In the hospitality industry, Fit-Out is a term used when a hospitality company takes over a resort or hotel and fits out the property to its requirements. This morning, it struck me that the term is a good descriptor of how corporates look for employees who already fit-out to their idea of a desired personality.
I have read that studies have shown that even kindergarten kids gravitate naturally to the most attractive kids in their class. Other studies have shown that good looking people have the odds in their favour of bagging a job opening. Several research studies on the subject of appearance and grooming have also found that better looking people tend to earn higher salaries than their peers.
From the admittedly limited reading I have done on the subject of evolution, I understand that the human race is constantly pushing to evolve towards a state of perfection. And perhaps, the quest to grow into a beautiful race is just that – evolutionary push.
But viewed from the lens of an organisation’s view finder, isn’t it rather unthinking? If performance is an organisation’s topmost priority, surely the traits that should supersede are intelligence, sincerity, amiability and hunger for the job? I am not suggesting that a good looking person won’t possess those traits but too often, I have observed the more poised, suave lookers and talkers walk away with the prize when the organisation would have perhaps benefited more by giving a not-so-good looking but intelligent eager beaver the break.
I do understand that corporates need to consciously mould their corporate image to be aspirational and attract the best talent. And part of that corporate image exercise is a good looking office filled with the energy of smart people. Isn’t this the reason why ‘grooming’ is today part and parcel of b-school education?
What has always disturbed me though is that too much weightage appears to be placed on the appearance of ‘smarts’ instead of probing deeper to assess the inherent intelligence, ambition and most important, the values of a person. You can have all the intelligence and ambition in the world but unless those traits are channelised and put to good use, it’s of no use to the company whatsoever. That’s where values kick-in. Values that allow an individual to understand that in life, one has to allow others the space to contribute and grow as well, making her or him a team player. Values that bring about a degree of humility to accept that one can’t always be right and sometimes the best ideas emerge from collaborative thinking. Values that demand a sense of fair play to prevent ambition from creating a political atmosphere in the office.
It is this line of thinking that has influenced the way I interact with potential candidates whenever there has been an opening in my team. Oh, I do ask all the usual questions on work experience and achievements listed on the resume. By the way, I discard all resumes that are unbelievable. I remember speaking to a colleague in HR and telling him, “If this candidate can really lay claim to all that he has listed on his CV, he should be applying for the post of CEO or my job.”
So, to come back to my style of interviewing or recruitment technique. I spend a great deal of time drawing the candidate out on the books, movies and advertising campaigns that have made an impression and why. I converse on life’s questions and/or current events in the political or economic environment. I test for ethical decision making skills by asking what decision the candidate would take if ever confronted with a situation where whichever decision is taken, ethically it would be a damned-if-I-do or damned-if-I-don’t scenario. I also gently probe to assess the individual’s financial background and sense of financial responsibility. Why do I do that? It’s simple. People who need a steady stream of income will value their jobs more and work harder to secure their future!
I am pretty sure that the first time a senior colleague heard the kind of questions I ask a candidate, he was extremely taken aback (he may even have thought that he has a nutty boss). But hey, this approach to assessing a possible future colleague has worked for me with a rough hit rate of 7 out of 10. To achieve a hit rate of 10/10, I guess one would have to be God and that I am not! God knows, I am only too human with all the attendant weaknesses.
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