“Recruitment is not exactly rocket science, you know” said David. He was not really aggressive with Raj but he did sound pretty rude.
He continued. “You, HR types would have one believe it is. The time you take for GodKnowsWhat and to finally tell me GodKnowsWhen as I wait endlessly.”
“Yes, David, it is not rocket science. However, getting the right people for our company takes a lot of diligent work.” Raj completely ignored David’s tone and remained calm as ever. He was pretty used to operational managers and their tantrums. And he knew he still needed to work with them.
“What is so great about interviewing a couple of candidates and selecting the best? Of course, it needs a special nose for talent and I don’t know whether your HR team has anyone with that.”
“You are right, David. One needs to have good understanding to pick out talent. But recruitment is not just doing an interview. We also need to get them to come into the company for the interview. We need to reach out where the special talent is and how to get them interested in our company. Recruitment starts long before we want to fill up a post.”
“Okay, I understand that. That is why I want you people to improve your networking skills. Connect with people in the industry. Attend events. Make social media posts.”
Raj was getting frustrated now. “Look here, David. I don’t want get into the details of recruitment strategy, employee branding, scale difficulties and such technical stuff with you now. You know very well that all the networking tips you dished out would be just a minor part of an overall strategy. Just let me do the job.”
David couldn’t resist a jab. “Yes, you just remember that your job hampers my job, my performance and my bonus. If I don’t get Top A rating this year, you owe me big time.”
“David, I know you want this Manager position filled up fast. You need someone who has top notch technical skills and is well up on his communication skills. And we also need to make sure this person would abide by our company values. We are trying all sorts of things. I’ll come back to you.”
Raj had a frustrating review meeting with his team. Classic recruitment situation in a big country. Number of applicants is high as many people want jobs. But number of good candidates low and skills sparse. And candidates with good technical merits fail on softer skills. He decided to get a cup of coffee from the pantry.
He saw David in the corridor. David was pretty excited as he pulled Raj to a vacant work spot nearby. “Raj, I am sending a resume of a good candidate with some great references. You see how it is with people who are good with networking skills. Please don’t reject him on some stupid formality. I have gone through the details and candidate checks out well.”
“No, David. We don’t reject candidates arbitrarily. We need good candidates from any source. I’ll process this fast and get the preliminaries done. Thanks.”
David was surprised that Raj didn’t argue with him. He was also mighty pleased how quickly he could pull in a good candidate when those HR team where going round in circles. Finally, it all comes to ‘can do’ attitude, resourcefulness and good contacts. The resume came from a casual friend of his whom he met in an industry forum. He hoped that Raj wouldn’t sabotage anything just to prove a point. He would personally follow up the case.
It was almost three days. David was getting impatient. How long does it take to do a preliminary interview and pass on the candidate for a technical interview? He was ready to make himself available at a moment’s notice for the final. The whole process should have been over by now.
Raj was in a meeting when David called him. So David decided to call Kumar who worked under Raj. Kumar informed him that they had finished the preliminary formalities but the candidate was out of town for the last couple of days. He was coming in that afternoon for the interview.
“Oh hell!” exclaimed David. He was catching an evening flight and would have to leave office by the afternoon. Otherwise he would have rushed the formalities and finished his final interview. Anyway, things were progressing and still no evidence of any hanky-panky by Raj.
By three in the afternoon, David finished all his office work. He had ten/ fifteen minutes to spare before he left to catch the flight. He decided to go to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee.
David sat in a comfortable corner table and fiddling with his mobile as he sipped his coffee. He caught sight of Raj entering the cafeteria along with a smart looking man whom he had not seen before. He waved to Raj. Raj came to his table along with the new man.
“Hi David. Sorry couldn’t take your call. I have been busy with some external visitors till now. I took a break when I could so that..” Raj stopped and changed tracks. “Oh, sorry. Let me first introduce Paul. Paul has come for the interview for the position we were talking about. Paul, please meet David. Our General Manager.”
Paul seemed to be totally at ease with senior executives unlike many candidates who came for interviews. His handshake was firm. David thought that was a good sign. Confidence was key to managerial jobs. Great first impression.
Raj offered to go get coffee for Paul as well as himself. Paul said he would like it black with no sugar. This too impressed David. This guy was totally at ease with people and not unduly apologetic.
When Raj came back with coffee, the table was silent with Paul doing something with the mobile phone and David watching him across the table very intently. Paul got a bit flustered as he became aware of Raj standing behind him and got up from the chair to receive his coffee. He profusely thanked Raj. “That was very fast. So nice of you, Mr Raj.”
David told Raj that he had a bit of problem with his mobile and Paul offered to check it out for him.
Paul handed the mobile back to David. “It should be okay now. Nothing serious. These become sluggish with numerous updates. Just tweak some settings and reboot. That is all it takes mostly.” David thanked Paul as he took back the phone.
Raj recounted briefly the formalities completed so far. “Paul has finished the preliminaries. I am having a chat with him just after this. Your technical guys would meet him after that. I understand you are going out and be back only day after tomorrow.”
David said, “What a pity? Had I known earlier, I would have brushed aside all the formalities and interviewed him. But then I have to leave for the airport now. We would have saved so much of time if only I had another half an hour.”
“That is okay, David. Let us finish the other steps in the process before you get back.”
“You know, I was going to chat with him mainly on general stuff. You know, leadership, strategy and so on. Wait. I have an idea. Paul, why don’t you ride with me to the airport? Let us finish the interview in the car. My driver would drop you back. Great Mr. Raj can do whatever he wants after that.” David was so pleased with his quick thinking and problem solving. If only everyone was like that.
But David was so disappointed that Raj was against that. ‘Let us not unduly rush things. You can meet day after tomorrow, if needed.” Surprisingly, David found that Paul also preferred going through the process. Strange people, thought David.
“Ok, then. Let me leave you to it.” David left.
David had a proper interview with Paul after he got back. His first impressions were right. Paul was pretty smart. The technical team rated him highly. And he himself found Paul very well versed with the latest managerial thinking. Not just the jargon. He was able to explain very well the concepts and what experts had to say about it.
He called Raj soon after the interview to tell him that Paul could be hired.
Raj didn’t appear to be so enthusiastic about the idea. But he simply asked about the interview.
“You know, this guy, Paul, is pretty well read for a man of his age. He is really up to speed on modern concepts. And pretty thorough too,” said David.
“He certainly is smart and intelligent. He speaks well. I understand he is sound technically. But he seemed a little too slick for my team interviewers,” replied Raj.
David was a bit offended. “You are weighing my judgement against some your juniors? Considering you are my friend, I am not going to be angry with you. I will tell you in detail how I grilled Paul. He came out very well.
“I asked him about viral stories on the Internet. Not remembering funny memes. But how they spread, how did sliced bread become such a sensation, how silk milk succeeded so quickly, and what is otaku?”
Raj vaguely remembered a TED talk he heard some years ago.
David continued. “We talked about Roman history and its great emperors. What Augustus Caesar could teach managers of today and why is he the favourite of Mark Zuckerberg. I asked him about 5G networks. He went much beyond what is covered in the popular press. Mind you, I didn’t talk much at all during the interview. He was on full flow with just few odd questions from me.”
“What else did you ask him,” asked Raj.
“Well, I asked him what he thought of Africa as an emerging market. Once again he surprised me with his insightful views. To tell you frankly I would not have known so much if I don’t read widely myself.”
Raj asked for some more time before he could comment. “There you go again. Always slow. You need a bias for action.”
“David, I need to check certain things. I’ll be as fast as I can.”
“Raj, before you go. Just remember that the great Confucius said ‘everything is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.’ How right he is!”
Raj thought of a retort but checked himself and left the room.
That evening Raj got back to David.
“So, everything wrapped up? When is Paul joining?” asked David.
Raj was appeared thoughtful. He was quiet for some time. David was getting a little concerned. His original fear of Raj sabotaging the Paul candidature came back to him.
Raj was solemn. “I am not sure whether Paul is a good candidate for this responsible position. I do not recommend him.”
“What? Am I getting you correctly? Are you saying you are going against my judgement?” It was a mix of emotions for David. Angry, irritated, puzzled, frustrated. He knew something like this would happen.
“Listen, David. I know you are disappointed. And I am sure you will agree with me when I give you my reasoning.” Raj was matter-of-fact and that irritated David more. He knew he could not browbeat Raj easily or pull rank on him.
“Look, Raj. Don’t you agree that Paul is articulate and has the experience and technical competence for the job?’ David knew he had to control his rising temper to get his way.
“Yes, David. You may be right about some of that. But we also want someone who is straightforward and play a fair game. Our company managers need to be responsible and upfront in their dealings. And I have enough information that tells us that Paul does not measure up to those standards.”
“On what basis or you saying this, Raj?” David was really curious. What had he missed, he wondered.
“David, do you listen to podcasts?” asked Raj. David was annoyed. “We are discussing important stuff, Raj! Stick to the subject.”
“Yes. I am on the subject. I am guessing you do listen to podcasts and you subscribe to the ones by McKinsey, Wharton, TED Radio. Am I right?” Raj asked.
“Yes, Raj, I do but what has it got to do with our selection?” David could still not see the connection. And then his curiosity overtook him. “How did you guess correctly what my favourite podcasts are? I don’t remember ever discussing it with you.”
“You see, David. I had a wild idea and asked my team member Kumar to check which podcasts had covered the topics you discussed in Paul’s interview. 15 minutes of work and he found recent podcasts on these topics and it was easy guess that you subscribed to them.”
“Well, that still does not say anything about the candidate or his capabilities.” David was not sure what else to ask.
“My team had reservations about Paul even during the preliminary stages. Conflicting stories, skipping over some details when pressed, very tenuous connection to the people who gave him references and so on. Kumar raised the alert to me.
“But what clinched the issue was when I connected all that with what I saw in the cafeteria when Paul was tweaking your phone. I brought back coffee and directly behind for a moment. While I couldn’t see the details, I was sure Paul was looking at your podcast app and your subscription list. He got a bit shaken momentarily when he realised I was behind him but I did not think much about it then.
“One may say that the candidate was resourceful and was doing background search when he did that. But one could also say that he was stealing copies of the question paper ahead of the examination. That is not playing straight.”
Raj continued. “I wish you had asked some more questions on other topics before jumping to your conclusion. You know all about using representative samples for valid conclusions. Recruitment and selection process work on that basis.”
David was all silent.
Raj concluded. “I know about the Confucius and Occam’s Razor. They do have a lot of wisdom but they are heuristics and not universal rules. After the great Einstein is supposed to have said that we should try make things simple. But not simpler.”
Occam’s Razor is an interesting principle used in problem solving where simpler solutions should be looked into before considering complex ones. It ensures that we make fewer assumptions and lesser speculation; we can come to quicker resolutions. It is attributed to an English friar, William of Occam (1287–1347) a philosopher and theologian.
Similar thought was expressed even before William by Confucius (551–479 BC) a Chinese teacher and philosopher.
However, we cannot take them a license to oversimplify. Hence the Einstein quote. Interestingly, the origin of Einstein’s actual quote is not fully established and it looks like people have loosely paraphrased them.
Cover photo, Choices is used under Creative Commons License and it is from pexels.com