Apprentice Becomes the Recruitment Master

December 1, 2015 |

The BBC’s The Apprentice is back on our television screens for the yearly ingestion of inflated egos, power suits and boardroom tension. With Tank PR on the look-out for another account manager, who better than our very own client, recruitment expert and industry heavyweight, James Taylor of Macildowie, to cast his opinion of this unique hiring process and whether they get it right in Alan Sugar’s boardroom.

People watch The Apprentice for a multitude of reasons. From full-time TV addicts to those who want to see the ‘cocky self-assured’ sales manager get his comeuppance, and not forgetting anyone that just likes shots of the London skyline mixed with classical music. I myself fall into the recruitment obsessive category, and as a hiring exercise I think there are actually a lot of positives to take away from the show.

When looking to add a new member of staff to your team, the traditional interview process is a fundamentally flawed, subjective method of selecting the right person. A one-to-one interview, as carried out by almost every hiring manager on the planet, is actually little more than a sales process where the candidate pitches for the position by telling the interviewer how good they think that they will be at the job. The interviewer typically hires the candidate that they like the most – a face to face interview is rarely able to drill down into the candidate’s actual ability to do the job, or how they are likely to fit into the company culture. Would you decide to marry a potential partner on a first date, of course not. Before deciding to propose to a future husband/wife you ask the opinion of your nearest and dearest, you want to see how they act in public and with different types of people in different circumstances.

Now it’s obviously a bit daft to talk of choosing a husband and wife in the same sentence as hiring a potential candidate – but I’m sure you catch my drift – hiring anyone into your team changes the existing dynamic, so why would you not want to be as detailed as possible and find out how they act in different circumstances when faced with difficult challenges?

In my opinion, The Apprentice works as you get to see the candidates over a three-month period. Someone’s people skills, personal values, emotional intelligence, social awareness and leadership potential can all be assessed over an extended period of time. You can’t fake it like you might be able to in a one or two hour interview.

These skills are vital as an individual’s cultural fit within a business will often render a hire as a success or failure. A recent survey found that over 88 per cent of businesses are hiring based on soft skills and personality rather than the actual experience gained on the job. This suggests that employers believe that they can easily train skills but it’s harder to alter behaviours and attitude.

The more you get to know someone, the better (or worse in many cases of The Apprentice) impression you will get of them. Carrying on with the romantic analogy, how many times have you been on a first date and told your friends that he/she could be ‘the one’ only to find yourself ignoring texts and phone calls by the end of date number four!

It’s highly unlikely that many businesses will have the time or resources for an extended recruitment process that even slightly resembles the above and in the current job market, I wouldn’t encourage taking too long. Good candidates are in high demand and the last thing you want to do is identify a potential hire and lose them before you have even offered them a job because someone else beat you to it. The good news is that there are efficient ways to hire well, and speedily:

Use some science – map out the personalities in your current team using a BPS approved psychometric profiling tool and then make sure you never hire again until each potential candidate has sat the assessment and you have interviewed them against their profile.

Get close to one Recruitment Consultant, let them into your business to understand you and the culture of your organisation and that way they can talent pipeline individuals whose values match you own.

Give the candidates a piece of work to do that the job would entail, see how they do.

Finally, as long as the candidates have the required skills – get your team to take them out for a few (too many) drinks… the real ‘them’ is more likely to come out once the first bottle of red kicks in!

James Taylor, director at Macildowie.