a year into her job, one of the best project assistants i worked with successfully applied for a new, better job. We had to look for another assistant. HR recommended taking a second best from a recruitment, which was underway. They shared her tests’ results. The candidate they suggested received the highest scores. At the interview, she appeared to give all the right answers. All members of the panel gave her high scores. She was available to start in a week. Her background check resulted in good opinions. I should have known better.
A week later she was in my office. Two days latter negative attitude and blame assigning were overflowing: “your former assistant made no hand-over”, “no one is giving me anything” etc. After she signed the contract, I learned she is married to a former dignitary whose integrity was challenged. I started noticing behavior of a person who is used to things getting done for her, who never worked to produce anything for others. Her “assistance” increased my workload by 30 percent. I was leaving the office at nine in the evening and did my work correspondence at night. She had her monkeys on my back (https://hbr.org/1999/11/management-time-whos-got-the-monkey).
I let her go to the organization’s retreat in hope she will absorb some of the organisation’s culture. She returned aggressive from that trip. “I know my rights. From now on everything will be in writing. I have my people in the organisation”.
I informed my supervisor and HR as this was bigger than the project office. There was an unprecedented flow of complaints from all concerned by her actions and attitude: consultants, translators, peers, financial and procurement colleagues. Hiring her for that project was a mistake.
What I learned from this experiences:
– There is no ideal candidate. There are candidates with good acting skills. If no light goes on in my head at the interview, this is a reason for concern.
– Having standard interview questions is counterproductive. When hundreds of candidates go through similar job recruitment procedures, there is an increased risk of test questions ‘leaked’ and the interviewer facing a candidate prepared by insider information.
– Instead of standard interview questions go for “crash tests”. Simulate real work situations and put the candidates in the middle of an office where two phones start to ring at the same time, the supervisor asks for something, a consultant steps in with another request, a supplier is late etc. and watch how the candidates react. Drivers are tested not only with an interview questions “can you drive?”, right?
– In countries with systemic integrity and corruption issues, pay extra attention to the background of the candidate.
At the end, I was grateful for this experience, which came at a cost, but it also brought me quite different insights into the human nature.