Gaming the System

Not all managers play by rules. The recruitment procedures are designed to ensure candidates are not discriminated against and managers can’t slot in their favourites. The process is designed to be fair and transparent. However the focus is often on the selection criteria and the interview. The candidates application form is measured against the person specification for the post to determine those to be interviewed and performance in the interview determines who is offered the post. Interviews are however rather unpredictable strong candidates can give a poor performance on the day and weak candidates can cover up gaps in knowledge and thinness of experience by good preparation and a confident display. Plus other members of the interview panel can throw a spanner in the works/ can be unpredictable and take a liking for a candidate Whois not the managers preference. 


The devious managers knows the best way to ensure this does not happen is to change the person specification to specifically exclude a candidate. This will ensure they are not short listed for interview. This tactic is most often used for internal candidates where the manager knows the individual from experience and defiantly doesn’t want them to get the post. 

A director with a vacant assistant directors post would be very happy with appointing the individual who is acting up but the board may have other ideas and may even appoint a colleague who has more experience and has made it known he intends to apply. This colleague is however very old school and has persistently put obstacles in the way of the directors modernisation plans. So the director has inserted into the person specification an essential requirement for a formal management qualification knowing that this individual does not have one. In the past such a qualification may have been desirable and its absence more than compensated by extensive experience at a senior level but the director successfully argues with HR that modernisation requires people with qualifications as well as experience.


In another more disturbing case the manager changes the person specification for a first line management post to include as an essential requirement of previous management experience. This is unusual for a first line manager post but he successfully argues with HR that as this is a new post as part of a pilot scheme it will be high profile and needs some one with more experience than would normally be expected which is why he is also advertising the post at an enhanced grade. Only when the post is filled and a recruitment complaint received does it appear that the manager may have had an ulterior motive for the change. The pilot and post came out of the recommendations of a small working group. A member of that group applied for the post and was told they didn’t meet the person specification which surprised them as the group had submitted a person specification and job description as part of their reports recommendations. She complained that the person specification had been changed specifically to exclude her as a person of colour. This she claimed was power for the course as this senior manager was know for not employing people of colour.


In neither case was the complaint up held because discussions had taken place with HR who had agree the changes were reasonable and legitimate. Were they or did the managers pull a fast one?


Blair Mcpherson former Director, author and blogger 


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