Robots and ‘successful psychopaths’: Why your recruitment methods may be letting your business down

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Soft skills matter more than ever. Many businesses now prioritise these over technical skills, so why are their recruitment methods still delivering the wrong people?

Out of 900 executives interviewed in 2015 by The Wall Street Journal, 92% said ‘soft skills’ were equally important, if not more important, than technical skills. This statistic appears in stark contrast to the assessment methods used by the vast majority of organisation in their recruitment efforts to date.

A recruitment strategy that prioritizes technical ability leads to a workforce where soft skills are considered rare qualities. And with the automation and outsourcing of menial tasks showing no sign of slowing down, the ability to communicate clearly, think critically and show empathy are considered vital for the roles that are left.

Make sure you don’t overlook or make excuses for ‘red flags’ just because their technical background is so strong. 

Employment Office Recruitment Team Leader, Amber Dique-Bellette, explains:

“The biggest trap employers fall into is looking for technical skills in the first instance and letting that influence their assessment throughout the rest of the process. Focusing on technical ability during the application screening process is fine. However, when you bring that candidate in for an interview, make sure you don’t overlook or make excuses for ‘red flags’ just because their technical background is so strong.”

The emphasis on technical skills has also created another problem: businesses are now woefully unprepared in terms of identifying hidden personality traits. This has provided the perfect environment for the “successful psychopath”: a top performer who typically displays insincerity, behaves in an egotistical manner and manipulates colleagues.

The true cost of hiring these individuals is often overlooked in favour of the short-term results they deliver, particularly in project management, sales or customer service roles. As well as the high risk of these personalities engaging in unethical business practices, they are guaranteed to increase your recruitment costs. One way or another.

If I hire someone with a disruptive personality, I also run the risk of good people becoming unsettled and moving on. 

As one Client Relationship Manager put it:

“I don’t want to have to go through the recruitment and onboarding process twice, or to train someone for months only to see them leave. If I hire someone with a disruptive personality, I also run the risk of good people becoming unsettled and moving on. I’m not only trusting them with our business’ reputation from the client’s perspective, I’m trusting them to help maintain our reputation as a great place to work.”

Ultimately, if executives are serious about their claims of soft skills being more important than technical skills, they need to give their recruitment teams a licence to experiment with recruitment technology, behavioural testing and group assessment days to tease out undesirable personality traits.

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