‘Don’t hire the people you like, hire the people who best fit the context,’ is the motto of Patricia Oeyen, Partner at VALPEO. She makes an ardent plea for the professionalization and guidance of recruiters.

The art of professional recruitment

April 22, 2022

‘Don’t hire the people you like, hire the people who best fit the context,’ is the motto of Patricia Oeyen, Partner at VALPEO. She makes an ardent plea for the professionalization and guidance of recruiters.

‘I notice that this principle is often sinned against,’ says Patricia Oeyen. According to her, the cause lies in the lack of training and guidance of recruiters. ‘Recruiting is a profession that gets far too little love and is still seen too much as a cost and too little as an investment.’

Why does that profession get so little love? After all, a company largely stands or falls with its employees. According to Oeyen, we assume that we can naturally recruit and select and try to minimize the cost involved, when in fact it is an investment in the future. Ten years ago no one was talking about cultural fit or complexity. Today, these have become key elementsto achieve success. Organizations are becoming increasingly complex due to the growing demands of stakeholders and society. And these demands only make the candidate selection process more sophisticated and important. Very few people are born recruiters.’

Looking for a clone

Of course, what is not innate can be taught, but that’s where the shoe pinches. HR courses hardly pay any attention to recruitment and already pay little or no attention to how organizations and people create and develop value and how personal value and the culture of an organization should be aligned. ‘Not one course credit goes to recruitment,’ says Oeyen. What’s more, barely 22% of recruiters have been educated in an HR field. ‘An ardent plea, therefore, for more training for recruiters.’

‘The danger is that a recruiter or hiring manager often looks at the candidate too much from their own frame of reference,‘ says Oeyen. ‘But success starts with a good understanding of how value is created and how a candidate can contribute to that.’

The risk is when recruiters have too little regard for both cultural fit and for the value someone can and should add in the long term. It is sometimes said that a manager who spends only five percent of the time on recruitment has to correct recruitment mistakes 95% of the time.’

Superhero vacancies

Vacancies often call for a superhero. Companies are no longer satisfied with a person with many talents. This person has to have every talent, which is of course simply impossible. The scarcity on the labor market is forcing us either to make compromises or to invest even more in selection in order to gain a deeper understanding of where things can go wrong. In a job interview, of course a candidate puts his or her ‘best foot forward’, but we also tend to gauge too much into the past and not into what a candidate can add in the long term, regardless of whether he or she has the potential. The unrealized ability of the candidate or of the context in which they will be active tomorrow are not sufficiently examined.  The risk is a lack of cultural fit or no connection to the challenges and opportunities that need to be managed, now and in the future. This runs the risk that candidates who do not have the necessary credentials but do have potential are ignored.

Nobody can do everything or has already achieved  everything. A successful business is the sum of its parts, and every employee makes a contribution, which is what can make the team so strong. This requires a clear understanding upfront of the total context that needs to be managed and what potential someone has to contribute to that. This needs a better understanding of how people think, because it allows recruiters and employers to determine what level of complexity they can manage. It also requires a better understanding of people’s value framework to connect with the culture of the organization. Looking only at behavioral characteristics and past experience is insufficient. 

The like Factor

Finally, there is the like factor: do I like someone or not? ‘That is decided in milliseconds. In one experiment, job applicants entered a room and judges had to rate them. Someone who came in with a plastic shopping bag was never judged as highly as the others, even though that person had more qualities. That ‘unconscious bias’ – you simply can’t get around it.’

According to Patty McCord, former chief talent officer of Netflix, there is a view that a hiring officer often justifies his choice by linking that person to the company’s culture: does that person fit the culture of the company? Nonsense, she says, it’s the like factor that still plays too much. ‘So, don’t look for the people you want to have a drink with, look for the people who are best suited for the job and who fit in with the organization,’ Oeyen emphasizes.

The why

To avoid these pitfalls as much as possible, Valpeo looks for the ‘why’ of each candidate. ‘Go looking for what makes someone competent and a more complete picture emerges of the context in which someone fits both today and tomorrow and it lowers your chances of failure.’

By looking for how people think, what they value and how they like to act, the like factor will play less of a role. To achieve that goal, according to Oeyen the job of a recruiter needs to become more professional. Asessment and interview techniques need to be supplemented with a better understanding of how organizations develop naturally and what patterns lie at the root of that. It is these patterns that allow you to determine in which context someone can reach their full potential. In this way you can ensure that the right match is made, with people who are going to build an organization. ‘If you let yourself be guided and you look for and select the right people, you become the architect of success,’ she concludes.

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