Secrets of a Brighter Workplace


Tips on how to understand, recruit and keep the best people for your business


How a volatile world is changing the way we recruit our leaders

Recruitment trends - part 3

It’s never been easy to lead a business, big or small. So many responsibilities, so many decisions, so much at stake.

In today’s VUCA world, the stakes have never been higher. Uncertainty, volatility and chaos are the norm, meaning leaders have to be ever more agile, decisive, creative even.

Which makes it all the more important to hire the right leader for your business.

In this, the third of my blogs on current recruitment trends, I’ll share with you some of the innovations and tools recruiters are using to make sure they hire the best in the business.

How do you lead a business through continuous and unpredictable change? How do you manage your employees to help them cope with, even thrive on, uncertainty and volatility? And how do you recruit someone ready to take these challenges head on?

Increasingly, organisations are looking for leaders with a different approach to management. There’s been a move away from command and control management structures to more of a coaching style of leadership. This approach is focused on enabling employees – giving them the skills, tactics and confidence to tackle the challenges they face – rather than simply telling them what to do.

All of which demands a different approach to leadership recruitment. Hence all these new trends:

1. Personality profiling

There’s been an increase in the use of personality tests and personality profiling, using a number of instruments to measure and investigate personality and motivation.

This deep-dive 2-3 hour interview focusing on a leader’s personality by a psychologist helps the hiring manager find out what the candidate’s strengths, risks and development areas are. Meaning they can make an informed decision about whether the candidate is the right fit, is up to the type of challenges the company faces and whether they have the tenacity, resilience and traits to cope with the uncertainties and pressures of their organisation and industry.

Due to an increasing demand for cost efficiencies, where once the personality interview might have sat alongside other assessment centre exercises such as role-plays or written exercises, these now often tend to stand alone and take place before the interview panel.

However, personality instruments are ultimately based on the candidate ‘self-reporting.’ Whilst this evidence is valid, it lacks an objective secondary measurement of those traits in action – which other assessment exercises would provide.

For example, the candidate may say they are persuasive and enjoy persuading others, they may give you examples of where they have done that in the past. But when you put them in a situation where they have to persuade someone – can they actually do it?

This lack of secondary and mathematical evidence leaves room for bias and discrimination to creep in. With no scores to compare between candidates, the panel’s decision essentially comes down to ‘who do we want to hire?’

My advice: include exercises involving observable behaviour in your assessment process to balance against/prove/disprove the evidence provided by personality profiling.

2. A continued focus on risk and other specific aspects of leadership

As I described in a previous blog, it’s vital when recruiting leaders to explore not just what they can do but also what the risks are of recruiting them. What personality traits do they have that, under stress, could become challenging, even disastrous? Spotting when leaders go bad has become a big concern.

So, in recent years, we’ve seen a growing interest in tools like the Hogan Development Survey which assess a leader’s potential ‘dark side.’ Meaning organisations are better able to predict how a candidate might respond under pressure or in certain environments.

There has also been an increasing focus on tools that measure other specific aspects of personality such as attitude to risk (Risk Type Compass) or creativity (Me2).

These measures complement personality profiling instruments and provide valuable information to aid the final hiring decision.

3. A focus on values

Stemming from the Sir Francis report into failings at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, values have become core to recruitment within the NHS.

But it’s having a wider impact too. More and more, we’re seeing organisations, in the public and private sectors, wanting to assess candidates’ values – particularly in leaders who create and reinforce the organisation’s culture.

Values are very deep-rooted, effectively they’re our inner compass and go deeper than personality. Often though, we only really know what our values are when we’re up against it, or we’re crossed in some way. Then the truth will out!

For example if you value honesty and someone lies to you – you may take this more hurtfully than someone else would.

Tests tend to focus on the behaviours you display when you have a specific value – currently this is really the only way to observe values in action. For example values-based situation judgement tests or personality questionnaires such as Sosie measure values in this way.

My conclusions? This increased investment and focus on who a leader is and their strengths and risks are enabling a deeper understanding of the candidates in the executive race to the top. However, without objective, secondary validation there is a risk this information is considered more reliable than it actually is. After all – it is rumoured that ‘Fred the shred was personality profiled before he was hired…!

Secondly, there is also an increasing temptation for interview panels to hire ‘who they like’ or ‘who they’ll get on with best’ using the personality information as support to what could be unconscious bias or inadvertent discrimination. As the evidence shows – diversity at the top table leads to higher performing organisations.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on how you are finding recruitment at the top?

To catch up with current recruitment trends, read ‘how technology and austerity have transformed the way we recruit.‘ And ‘the rise of the DIY assessment centre.

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