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Are you guilty of hiring clone employees?

By Rob Hayter, Director at TPP Not for Profit.

Imagine if one of your key employees left.  You need to find a replacement, and in a hurry.  It can be tempting to look at your best, more productive employees and think “we need someone just like them”.  After all, they are your top employees, so more of them will be more of a good thing, right?

Well, not necessarily.  We’ve previously written about how important it is for charities to embrace diversity, and this is a classic mistake employers can make.  Recruiting a workforce made up entirely of people like you can ultimately lead to sterility and an end to progress.

Why is it a bad idea?

Having a team who all have a similar background and similar points of view can easily lead to a lack of new ideas.  A little bit of creative tension is great for inspiring people – you need people who can contribute different perspectives, can bounce ideas off of one another and disagree with each other.

Even more than in most organisations, it’s important for charities to maintain a diverse staff.  Although charities now generally have a more diverse workforce than in private sector companies, the third sector as a whole still struggles with the perception that charity employees are all white and middle class.  The sector also has a moral duty to uphold equality and diversity, and a diverse workforce is important to reflect the background of service users.

Why does it happen?

We are all genetically predisposed to like people like us, as we naturally feel that we ‘get’ them and that we can trust them.  Candidates who share interests with their interviewer can chat and make small talk more easily, which makes an interview feel much more comfortable and successful.

This is particularly true with referrals, often a key source for internal recruitment.  Employees tend to know people like them, and the added weight of recommendations means that those candidates have a greater chance of being hired.

What can you do about it?

It is important to note at this point that you don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Avoiding hiring clones doesn’t mean you do not want to replicate previous successes within your team.  The key is separating out a candidate’s motivations and ability to handle a role from their personality, background and interests.

The best way to remain objective is to agree the criteria necessary for the role, score candidates against that and make your decision based on those scores.  Behavioural interviewing will help you to stay neutral and focussed on the candidate’s ability to do the job, rather than their personality.  Avoid relying on your gut feeling and consider using psychometric testing to remove even more bias from the interview process.

It’s always a good idea to invite a couple of wild cards to interview.  Even if they don’t work out, it can be rewarding just meeting with them and give you access to new ideas and points of view.

How TPP can help

If you’re struggling to find someone to fit a role, it’s always worth talking to a specialist recruiter like TPP.  We are experts at refining job descriptions and person specifications to make sure only key attributes are included.  We are also a professional third party, so less susceptible to the natural bias that employers feel towards the personality types of their current employees.