Recruitment Basics Part Three: Narrowing the Field

Welcome to part three of four on recruitment basics for managers.
If you have been following along, you will now have short listed your applications with reference to the matrix you originally prepared.  You will be very clear on the skills and attributes the position requires, you will have thrown out your lure and are now ready to narrow the field.  There are four important parts to help you get the outcomes you desire:

Psychometric Profiling

Your first question (if you have not used these before) may be: what on earth is psychometric profiling? Does it hurt?
Here is a video by Winsborough’s Sonya Cowen, that will answer these questions and more.  Actually on second thoughts not the – does it hurt – question.  We might talk about that in future, because I did find my own a little uncomfortable.
There are a range of good tools and some rubbish ones out there that can help you with profiling applicants.  We have had success with the New Zealand based selector insight profiling, finding it to be almost uncannily accurate.  This tool not only identifies how well the candidate is likely to fit with your organisation it also highlights areas for discussion/probing questions during reference checking.  In addition the written profile provides valuable information on how the candidate will best be inducted and managed if they are your ‘chosen one’.

The Interview

interviewOctoAlthough there is merit in setting the style and format of the interview to suit the interviewer and your company culture, there are some basic principles to follow:

  • Provide a comfortable, private space, with drinking water (no corner cafes please).
  • Unless it is for a very senior position, don’t overwhelm the applicant with a big panel of interviewers.
  • The applicant should do most of the talking.
  • If you are an organisation that likes to provide a standard set of pre-prepared questions (to ensure a fair comparison between applicants), ensure the questions are not leading and provide plenty of scope for the applicant to inject their personality into their response.
  • Consider setting a task for the applicant to complete which gives you an idea of their level of technical expertise.
  • Make allowances for nerves; even a very competent employee can find interviews scary.
  • Ensure the discussion focuses around the key areas you have identified as critical to the success of the role.

Reference Checking

For today we offer four ‘quick and dirty’ tips for referencing checking (future blogs will expand further, so stay tuned):

  1. Begin by building a little rapport with the person, try to find some common ground that will help them to trust you.
  2. Listen for hesitations and changes in tone of voice – for clues on what areas to probe further.
  3. Listen not only to what they are saying but also to what they are NOT saying.
  4. Always avoid sending written questionaries to referees.  We have known busy managers to simply pass these on to the applicant to fill in.  True story. While such practices are (hopefully) rare, there are other reasons to speak to the referees in person.  For one, many people will feel empowered to be more honest verbally than in writing.  Secondly there is no ‘tone of voice’ to guide you.

Verify the documents

This is not a time to be trusting, many an unsuspecting employer has been duped with fake qualifications.  You must sight the originals or a certified copy.
You are very nearly there, next week we will look at offering and on-boarding aka: getting off to a good start.
Happy fishing,
Claire, The Barefoot (SME) Recruiter

References Links
The full series on recruitment basics includes:

Note from the future: I later provided two bonus blogs (free of charge) on:

Picture credit
Clay Art by Rosie Percy (12)

Habit 1: Be Proactive

This is part of a series on the science (if any) behind the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ from the late Stephen Covey.
This post is about Habit 1: Be Proactive

Stop the press!

When preparing the introduction for this series I had not yet found anything really criticising Coveys ideas.  This week I fell on such an article (McCabe 2011).  Here is a  quote from it:
“There is a … considerable body of literature that criticizes the overly simplistic prescriptions and beliefs of the management guru”
McCabe is anti-authoritarian in his advice ….. but is more than a little bit of a Hitler himself with his strong assertions of how much is within our control.  So much so, that perhaps, he blames the abused for the abuse.  Hypocrisy anyone?
But wait …. McCabe’s article is only a case study and opinion piece (and has only been referenced 15 times).  What I was hoping for is a large piece of well-structured research that seriously put the 7 habits to the (empirical) test.
For now, I feel, we should go cautiously onwards.
Ok so let’s get proactive (see what I did there?).

What is proactivity?

Let’s start with Stephen Covey’s own take (from his website):
 “Habit 1: Be Proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. You can’t keep blaming everything on your parents or grandparents. Proactive people recognize that they are “response-able.” They don’t blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behaviour”
Covey, in his 7 habits book, uses the story of Victor Frankl to bring the idea of proactivity to life.   Frankl was a scholar of psychology who spent time in Nazi death camps, his book ‘Mans Search for Meaning’ is one of the most powerful and confronting things I have ever read.  Covey seemed to feel similar.
What he takes from Frankl and builds into his toolkit of personal and corporate solutions is this:
“Between stimulus and response man [sic] has the freedom to choose”

What is the science of proactivity?

Turns out proactivity is quite a deal in organisation research.  The awesome student I shared a cubicle with during my PhD has even published on the topic and here is something from him and his supervisor:
“It is generally accepted that three key characteristics distinguish proactive behaviour from other types of individual performance:

  • the self-starting nature of the behaviour,
  • that the behaviour is anticipatory and future-focused as opposed to reactive,
  • and that the behaviour is intended to change the situation and/or oneself”

There are lots more published in academic journals on the topic of proactivity, covering; what it is, what causes it, and more.

But how can I get some?

This is where things get tricky.  I have not found the answer in the academic stuff (academics have different drivers to management gurus trying to profit from solutions, which is not always as good as it sounds).
Hence, I went to Uncle Google to see what he could tell me.  I got – nothing of any use – although lots and lots of stuff e.g., be strategic, be accountable, be solution-focused, focus on the future.
Which to me translates to this:
Me: Please Uncle Google, how can I become more proactive?
Uncle Google: You can come more proactive …… by ….being more proactive.
Me: Waaaaaa you suck, I knew mum was right when she said not to believe what you said.
This got me thinking, well maybe you can’t change yourself much and therefore it is potentially misleading to even call it a habit.  Perhaps it is the 7 personality traits of successful people.
Sure, enough when returning to the scientific literature I find an article on the “proactive personality”.
Which apparently is related to:

  • better salary
  • career satisfaction
  • charismatic leadership
  • entrepreneurial-ness
  • team empowerment
  • team productivity
  • team satisfaction

This is not good news as my understanding is that changing personality is hard, if not near on impossible (despite what management gurus might tell you).   Of course, we do change over time and with our combined life experiences.  However, this is very different to taking a 4-day management course and bam, you have earned yourself a nice shiny certificate, a free pen and a proactive personality.
So what did Covey himself advise on how to get more proactive:
For 30 days ….. make small commitments and keep them, be a light, not a judge, be a model not a critic, be part of the solution not the problem.


Strangely in looking at Habit one: Be proactive, I have looped back to the same question that is bothering me throughout this habits series, namely:
How to make and keep commitments to yourself?
Maybe there will be something in the coming weeks/habits that will help us all.
Meanwhile – what is going on for you and proactivity (or not)?
Until next time

Footnotes, References etc.

The 7 Habits:

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin with the End in Mind
  3. Put First Things First
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw
Carpini, J., Parker, S., & Griffin, M. (2017). A look back and a leap forward: a review and synthesis of the individual work performance literature. Academy of Management Annals, annals.
Covey, S. R. (2013). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Powerful lessons in personal change: Simon and Schuster.
Frankl, V. E. (1985). Man’s search for meaning: Simon and Schuster.
McCabe, D. (2011). Opening Pandora’s box: The unintended consequences of Stephen Covey’s effectiveness movement. Management learning, 42(2), 183-197.
Thompson, J. A. (2005). Proactive personality and job performance: A social capital perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90(5), 1011-1017.
Adapted from
photo source

The 7 Habits: Do they stand the test of time? Will they save us?

Once upon a time when I was a young management consultant/coach, I swallowed ideas on offer at swanky conferences by swanky peeps (especially when the hotel and wine were good).  My past four years in the ivory towers (doing a PhD) have taught me to question everything, to ask for the evidence.  I am now transitioning back into my coaching and training business with my right-hand woman (yes, my mum).  Although we did good work previously and our clients were happy  …. I have started to wonder, where were we letting them down? Where were we selling them things that felt good and seemed nice but ultimately were not supported by good scientific evidence?

Of course science does not have all the answers, and is itself, sometimes too far removed from practice to be helpful.  However there are ideas/tools sold to business that are well researched and shown to be at best ineffective.  So I do not want to charge our clients for such tools just because some of our competitors are.
Hence – I am returning, with my new eyes, to some of our old favourite tools and authors – to see which ones we should put back on the shelf.  Given my current blogging focus is habits it is obvious to revisit Stephen Covey’s famous – 7 habits of highly effective people.
So what is the verdict? Well, I can’t seem to find any academics slamming the 7 habits (but I have given it half a day not a month so do let me know what I missed).  On the contrary I found a few articles in top journals using his tools for their specialty (i.e., pharmacology and nursing).  I also see he was himself and academic.   So far so good …. I think I’ll go further.
But first I have long forgotten what the 7 habits actually are, so let’s start with a recap for your sake and mine:

  1. Be Proactive – Wow this baby is big it is much more than Nikes ‘just do it’. It is doing it with self-awareness, with reference to your personal values, by leveraging your own unique awesomeness and more.
  2. Begin with the End in Mind – Get your mission statement going mate.
  3. Put First Things First – “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”
  4. Think Win-Win – This one sounds a wee bit too hippy dippy, law of attraction, abundance blah blah for me. But covey was a sensible man of intellect so I shan’t judge this book by its cover.
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood – Easier than it sounds.
  6. Synergize – that feels a bit last millennium, corporate bingo now huh?
  7. Sharpen the Saw – you never know when you need to prune a tree. Actually it’s about working on our four domains: physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual.  I’d say this is very much interlinking with habit 1.

So there we have the 7 habits of highly effective people.   Over the coming weeks I’ll take each one and see what evidence exists for it.  Perhaps I’ll have a crack at each habit myself.  Although I have achieved much in the 45 years I have been on the planet in terms of work, investments, education, raising half a child – I am pretty sure that I have a long way to go to have Covey smiling down at me from above.
Maybe this is my year to make an old, dead man proud.  Who is with me?


You can enter journal titles and see their ranking here.  Understanding them is another thing – I’ll get around to a post on that eventually.