Melvin Day, Managing Director

By Mel Day, Managing Director

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review shone some interesting light on the mindset of people at work – namely how they go about applying for new jobs and then how they perform in their new role. 

Research from organisational psychologists suggests that companies want people to grow into a position over time, so that the employee can stretch the boundaries of what is being delivered in order to improve overall performance. Despite this, the companies often list the job description as a nigh-on impossible checklist of skills required rather than the responsibilities of the role.

This often causes one of two things to happen. Firstly, the successful applicant suffers from a form of debilitating “imposter syndrome”, where they are constantly worried that their lack of experience will be uncovered and they will be fired. This invariably leads them to be far too cautious professionally, and conversely they under-perform.

Or secondly, it leads to people applying for jobs for which they are over-qualified. Whilst it looks good to initially “hit the ground running”, this situation should be reserved for Interim Management and Contract assignments – where interested parties should contact my colleague Laura Barrett! In the permanent employment world it leads to quick stagnation, boredom and ultimately early exit. Long term, it means the company has high churn and professionals don’t ever reach their career potential. 

So how do we fix this?

One method could be to put far more emphasis on the responsibilities of the role rather than the skills required, and to explicitly say that the company does not expect an applicant to have previously undertaken every single one. Instead, if a candidate can demonstrate an aptitude for a small selection – and a willingness to learn new ones – then it should be a given that any skill they are not familiar with will quickly be understood and undertaken.

After all, this is the ethos behind most graduates using their degree to secure their first job – whilst some degrees are vocational, many are not and very few Classics, Art or History students go into those fields. Instead, the degree shows a graduate employer that they are good at managing and solving a wide range of complex tasks. 

If we don’t fix this, it means that chancers at interviews who over-promise and under-deliver will continue to frustrate companies and colleagues alike. At Marketing Moves, we’ve seen enough during our c30 year history to know how to spot one. But with more avenues to appointment than ever we’re being increasingly contacted by companies having to re-run recruitment projects because their first hire via a different avenue has turned out to have “messiah syndrome” or similar!

What are your thoughts? Please leave your comments below as usual!

Melvin Day, Managing Director

To discuss in confidence how Melvin and Marketing Moves can support your organisation’s growth, please contact Melvin by any of the means below.

+44 (0) 20 3911 6757
+44 (0) 7967 678 002

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Alison Nichol-Smith
Alison Nichol-Smith
10 months ago

I once, years ago, applied for an internal government based job where the successful applicant was appointed purely on the basis of a checklist of skills, to ensure no personal bias entered the mix. I lost points for not having experience with a specific software package, which I could easily have mastered in a couple of hours. The person appointed was widely recognized as unsuited to the role – and proved exactly that – but unfortunately could tick every box. Let us by all means look at potential and learning, rather than taking the lazy option of trying to appoint… Read more »

Melvin Day
Melvin Day
10 months ago

As expected – I totally agree. Why would someone want to go and do exactly the same role just with a different company name on the door.

Particularly with regards to marketing – style/personality are integral. May be different if hiring a developer to come in and code.

Proves one size approach to recruitment not right approach.

Lastly – more education of hiring managers or talent teams required?

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