Human Resources



Having a balanced diet for talent acquisition

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How healthy is your talent acquisition process? Chew Han Guan, L&D manager at an aerospace company reminds hiring managers of the need to strike a balance between all constituents of good recruitment.

Just like how a nutritionist would look at the composition of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins in a healthy diet, a recruiter needs to weigh in on the knowledge, skills and aptitude of any potential new candidate to ensure a good hire. Talent acquisition is a key step to building any successful team.

As Jim Collins, author of the international bestseller Good to Great metaphorised, “leaders of companies go from good to great start … by getting the right people on the bus.”

But if we look at current hiring trends and practices, are we giving our companies a good and healthy diet, so to speak?

Proteins and carbohydrates

If we liken proteins to knowledge, we will be looking for items such as the candidate’s education level and professional qualifications, which help in building the muscles to qualify for the job.

Carbohydrates could then be the years of experiences, awards, prior training and track records that fuels the energy to do the job. These two items are more straightforward to evaluate and are also the first things interviewers look out for.


For the sake of argument, let’s imagine fat represents things like the potential and passion of the candidate. These are all good, and we can never get enough – or can we? It depends. The reality is, within the time given to fill openings these days, it is often an arduous task just to find a reasonably suitable candidate for the role. And even if there was indeed an ideal candidate, there should also be an accompanying premium.

Would you hire a candidate who has more passion than anyone else but lacks the mandatory qualifications or exposure? By passion, I am referring to Tony Robbins’s brand of 100% focus and commitment. This is a tough call to make because on the surface, passion and potential with nothing else are equivalent to fats.

There have been advocates of psychometric testing, but a huge part will still hinge on a leap of faith. This is one reason why fats are sometimes sidestepped in comparison to the proteins and carbohydrates.

For the sake of argument, let’s imagine fat represents things like the potential and passion of the candidate. These are all good, and we can never get enough – or can we?

Minerals and vitamins

Minerals and vitamins are critical to health, just like how the cultural fit and aptitude of employees can affect their motivation and commitment to the organisation. This is why companies spend so much effort running proper induction programmes to socialise employees and get them on board, putting them on probation for a certain period of time to test them out. But such measures are laggard in nature and can’t do much to rectify a wrong hiring decision.

How many times have employers been impressed during an interview only to be let down when the candidate undertakes the role? There are many techniques one can learn to put up a good show for an interview but once the curtain comes down and push comes to shove, true mettle will show.

This is not to say someone who performs impressively at an interview will disappoint but when someone does that well during the interview, expectations go up as well.

A balanced diet

While it may be arguably sufficient to base hiring decisions on experience and skills, I believe it is essential to look out for a balance in order to have longer term payoffs.

Ultimately, the fats will help us through our ‘winters’ of tough times, while the minerals and vitamins keep us healthy. I think companies do recognise this, but room for improvement exists on how they can make the hiring process better. Here are some suggestions:

  • Informal group interviews

One approach is to tap on the collective wisdom of the team and invite the candidate to an informal group dinner or lunch interview. This way, multiple feedback can be gathered, as well as relatively good clues on the aptitude of the candidate and potential blind spots you might have missed. At the minimum, there should be some idea whether the candidate can get along with the team.

Given the resources required to conduct something like this, it is probably not feasible to do for every position. A way to scale this down is to get one or two existing employees to go for a coffee with the candidate after the formal interview – it’s less intimidating for the candidate and provides that additonal feedback. This way, you get to add some fat, minerals and vitamins to the talent acquisition diet by getting more insights on the candidate’s attitude, fit and even passion.

Minerals and vitamins are critical to health, just like how the cultural fit and aptitude of employees can affect their motivation and commitment to the organisation.
  • Recruiter as a business partner

I believe one key reason why Dave Ulrich’s idea of HR as a business partner took the industry by storm is because it makes good sense. In order to support the business better, HR needs to work closely with management and line managers to have a beyond-the-surface understanding of the business and operational needs. They should also remind managers to take a longer term view and to carefully consider the fit and potential of the candidate as well. In a rush to meet operational needs, sometimes this might be skimmed over.

There are so many variations between industries, specialisations and work processes now that it really becomes a stretch to figure out which candidate has the most potential and the shortest learning curve, based on only the resumes and the interviews.

Ideally, HR needs to build rapport with the interviewing managers so they can synergise during the hiring process to make the right decision through a better assessment of the fit and potential. They should start working together as soon as possible, even before the interview, to draft out the job description and to shortlist potential interviewees.

  • Fit the job to the candidate

Employees will feel more motivated the closer the job meets their abilities and developmental needs. Generally, organisations first define the job description, roles and responsibilities and then source for suitable candidates. But from this perspective, it might be harder to find a good match to the role, and candidates with great potential but whom do not meet the requirements tend to be overlooked.

While doing things the other way round is not something feasible for many organisations either, recruiters can consider tweaking the job requirements after a good candidate had been spotted. Some companies hire candidates at a lower level and build them up to fill the role but it may also be possible to make some job adjustment internally to build something that matches the candidate better.


As we deal with an increasing dynamic work force, HR practitioners will need to create greater value by not only making successful new hires but also making new hires successful and sustainable. They can do this by taking a longer term view and trying to figure out if the candidate has the right fit, passion, potential and attitude, besides having the skills and knowledge.

This article is written on a personal capacity and does not express the views and opinions of my employer.

Image: Shutterstock

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