Murder on the Recruitment Express

At the time of writing this blog post, the 2017 film based on the Agatha Christie Detective Novel – Murder on the Orient Express – already has box office proceeds exceeding USD 150 million. With an estimated production budget of USD 55 million, the movie is quite a success in the pre-Christmas cinema season. The novel first turned into film in 1974 featuring Sean Connery and Ingrid Bergman, who won an Oscar for her as miss Ohlsson. The 2017 remake stars Penélope Cruz, Johnny Depp, and Michelle Pfeiffer amongst many other stars. The story remains the same: When a murder occurs on the train he’s travelling on, celebrated detective Hercule Poirot is recruited to solve the case.

Bear with me… There is an analogy to recruitment technology. It is my belief that between 1974 and 2017, the number of character murders in recruitment have exploded. We have let digitisation come between the job profile and the personality of the candidate, because digitisation ignored personality as a selection criteria, whereas we know that personality is actually a key success factor in job performance. Digitisation has therefor resulted in too many character murders in recruitment. And it is about tome to change. Let me explain why:

We are in a hurry (express):

The speed of our society has accelerated over the past 4 decades. Communication technology, transport links, and the internet have made the world smaller and faster. We are more efficient and productive. Labour productivity (measured by GDP per hour worked) has grown exponentially since the 1970’s. We are able to get more stuff done in an hour than ever before. In recruitment however, interviews take just as much time as before. That’s why we need to look at other parts of the process (my next point) that, until recently, only produced marginal gains in productivity.

We have digitised and then automated:

Digitisation has been applied in recruitment to streamline processes (saving emails), populating databases (rather than file binders), and speed-up communication (snail mail does not play any role anymore). This only marginally improved time-efficiency. The intake, writing the job description and interview process is still largely the same as it was 4 decades ago. But now we have automation… we can let the computer source, match and predict the right hire for the job. That’s great! Why not let an algorithm do the job for you? Now here’s a productivity gain that will boost recruitment on the labour productivity index. Finally, recruitment is no laggard anymore. Don’t get me wrong, there is a benefit of automation that I personally believe in, but we also want to be careful (next point).

We are ignoring personality as key differentiator:

If we are automating recruitment based on written input only (CV, database, cover letter, application form), we are ignoring the fact that personality plays an important role in the success of a candidate in a certain role. That’s actually something that we still knew in 1974. Digitisation somehow has moved personality to the background more and more. That’s because personality is not described on a CV and personality assessments for many organisations were out of scope (read: out of budget). I would call this a character murder by ignoring character all together.

Today we have an opportunity to give personality/character a role again in recruitment by both digitising and automating. We can do this through video interviews as a pre-screening method where we can, using the content of the answer in a video interview, automatically analyse personality as part of a job match. It creates BIG5 personality data points that provide meaningful input before the final round interviews. It also delivers efficiency in the process that increases speed and reduces time. I personally think we should not use all these gains to boost labour productivity only. We should use these gains to make recruiting more personal again.

As Hercule Poirot would have said: “It is the brain, the little gray cells on which one must rely. One must seek the truth within–not without.”

Happy Hiring!


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