People are only so good

I love chatting to people about business. Recently a discussion came up with a person put in to handle the Human Resources in a smallish business, little experience just the desire to do the job and the boss said yes. Heart in the right place generally a good judge of character so the mix of skills and attitude is better than someone who didn’t want to do the job.

The person had to recruit and select one staff member, job description sorted, range of skills required understood, all good. Job advert placed and then the emails started to roll in.

The excitement grew, day one five applications, day two five more, day three, ten applications and so on. Eventually there were thirty five applicants to choose from.

“So how did you go sorting and assessing the applicants?” - “At first I was excited, then a bit daunted I had three groups, yes - no - maybe and it was fairly easy to choose the ones that weren’t suitable, low  or no skills in job specific areas then it got a bit harder from there…” 

With a short list of 8 yes’s and a bigger bunch of maybe’s the task was starting to come to the ‘pointy end’. “What else did find in the process of sorting and assessing?” - “Oh wow the thing that threw me was people who had about 10 - 15 years of work experience listed, but they were clearly older than 35 when they walked in the door to be interviewed! So I was left to wonder what they had been up to…” - “Had you thought they may have done a lot of travel just after university, or perhaps they had a career change early on and wanted to list only positions they thought were relevant to this role, or perhaps they were following the formula of ‘only list the last ten years of employment history’ or any one of a number of reasons”.

It can be easy to get caught out by having one set of expectations about people and finding something different, but perhaps the recruiter could have asked some more questions to fill in the gaps to save them wondering about what the reasons were they felt the application lacked information.

Often we have to dig a bit deeper to get the facts and asking some probing questions is a way to do that.

People are only as good as what they know, and if you don’t know, they need to ask… Luckily the range of good fit applicants in this case outweighed the others so there were no issues, but things could have been different. 

How many other areas in a business could there be where people are only as good as what they know, might fit to? Answer lots… It would pay to be constantly learning, assessing, evaluating and exploring to find out where the gaps are and if they need to be filled with good information so your team can know more to be able to do more of the right things in their roles.


Steve Gray

Director at Gray Capital Investments

You're in business, you want to win, not fail, you want success not struggles. You have an idea, you have spent a lot of money and time getting started but now what! Get a strategy in place, develop a plan, call me and get an outsiders view on what you are doing well and what needs to happen next. In the meantime check the articles on my website. Cheers


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Scott Brown

Scott Brown , Principal at Scott Brown Recruitment

One thing I noticed during my recruitment / hiring career was a lot of reluctance to ask questions that would be considered probing. That fear seemed to be borne from one of two things: either a reluctance to dig below the surface due to desire not to embarrass a candidate (true!) or poor understanding of legalities of questions, afraid that some probing questions could be classed as illegal without them being such. Whatever it is, it is pure inexperience, and there is a case for having planned beforehand what to ask, as well as what information you are looking for to cater to that inexperience where making it up on the spot is improbable.

Chee Chun (Cheech) Foo

Chee Chun (Cheech) Foo , Director at Ignite Search

Hey Steve/Scott, Steve, great article by the way, and always a challenge to be able to pick your hires right. Scott, you mentioned that there are legalities around interview questions, any chance you can spell that out briefly for those (like myself) who don't really have much of a clue in this area? For example, are there certain type of questions that are deemed illegal by law to be asked and what are the impacts, financially or personally, if any?