Ticking boxes is the devil, and other things CEOs don’t know

08 June 2021 - 14:43 By Kerry Morris
There is a human sitting on the other side of your questions during a job interview. Stock image.
There is a human sitting on the other side of your questions during a job interview. Stock image.
Image: 123RF/Andriy Popov

When the Personality Profile crossed my desk, my first question to the human resources (HR) department was: how much did this cost?

It had been 10 months to the day that we were still seeking our “perfect” candidate throwing money at talent tools and wasting time on tick box questions that just weren’t cutting it.

Like most decision-makers at the 11th hour with no results, we needed someone or something to blame for the no show. So we blamed the immense lack of skilled individuals out there. We blamed the tools we were using. We invested in more recruitment tools (cue personality profile on a Tuesday morning). We even blamed the weak coffee for our decision fatigue on the matter.

We could not believe that in almost a year there was no one not one person out there who was good enough for the position.

Here’s the real reason it’s 10 months later: many of us at the top are losing time, money and the greatest opportunities for hot property talent because we’re still trying to hire based on the archaic belief that the tick box is the holy grail of recruitment.

Whether it is salary or location or skill set, our obsessive need to tick all the boxes is becoming our biggest mistake (and cost centre) in human capital acquisition.

As leaders of multinational businesses, we are often fooled into traditional corporate recruitment strategies that bow to the tick box and believe skill sets before culture-sets, IQ before EQ and 100 years of work experience are the requirements that matter. We are wrong. 

The truth is if you’re seeking loyalty, longevity, trust and emotional maturity, you won’t find any of that in the tick box.

It’s 2021, the box is flawed and it’s selling us short.

The checking point system is antiquated. We’re missing the point of what human capital means. The emphasis on skills before culture fit is quickly diminishing the bottom line value of capital resources. Yes, there is merit in skills questions and salary questions and the ever-old adjusted and now expected question: where do you see yourself in five years?

The truth is if you’re seeking loyalty, longevity, trust and emotional maturity, you won’t find any of that in the tick box.

It’s a chemistry thing, a culture thing, a human connection thing that is so easily missed when our eyes are down on the marker.

How do we get the right people in the right positions and for the right reasons?

Four hire hacks you need to know as a CEO

Hire hack 1: Drop and give me six

Similar to a gym routine, but this time we’re dealing with other people’s futures and the future of your workforce. When you’re sitting in month 10 and you don’t have a financial director down the passage, why not drop four boxes and make up six? Meaning, if your candidate ticks a perfect six on the list, then drop the other four “fails” and stick it to “development”. Done.

Hire hack 2: Development is a building block not a stumbling block

If you don’t take the time to develop your new recruits you won’t unearth your diamonds. Many decision-makers won’t hire on “four fails” because it takes too much time and effort to develop a new recruit. It’s actually the opposite.

Too much time spent ticking 10 boxes could be diamond time spent moulding a six into his/her far-reaching potential that will ultimately fit your culture, work ethic and team play. The latter is the gold. The latter is empowerment so make room to build.

Hire hack 3: EI is the money shot in my experience

Hiring for emotional intelligence (EI) is the best investment a business can make, but recruiting with emotional intelligence is the money shot. Try throwing the CV into the bottom drawer and interview your candidate cold. No tertiary checks, no credential checks, no Facebook checks.

Use the art of human connection to help you feel the value system of the person in front of you. Who are they behind the CV? What’s their back story? Will they fit into your company culture?

If you want the right person, you have to feel right about that person. We call this intuitive hiring, and it works every time.

Hire hack 4: Talent tools are not the authority

Personality profiling has its place but EI trumps this hands down. Even the latest and greatest tech tools won’t find you the “perfect” culture fit.

Talent tools are cool, but they are not the authority in human resources. Your gut is.

It’s time we see people are not an HR commodity or a labour force. There is a human sitting on the other side of your questions. An actual human. These are people who are mothers, wives, sisters, brothers, fathers and so are we. We need to redefine recruitment in our businesses. We need to stand for more than just spec requirements.

If there is going to be a tick box, let us add humanness, and all the real things that get the job done.


  • Morris is the CEO of recruitment and labour services company The Tower Group.