Thursday, August 22, 2013

Selection : More than a Hobson's Choice?

It is quite unnerving to think , that most arrive at a Selection, by rejecting till we cannot reject further-and hey presto-we have a shortlist!!

Selection is serious business. And in a country like ours where we have abundance of applicants for any level of hire, we tend to succumb. A la Type II error in statistics.

Surely rejection is easier. We reject applicants based on age, qualification, the number of years of past experience, or the institute they graduated it is more tangible* than selecting ..on merit or competency?

Let me explain about a time we didn't beat the trodden path. A particular experience that I had about 7 years ago when an UK based client was setting up a product development centre in Mumbai. The briefing was simple: Find me candidates from the best schools to work for this new company.

This often happens, because as humans we use shortcuts to make decisions most of the time.

best school = best candidates

We found plenty of candidates that fit the bill and some that were no exact match, but had potential. The list was big and the client pressed for time.

So in the end we decided not to go through the motions of a typical interview. Instead candidates were asked to build a game using certain technologies. Ones that were relevant to the job, of course.

And here is why I thought back about this experience: the candidate who got the job, was not a match against the original profile (not from a top school at all). Yet he went on to become the head of this company after starting out as a developer. His Linkedin profile indicates he is today driving 2 of their companies presently-"Responsible for setting up and supporting IT infrastructure, setting up a core team in place (technical as well as non technical), recruiting top talent, forming technical teams on different technologies (.NET, Flash, iPhone)"

best school ≠ best candidate

Focusing on past indicators, puts us at greater risk of not fully understanding the context of how this performance will translate into future performance. Every recruiter will of course ask question in person to see how well a candidate will flourish in the new environment.

However I feel uncomfortable with the thought that had we followed the standard brief of my client, he would have missed out on this amazing talent who went on to become an amazing employee.

Now I understand that any of the other candidates could have turned out to be as good, or even better. And I am OK with that uncertainty.

What I am not OK with is the idea that we are missing out on great talent to begin with, because we are trying to find them through narrow definitions.

In an age where education is becoming more available to more (diverse groups of ) people,  should we be moving towards a better model ? A model of self selection and attraction.

With our networks and information streams ever growing, but our capacity to manage it not growing as fast, looking for people who fit a profile might not be as good as allowing people to show you that they can do the job.

I will go into the model of self selection and attraction a bit deeper in the next posts, but for now let me end with the question to you dear reader:

What do you find more attractive : being screened by checklist of requirements to see if you fit, or knowing what the company stands for and then deciding if you want to prove that you are a fit?

PS*: Most companies too are so focussed on the 'cost of a hire' that they tend to miss out the larger picture..'the opportunity cost' or the 'quality of the hire' that could make the difference ..and perhaps even on those game changers?? Well, that calls for another post for another day!!


Aruna said...

Agree 100% with your views! In fact the process of elimination starts right from the college admissions in the way of entrance examinations. Then, it surfaces again in the form of banking recruitment exams, APSC, UPSC etc etc. If we can devote more time to identify the right candidate !

Pratima Chandiramani said...

This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!

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