Monday, 23 August 2010

Why You Didn't Get The Job and Other Flannel

The other week a colleague and I interviewed someone for a job in my team - our manager was on holiday. The guy seemed to have a lot going for him, but there was something that said NO to me. It was one of those body-language, facial-expression things. This translates in recruiter-speak as "gut feel" and "not fitting the profile". We have to give him a reason. He had made a remark about being dropped into a role with no support or training and not liking that or appreciating getting a partially-met grading in the role. If he had joined our team, he wouldn't have got any support either. Also, I thought his career didn't quite make sense: why would anyone come from Credit, where the jobs are plentiful and the money reasonable (except at The Bank), into what is basically Sales MI, where the jobs are scarce as hen's teeth? Perhaps my suspicious mind thought that actually he hadn't done too well in each of those jobs and was moving sideways until he found somewhere congenial. I couldn't prove it, but as I write this, I realise that's what I was thinking.

So the reason we gave him was that we had heard his concern about support in a new role and could not offer him what he needed. It wouldn't be fair to drop him into a situation he didn't want to be in. That happens to be true, but the point is, if he hadn't said that, we would have just made something up.

My sister had a second interview for an office manager / accounting manager's job with a small telco whose main investor wanted to sell it on in a couple of years. They really liked her at the first interview, but the second was short and included the words "I think you'd just get bored". Candidates hate hearing this: my reaction is "pay me that and bore me, please!". My sister might have got bored and she might or might not have been able to deal with it, but I suspect it meant something else. This is a telco someone wants to flip. In this market. I suspect that the guy recognised that my sister is too independently-minded to do as she's told and misrepresent the profit as the guy will need to do.

There's a ton of legislation about not discriminating when hiring people, and some of it is right and proper: race, colour, creed, gender, sexual preference - these things should not disqualify you from working at The Bank (though now I look at it, there aren't many Africans working in the finance department, or anywhere. Indians, yes, Chinese, yes, colonials yes. Africans? Not so, any, actually.)  But hiring people is exactly about discriminating, and one of the key discriminants is the kind of person who will do the job effectively in the political and organisational circumstances. An interviewer is not looking for a reason to say NO. They are looking for a reason to say YES. (This does change if they need to hire two gross of call centre operators or Java programmers in a month.) That reason is the elusive "fit". You may have flunked the test or be over-qualified, but that's all just flannel: in the end, they found someone who fit and that was that.

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