Recruiting perfection – is it stopping us from hiring the best candidate?

Have you ever properly considered what we are asking of candidates with the way job descriptions are currently written? I’ve read some and thought to myself - does everyone have to be excellent at everything? 

In addition to the list of core skills that are actually required to do the job (for example, coding capability, or sales experience), nowadays most job roles require as essential, or at the very least desirable, ‘expert networkers and communicators’ who are ‘equally comfortable working alone or in teams’, (surely that is a dichotomy?), who are ‘process driven and creative thinkers’, with ‘experience of managing budgets and an eye for detail.’

Does this sound familiar? Ask yourself – do those skills outlined above actually make somebody suitable for a particular role? If you are a proof reader, of course you need a good eye for detail, but if you work in a creative team tasked with developing ideas – is that really necessary? If you code for a living, do you need to be able to network an event of 50 people?

Do we need to recruit perfection, or should we be thinking more about core skills in order to recruit the best person for the role?

For example, a coder on the Autism Spectrum may be excellent at their core job – coding - but the softer skills may not come as easily to them. Sometimes, people on the Autism Spectrum may come across as unsociable.

Another example - many people with dyslexia have good critical thinking skills so they are great in sales roles and have a much higher than average closing rate. They may find proofreading the proposals and contracts challenging - but it doesn’t stop them being great at sales.

For me, as a business founder and an individual with dyslexia, I find the 2009 study by Julie Logan, Professor of Entrepreneurship at London's Cass Business School, so interesting. She states that 35% of U.S. entrepreneurs are dyslexic, and around 19% in the UK. These figures are high, and it is notable that some of our most famous entrepreneurs – like Richard Branson – are dyslexic. There is clearly an aptitude for ideas amongst dyslexics!

Entrepreneurs with good ideas are likely to find the business plan hard to write though, and that is why Jeff Gilbert entrepreneurial coach commented in our interview about how creatives will often need the support of a business person to help them develop their idea. The entrepreneur has the ideas, and the business person can help develop them.

All of this raises the obvious question – why do we always focus on what people can’t do, rather than what they can do? Both in recruitment and management more widely, there is always an emphasis on ‘developing’ individuals or identifying areas of ‘weakness’. While I’m not saying this isn’t valuable, of course there is always room for reflection and improvement, but what if instead, recruitment and development focused on what we could do, and do well?

Focusing on people’s strengths would enable more individuals with neurodiverse conditions to flourish in the workplace.

The coder on the autism spectrum could be empowered and enabled by the communicator in the team, and the creativity and big ideas of a dyslexic would be captured by the person who enjoys following processes and has the attention for detail.  

Put like this, we are part of the way towards accepting diversity at work, you only need to think of the multitude of skills mapping exercises like Myers Briggs undertaken at company strategy days to see this, but at the moment we accept diversity only in certain areas.

If we could expand our acceptance to the full spectrum of neurodiversity, I expect we would see vast increases in productivity and creativity as people were encouraged to enjoy what they are good at and excel, rather than feel held back by areas in which they are not so strong.

If we start to think of recruiting perfection in terms of the whole need – i.e. teams, we can focus on recruiting people who absolutely have the right skills to deliver the very best job for that role. The things they aren’t so strong at won’t matter as much, because one of their colleagues will excel in that, leaving them to be the best at their skill set. That is recruiting perfection.

#empoweringneurodiversity

By Nicola James, Founder and CEO of Lexxic

Stephanie Kukoyi