Ticking all the boxes

Image shows a tick list partially completed
Check boxes

It’s common to be asked to refer to a number of criteria when you’re making an application for a new job or pitching for a business opportunity. Sometimes these criteria are called ‘essential’ and sometimes they are merely ‘desirable’.

The usual methodology is to put the criteria into a grid and ask each member of an assessment panel to score each candidate against the criteria. Scores are then added up and the ones with the highest score are progressed through to the next stage of the recruitment process. Bingo! What could be fairer than that?

I’ve been a member of such panels on a number of occasions. They’re particularly popular in the public sector where I have had lots of work experience. I’ve also been on the receiving end of decisions made by panels. I understand what they’re trying to achieve. Essentially it’s to take out the subjectivity and prejudice in recruitment decisions. But I also think they can be seriously flawed.

Are you measuring the right things?

One big issue is to do with what is being assessed. To what extent is it possible to measure the chosen factors by a paper-based exercise? For example, evidence of team leadership or decision making ability. I don’t think these can be judged from a CV. Yet I’ve seen them appear on some evaluation grids.

Also, it’s worth questioning whether the criteria being assessed are really the most important factors for the role or contract. Quantifiable things such as number of GCSEs or number of years’ experience in a particular industry are easily read from a CV. But should they determine whether or not a candidate gets through to the next stage?

I was listening to the Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme last weekend on which John Timpson (of the Timpson’s repair shop chain) was featured. He had a refereshing approach to recruitment, saying that he is never interested in the qualifications of candidates. What he wants is the right attitudes and personal skills. These cannot be measured by a box ticking exercise, but they are what’s most needed with Timpson’s customers.

My personal gripe

My own personal gripe is being turned down for a job because you don’t have exact experience in the industry of the vacancy. I studied for my CIM qualification for many years. I was told that the skills and knowledge I was gaining would be applicable across all industries. So it really annoys me when I’m not awarded an opportunity because ‘I haven’t got relevant experience’. I just want to shout, “I have transferable skills!”

I know it’s never easy to recruit to a role or opportunity. There are often many candidates and it’s sometimes difficult to fit a cigarette paper between them in terms of their abilities. Grading people through a tick box exercise is a quick and easy way to screen candidates. But I’m convinced that many great candidates are excluded before they have had the chance to prove their worth.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What methodology do you use to choose who you work with?

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