The Blog

Outside the Box

In my own interviews I have discovered that even amongst our most educated of young people, there is the increasing issue of how social media has adversely affected communication skills.

The best way to recruit and build an effective team is an age-old business concern. This week, founder and CEO of Michael Essien, took a trailblazing step that put the spotlight back onto the issue of recruitment methods. Essien claims he is uninterested in scouring through CV's to find graduates from top universities; he is solely interested in discovering a genius. Via Twitter, he has requested jobseekers to explain how they are smarter than "95% of people in the world" in just ten words. This, he believes, is the future of recruitment.

Many have stepped forward to say he is simply 're-inventing the wheel' in an arena where it isn't needed. I, however, happen to laud and appreciate his reasons and his approach.

Over the past two decades, I have employed hundreds of people. These were individuals I believed to be savvy, talented and driven. All too often I learned the hard way that some of the most educated people lack common sense, motivation and drive. Qualifications are of course important, to a point, and I am a true believer in education. I do not, however, subscribe to the idea that the best team is a team brimming with university graduates. One thing is for sure, people cannot be taught enthusiasm. The deep-seated spark that makes an individual jump out of bed in the morning because they have the drive to graft for a company as though it is their own, is a rare and hard to find quality.

In my own interviews I have discovered that even amongst our most educated of young people, there is the increasing issue of how social media has adversely affected communication skills.

Last year, Forbes magazine featured an article arguing that social media has 'sabotaged' communication. According to their report, studies showed that only 7% of communication is actually based on the written or verbal word. If an individual communicates largely online, the chances are that by the time they get to the interview stage, there are basic social standards they will be unable to meet. On the opposite side of the coin, the suitability of a prospective employee cannot be gained in the ten awkward minutes spent asking a series of prescribed questions.

I have to admit, I do have a genuine interest in people. As a psychologist I cannot help but be fascinated by what makes people tick, their hopes, dreams and vision. I believe there is absolutely a place for job interviews, but I believe that far more is achieved by using an unstructured format. To me, having a 'long chat' with an individual is far more productive than the outdated 'tell me what you can bring to the conpany?' format that has been the norm for so long.

Formal interviews have become an uncomfortable ritual that we seem hesitant to scrap, despite the fact that choosing candidates based on the content of their CV and then 'sussing them out' in ten minutes is not synonymous with creating a dynamo team.

I have not as yet utilised social media as a means to attracting jobseekers but I would certainly not rule it out. I recently asked jobseekers to write a press release about themselves. In their answers I was looking for authenticity, candour, motivation and enthusiasm. I constantly seek innovative ways for people to demonstrate that they are right for my team.

Upon reaching the interview stage, I like to take a more relaxed approach. Rather than asking what result they achieved in university, I'm more likely to look at how authentic an individual is. Rather than being regaled by sound bites on punctuality, teamwork and initiative; I would rather talk about their personal drive, ambitions and see the signs of indomitable determination and true potential.

I believe my own team is successful because it is diverse. Some of the most talented individuals I have ever met have been ex-offenders. Some of the most diligent, professional individuals in my teams have had mental health issues. All too often real talent is losing out to the allure of what is considered to be 'a good CV' (despite the fact that HEDD recently reported as many as a third of people embellish or exaggerate their CV's) and rehearsed interview answers that can now be googled!

This is the modern world in which we are said to be more connected and globally interactive than ever before. Our businesses, small and large, should reflect this. Let's adapt to our modern environment and 'be real' in recruitment; it's time to look beyond the norms and think outside the box. Believe me, business will be better for it.