Using narrative in the recruitment process – part 1

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Using narrative in the recruitment process – part 1

An area where we believe narrative in its various forms can add a lot of value is recruitment.  To illustrate: In a recent engagement with a global consultancy around their internal talent management issues and processes, a key theme emerged around finding more appropriate ways to recruit the right type of person.  This company (and from past experience all large consulting houses) has a strong culture of having to “fake it till you make it”, new recruits typically had to fend for themselves and find work for themselves, otherwise they’d end up spending many frustrating hours on the bench.  When they do manage to get themselves on a project, they typically have very little guidance – they’re thrown into the deep end, having to gain the necessary skills as they go along. …

It is a very special type of person who can successfully navigate such an environment, and what they were finding is that their normal recruitment practices weren’t successful in finding these people. Their main sifting criteria for applicants are qualifications and experience, but in thinking about it – attitude and personality are more important.  In essense many suitable candidates never make it to the interview stage because they don’t have the right CV.

We suggested that they look into a different screening process, where they find ways to simulate the experience the candidates would face when joining the firm.  The idea was to give slightly ambiguous instructions for a task that needed to be completed as part of the application process.  Specifically we were thinking along the lines of having applicants go through a modified Future Backwards process or similar, with very little guidance as to what exactly was required of them.  The idea was that there would be two benefits to this process:

1.  Hopefully it would be a more accurate screening process to find people who can cope with ambiguous instruction, so hopefully would be a better fit to the culture and

2.  The completed individual Future Backwards outputs will provide interviewers with material to ask meaningful questions and probe for actual experiences in the interview

Every organisation has a specific culture that new recruits have to fit into – by thinking differently about the recruitment process (as in the example above) they may just be better able to find the right people for their culture, reducing staff turnover and improving retention.

To date we haven’t had a chance to implement these ideas (let us know if you’re interested in being the first company to test this approach with us)

In my next post, I’ll discuss how job-seekers can make use of narrative to make a better impression during their interviews.

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