I bought a Christmas tree the other day. It’s a nice one – a Nordman fir, about 6 ft tall, with a good shape and needles that show all the signs of clinging on until the New Year.
Big wow! (I hear you say.) What’s so interesting about that?
Well, as I see everything in life through the filter of recruitment, it got me thinking about the similarities between my tree buying experience and the process of recruiting someone for your team. So here are my top 5 parallels between the two.
- Before I went out to the garden centre my wife gave me a specification, as follows: “Not artificial, not too small, not too tall. Green. Straight. A good even spread of branches. Not a cheap one like you bought the other year. Blah, blah, blah.” Now – Is this a good enough description? In this case I think it is, because it’s just a tree, and the job of choosing a tree was an easy one for me to understand. But recruiting a human being is a much more involved process, and your recruiter (internal or agency) will need help understanding what your requirements are. So before you start your recruitment process it’s important to define what you need, covering off what is essential, but leaving some latitude for a range of other options. And I consider attitude and motivation to be just as important as the technical experience, so don’t forget about that.
- Back to the tree. It would have been impractical for me to examine every single evergreen in the world, so I narrowed down the field by going to a single source, in this case Findern Garden Centre. I chose to go there because it’s where we bought last year’s tree, which did a great job for us. In the same way, when recruiting people, you can’t possibly search the entire market of candidates. Only a few are looking for work at any one moment, for a start. So choose your source wisely. If you decide to use a recruitment partner, select one you’ve used before or one that has a good reputation (e.g. Blues Point). Ask for testimonials if you’re not sure.
- If you’ve ever shopped for Christmas trees at Findern before, you’ll know that they have a fine selection of various breeds and sizes. I immediately discounted any specimens that were too tall or small, and homed in on the 6ft Nordman Fir section in the middle. But even in this area there were dozens, if not hundreds, of candidates for me to choose from. So I looked at the few at the front and chose the first one that matched the spec. This worked for me because my brief was fairly broad, and – again – it was only a tree. But who’s to say that an even better tree might not have been lurking on row 2, or 3, or 10? We’ll never know. In the same way – it’s easy to choose a candidate who looks OK on paper, but because recruiting a person is much more complex than recruiting a tree, it’s very important to keep an open mind, and consider those candidates whose cvs might not grab you quite as much, or who might not be so easily available.
- Once back home I went through the usual routine, sawing off the bottom inch in the dark, tripping over stuff in the garage, and making sure that the thing was actually vertical. I then pushed it into the allocated corner, and stood back. Quite clearly it still needed some work, so we trimmed a few branches and rotated it for best effect. Decoration and lighting followed. And behold! We had a beautiful tree that was just what we had wanted. And in recruitment terms, you never quite know how a candidate will fit in until he or she actually starts work for you. You will inevitably need to do some work in the form of training and careful management in order to get the best out of them. But that’s OK. And you can live with imperfections, as long as the candidate is prepared to work with you to iron them out and develop their own skills.
- I referred earlier on to the tree from 2 years ago, which was in the ‘reduced’ section. For a reason! I thought I’d been very clever by spending only half the budget, but the problem was that it suffered from a very obvious curvature of the trunk which I thought could be disguised by careful light and bauble placement. My wife disagreed. She was very unhappy with my work and sent me straight back out to buy a proper tree this time. An obvious parallel here: buy cheap, buy twice. It’s OK to bring in someone who needs training and is therefore less expensive than an experienced person, but only if they have the potential to be right in the role. i.e. if they have the right attitude, motivation, and behaviours, and are willing to learn. Also – don’t choose your recruitment partner just because they are the cheapest. You might be lucky, but you might just as easily have to go through the recruitment process more than once.
So now I’m proud of the tree, and my family is proud of me. I took a full job spec, I chose my source with care, I kept an open mind, I accepted that work needed to be done, and I didn’t buy cheap.
Next job – presents!