Adversarial Approach Works in Recruitment

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arm wrestling businessHave you ever thought why our legal system is so ‘adversarial’? Why is it that the lawyers for each side are so assertive in driving the case on behalf of their clients? And have you watched Prime Minister’s Question Time in the Commons? Whow! Why have we developed such aggressive and polarised politics? And is it the case that an adversarial approach works in recruitment?

The answer is because such adversarial engagement works. The adversarial approach gets to the bottom of issues and (mostly) the right outcome ensues.

So how does this all relate to recruitment?

Search & Selection: polar opposites

In recruitment there are two distinct functions: search and selection. Typically recruitment consultants search and managers select. The two are polar opposites. The recruitment consultant is generally incentivised to get the manager to accept their candidate based on a no-win-no-fee contract. And the manager is trying to predict which candidate will do best in the job and is motivated by fear of failure to select well. Recruitment consultants prepare their candidates. Managers prepare their tests and interviews.

Now all this works for as long as both parties stay apart. As soon as the recruitment consultant takes a part in selection, they will, by their very presence, engage in impression management and influence managers’ decisions and a biased outcome will result. As soon as the manager consults the recruitment consultant about job design and the characteristics of the person sought, bias occurs. And a recruitment consultant in a position of significant relative power will strongly influence managers toward their candidates.

Adversarial approach works in recruitment

So if the recruitment consultant is to be paid only if their candidate is selected, the recruitment consultant must only be allowed to work with their candidates. They must never work with managers. Candidates should be offered for selection against a criteria developed by the managers alone. Of course, the recruitment consultants should learn that criteria well, but not participate in its development. Selection should be independent of search and the adversarial model embraced. Recruitment consultants should school their candidates to excel and managers should test for evidence of that excellence.

Where recruitment consultants are paid by results, the adversarial model results in the best outcome.

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