Caring about everyone, even those you don’t hire

Jan 10, 2017 | Attraction & marketing, Selection & assessment

The surprising approach to recruitment that leads to higher performance and more diversity

Following the keynote at the ISE conference this year by leadership consultant, Darius Norell, we asked him to share more about his ideas on reimagining recruitment and what recruiters could practically do.

This article is intended as a precursor to bringing together a group of senior recruiters who are interested in ‘Reimagining Recruitment’ and who have the ability to make it happen. More details on this at the end of the article.

For two decades I have helped firms recruit brilliant talent. Over this time, it has been rare to see organisations fundamentally rethink how they recruit. Consequently, who they recruit hasn’t changed much either, and progress on hiring non-traditional candidates remains painfully slow.

The current reality

A typical recruitment process doesn’t deliver much value for the candidate. It is opaque and gives the candidate little control over the process. Not that surprising when the process is set up to serve the needs of the employer, not the candidate.

Turning recruitment on its head

Eight years ago, I got the chance to run an experiment in recruiting a completely different way. The client, who recruited 20 graduates each year, decided they would be open to a totally new way of recruiting and the experiment was born. This prototype went on to be used many times, recruiting hundreds of students and graduates for a range of organisations, in some cases as a hybrid with a traditional process.

The process turns recruitment into a strategy for building outstanding qualities in all candidates, allowing space and time for talent to naturally rise to the top in a way that is visible to everyone. In essence, what happens when everyone is included in an open and supportive process?

The way we delivered this was by turning the traditional stages of application and assessment into modules of a training programme with three core objectives;

1.       Helping candidates develop their brilliance so they had more to offer an employer

2.       Enabling candidates to analyse a particular role or function and work out what ‘brilliant’ looks like.

3.       Equipping candidates to accurately assess how well (or not) they fit the opportunity on offer by working on real projects.

 The programme enables people to reflect more deeply on themselves, how the world works and the contribution they want to make; creating real transformation in both their perspectives and their prospects. As the intensity and demands of each stage increase, candidates naturally self-select out when they are no longer getting value out of the process compared to the time they are putting in. Candidates leave the process with a clearer sense of who they are, what they have to offer and a better understanding of what a business requires from an employee. When the employer decides to make an offer of employment, the candidate is already clear why (or why not). In this way, the programme delivers real value.

The Neuroscience of Inclusion

More recently I have been working with The NeuroLeadership Institute, whose mission is to transform leadership through neuroscience. They developed the SCARF® model which organises the way a person can feel threatened or rewarded socially, in five categories. S (status -where do I stand?), C (certainy – can I predict what’s going to happen?), A (autonomy -who has control?), R (relatedness – are we on the same team?) and F (fairness -how equitable is the situation). It is of particular use when we are looking to build inclusion. The process we created gives candidates far more value, transparency and control, scoring particularly highly on Status, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. Any employer can similarly look at their process in this way and get new insights about the extent to which their process may be triggering a threat response, and therefore be less inclusive.

The benefits of caring for everyone, even those you don’t hire.

Paradox 1: By caring about the candidates, rather than what the employer needs, quality of hire goes up along with diversity.

The employer gets to hire people who are ‘brilliant’ and have a better fit with and understanding of their organisation and the role on offer, who can contribute more quickly and create lasting value.

It also leads higher acceptance rate of offers, better retention and a stronger employer brand. This approach also has a wider positive impact on society by supporting anyone who comes through the process in creating extraordinary value with integrity in their life and work whatever they go on to do.


When we ran this process for employers we immediately got a massively more diverse pool of candidates turning up. At one session we ran for an employer looking for engineers, 80% of the people that came were from a BME background.

We also found that non-traditional candidates were getting recruited by employers where previously they would not have even met the minimum criteria to apply. One CEO who insisted on hiring Oxbridge graduates with a 1st, later reported that the two graduates he had hired (with 2nd class honours from universities he hadn’t heard of) were the sharpest people in his firm.

Growth Mindset

This approach allows for people to learn and grow through the process, enabling real talent to shine. In a typical recruitment process, making a mistake or failing a task might mean rejection. In this process we were able to support people in reflecting on what had happened, learning and then seeing how they put it into practice.

It results in employers hiring candidates at the end of the process who they would have rejected at the beginning.

A mindset of contribution

By running a process that has at its heart an inquiry into what contribution the person is able and wanting to make to the organisation, it sets up a much more powerful, sustainable and valuable employment relationship.

Time and Money

Employers often imagine that they don’t have the time or money to care about everyone. This leads to Paradox 2:

Caring about everyone can take less time without costing more.

By offering a process that is intrinsically of value, people are naturally attracted to participate in it, even more so for people from harder to reach groups or non-traditional backgrounds. People access the learning and development in cohorts of 20 – 50 at a time depending on the stage, enabling a scale and speed, that is impossible in a traditional process. Shifting the responsibility to the candidate for assessing themselves empowers the individual and saves significant resources through the early stages.

And if all that is not enough, I was recently speaking to a client who tracked the impact of their process on candidates who were also their customers. Within six months of being rejected, 80% of them had stopped being a customer.

For more information or for a copy of the NeuroLeadership Institute’s research paper on the Science of Inclusion please contact Darius Norell.

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