Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I:CreativeRecruit - 4: Being Creative With Creatives

The question inevitably arises as to how one can be creative in interviewing creatives. Think the heavy weight agency creatives whose life force is bent towards innovation and creative idea generation.

Part of my response to this resides in investigating just 'what it is' that the client has not expressed in the position advertisement, but they still want to find in their chosen candidate.

I'm sure many of you would recognise the following type of request that is made person to person or over the phone:

"Obviously I need a brilliant designer, someone with cutting edge skills, but I don't want a drama queen who seems to think the whole studio revolves around their talents. I'm looking for brilliance of craft but also someone down to earth. Confident and classy maybe but showing they believe everyone else in the team is as special as they are."

Most people have an holistic vision of their desired employee and yet most positions vacant advertisements don't reflect this. Many of course try by saying 'seeking team player' or 'must enjoy working within a team' or similar, however unless the fulsome desire is carried into the interview process, that holistic vision can be lost and the advertising phrases ultimately used to more superficially determine whether the candidate meets 'desired' traits.

Too many interviews simply ask questions along the lines of:

"Tell me about the role you have played in team project situations"

These questions have their own value of course, but do allow a witty and articulate candidate to persuade when substance may be wanting.

This is where a consultancy service like mine can assist of course; helping the client to locate mechanisms that test claims through observable behaviour.

So, in looking at how to evaluate a creative, one looks at the situation in terms of holistic desires and profiles.

I recall being present during an interview for creatives, along with a psychologist who used sand play as a therapeutic and counseling technique. Whilst their engagement with the short listed candidates led to information creation of a certain type, my observation noted others. Two activities had occurred with the sand play, one involving the short listed candidates individually and one with them combined as a team.

As suggested, I noted different issues entirely to what the psychologist did and combined with portfolio and other information the client moved towards what wound up to be a very successful hire. This is an example of what is effectively triangulation. Using 3 or more different analytical approaches to draw a conclusion between them.

I have also watched activities at distance via a computer mounted camera in the interview room although candidates must be informed this is happening in such cases.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

I:CreativeRecruit - 3: Being Creative About Knowledge

I have referred to creative recruitment design serving the ongoing recruitment process and not just the interview. The following is an example of an intervention that occurred early in the recruitment process and at the stage where prospects were being called and generally assessed. For this particular job each round brought different strategies to assess knowledge. Some were very straight forward, some more indirect. This is an example of an early intervention strategy that spoke to two of the key traits/skills that the research director was looking for.

A research facility has a sub-team of 12 researchers and scientists. They require an additional scientist come manager who also, they hope, may have some PR capabilities. In the process of communicating with early prospects, the recruiter asked some key scientific questions to do with the field of research the team were working in. It was important not to give away details about their projects that were not already public so the idea was more to ascertain the ability to respond to core field questions quickly and competently and to also do so in fairly plain English. The recruiter had, of course, been equipped with the Q&A set.

A few of the candidates found it difficult to describe or respond to several of the questions simply and they were ranked lower at this point than those who did the opposite. The Director decided to automatically place one candidate into the final round of three because when asked if they would be willing to answer some questions, this person asked if the questioner wanted scientific language or laypersons.

These approaches are really quite straightforward however it is the development of staged interventions that becomes more of an art.

I have also taken candidates in one field into a room, asked them to have a good look around, taken them outside and asked them to tell me any OH&S issues they observed whilst inside. You can prep candidates for this sort of task if you like however I find many businesses prefer dividing the acutely observant candidates from those who are not.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Isn't Having Fun Enough Reason Alone?

Sam said...

Is there ever a time simply having fun is reason enough? Only today an article on executive laugh classes featured. Why not just have some fun?

Sam posed this a couple of topics back. One of the reasons you could justify a more creative approach to interviewing is interviewer burnout. I've been in organisations where individual staff have groaned at the prospect of doing yet another interview round and going through similar styles of questions with yet another batch of applicants.

The usual cautions would remain of course. To me the activity should still inform you about the applicants in some manner but certainly all should enjoy.

The only caveat I could think of would be in the unique situation where a corporation, faced with choosing between two applicants, decided to hire them both but thought to have a little fun on what would have been the last interview round.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I:CreativeRecruit - 2: Capability and Potential Empathy

Company 'Y' is an engineering and design firm. The CEO felt there was a divide between his design and technical team and his administrative staff. Following a retirement of a senior manager in admin the CEO decided to fill the place with a personality that was able to readily connect with the designers and tech staff and yet had strong admin skills.

In an early round the candidates were asked to complete a simple task. They had to put together a kit chair that was still in pieces in it's pack.

On the surface, it may look like the candidates who put their chairs together the fastest would naturally move to the next round. In this case (and without giving all the game away) that wasn't necessarily the case at all. ;)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Warnings and Issues

I think it responsible to review some of the potential pitfalls and problematics of creative interview processes.

This newspaper piece, Job Interviews Going Too Far?, illustrates:,23636,22763087-5012424,00.html

It is clear that some managers or business owners are developing ideas with good intentions however, with poor insight and lack of attendance to contemporary equity legislative requirements, their creations are, at times, insulting and demeaning.

In my view it is not reasonable to ask a male or female job applicant to strip down to their underwear unless the job position they are applying for calls for that. I think the following sort of rationale inadequate: "I wanted to see who were truly ok with themselves".

Applicants deserve dignity apart from anything else.

As you consider the creative interview technique you are thinking of using, have a checklist you run through as you analyse your proposal. Check potentials for sexism, ageism, discrimination, bias, ignorance of mobility issues and so on. Check OH&S issues. Some workplace activities require closed toed shoes for example. Some religions preclude a female holding on to an unknown male. Consider these.

You also need to be able to arrive at potential last minute adaptions of creative activities for individual circumstances.

I also believe it fair to ask short listed applicants to wear certain types of clothes e.g. pants and not a skirt or dress as a preference, on the basis that activities may transpire. This is your time to intelligently work through any issues with your candidates.

In Justin Hemmes case, (see article), with his desire to create a strong fantasy atmosphere at his hotel, I think his decision to run the theatre appropriate however a similar less complex selection process could have been created and may have been more appropriate in terms of reflecting the real world of Ivy.

I believe Justin could be also be served by having a mix of theatre trained and hospitality trained staff. Perhaps that is what he wound up with!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I:CreativeRecruit - 1: Reflect Problems in the Field

A straightforward exercise to begin with:

You are down to three people for a job that largely involves them using a ride-on mower to maintain lawn areas around a large technology park.

You know that one of the primary annoyances in the job is the array of garbage that inevitably finds its way onto the lawns. Plastic and paper bags, bits of fruit and sandwich, drink and water bottles, juice cartons and so on.

You ensure a specific lawn area is lightly littered with a typical array and without saying anything about this you set each of the three short listed applicants to mow that area. You remain at distance and unseen but able to observe and take notes.

Applicant 1: They pick each and every item up before mowing. Some might have hopped onto the mower and tried to pick up as they go around (a potential OH&S issue) but this person picked them all up in one go, dropping them into one bin and then set about mowing. That job was done competently.

Applicant 2: They pick up all the plastic, glass and cartons, they throw the fruit and sandwich pieces into the back of the gardens and then they mow over the paper. There is a fine tan look to small sections of the lawn where this has been done. Competent at mowing.

Applicant 3: They see the garbage and come back and ask if you have recycling bins. They set about picking the items up. Sorting them appropriately and mowing. Competent at mowing.

So, all good at mowing, so on this element they are even. Now look at the 3 sets of behaviours. In this case Applicants 2 and 3 got through to the final round.

The point of this exercise, in part, is to illustrate that not all creative recruitment processes need be theatrical or circus like or full of bells and whistles. Sometimes those are appropriate but horses for courses. Also of course that including real job issues can creatively reveal various traits and commitments of your applicants.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Know what you want

I really must start this blog by urging all employers to really know what it is you want and seek in your new employee(s). Whilst it can be useful to have flexible notions about the employment position, you really must enter the process of seeking new staff with a core list of qualities, knowledge and competencies you seek.

The three again: qualities, knowledge and competencies

Consider kneading the position a little once you are down to your top 2 or 3 applicants. Consider how each of the applicants may value add to your original position intention.

Then get particularly creative in how you select between your top two.