Leaders and aspiring leaders are typically judged on their creativity, with hiring managers often seeking examples from a candidate to demonstrate how they have taken (measured) risks in their roles.
So if innovation is so important in the candidate’s profile, why are most hiring managers so conservative and risk-averse in their recruitment decisions? Why do people tend to hire people like themselves, particularly when so much evidence exists to support the benefit of a diverse work team?
Having worked in the large, mainframe computer industry for many years, our company had a superior product offering to the industry leader but we’d regularly lose out to them on major bids. It was always said that an IT manager wouldn’t lose her/his job by selecting the leader. This same conservative approach is prevalent in hiring decisions, with organisations sticking to the same narrow criteria over and over again– the ‘safe choice’ is made to limit the risk of a poor appointment, which could then also impact upon the reputation of the hiring manager.
Being an accountant by training, I tend to naturally fall into this risk-averse category, so the advice by Paul Schoemaker ‘To Hire Well Throw Away the Job Description’ is a little scary. (He doesn’t actually recommend you do this.) As a first step Paul suggests you interview some people you might not normally interview, then (as one of my clients explains) “be open to the surprise of the interview”.
I’ve decided in 2016 to encourage my clients to at least consider shortlisting people who possess the qualities and attributes we’re seeking, although they might have a career background that doesn’t align with 99% of their existing workforce. Employing such people can bring some mistakes and pain, however it just might be that the benefit of hiring ‘outside the square’ far, far outweighs the risk.