spirit, but in this case it’s come up short and it’s definitely a case of ‘could do better’.

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So the Olympic Games are in full swing and I think it’s safe to say ‘so far so good’. True, there is a nagging feeling that the greatest show on earth is being stage managed a little too precisely by its hosts, but despite this the Games are doing what only the Games can do – creating a real ‘feel-good factor’ that connects almost all the countries of the world. True, Football’s World Cup does have this feel-good element, but it’s only for the select few who have qualified – so there’s no doubt that the Olympics really are unique.

And what about Team GB? As I write this blog we are third in the medal tables behind China and the USA with 16 Gold medals and more almost certain to follow. That’s the best result since London in 1908 and something that was unthinkable before the start of the Games. In fact, the British Olympic Association (BOA) had stated a goal of fourth place for the 2012 Games in London – not for Beijing. Add to this, the startling fact that the two Countries at the top of the table, USA and China dwarf Great Britain in every way: China has a population of around 1.4 billion compared with the UK’s 60 million and this is also reflected in the size of the teams - both China and the US have teams of over 600 athletes compared with the UK’s which is under 350.

All of this means that Team GB’s achievements so far are all the more remarkable and certainly makes it one of the strongest pound for pound teams at the Games. This starts to explain the positive buzz that these achievements are creating back home in the UK  - the performances, achievements and emotions at the Olympics are creating a genuine sense of national pride that is offsetting the bleak economic and weather outlooks this summer. As in our working lives, the hardest achievements are valued the most.

Success for team GB also creates connections and a greater sense of togetherness among the members of the United Kingdom – Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. When the Olympics are not around it’s so easy to focus on our local rivalries – even down to the level of rivalries between cities (football supporters are the prime example). But when we see people from all over Great Britain representing us and doing us proud these divisions are blurred or removed altogether. It would be nice to think that some of this pride and togetherness could roll forward after the Games. It also sets an example for organisations – aspiring to develop a sense of pride among our workforces similar to that which is generated by our Olympic achievements has to be a good thing.

One more thought – I think a word of congratulations has to go to our Government for the investment they have made in Olympic sports such as swimming, cycling and rowing. You don’t achieve the kind results we have seen in Beijing by getting lucky with talented athletes. It takes investment and more than a little dedication from those who are charged with implementing the plans – the managers, coaches and, of course, the athletes themselves. I’m looking forward to seeing how much better it can get and this is all before 2012 in London!

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Cary CooperGood Day at Work®

The new wellbeing resources hub founded by @profcarycooper and Roberston Cooper. Join for FREE and access blogs, videos, downloads, podcasts and more.

Ben MossBen on Twitter

MD of Cary Cooper's business psychology firm, Robertson Cooper - for all things wellbeing, engagement and resilience at work.

Cary CooperCary on Twitter

Professor Cary Cooper, Director and Founder of Robertson Cooper Ltd, Distinguished Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School.

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