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Feedback – the breakfast of champions?

Written by: Martin Tucker is managing partner at Faerfield
Published on: 25 Feb 2021

It has often surprised me how incurious (yes, it is a word) some people are. Many people in fact.  Readers of these pages will know – some from first-hand experience – how much time and effort is required to reach the final stages of a senior recruitment process. More often than not, it will involve interviews, stakeholder meetings and some form of assessment centre.  A lot of data is gathered to help the decision makers make good decisions and, usually, an appointment is made. In my experience, feedback is then offered to all candidates. 

However, I am constantly surprised by the number of people who don’t take up that offer.  Yes, I understand that you might have had experience of feedback being given poorly in the past and I also understand that if you have been unsuccessful, then you are very likely to need some time to work through a range of emotions – probably deep disappointment, perhaps frustration and possibly even anger.  That is why feedback, if offered, should not be given in the heat of the moment of rejection. It is something to return to after the event when feelings have settled and a little time has passed. 

But if feedback is indeed the ‘breakfast of champions’ (thank you Ken Blanchard), then why doesn’t everyone – particularly the successful candidate – sit down to feast on the veritable smorgasbord that might be on offer? 

If you have recently been successful in a recruitment process – congratulations. But don’t waste this opportunity. You put the hours in, so make sure you take some of the insight out.

I wonder how many shelves in human resources archives (hopefully increasingly digital) across the country are groaning under the (hopefully virtual) weight of assessment centre reports – last read by some, although not necessarily by all, of the selection panel. If they are well written, insightful reports then this really is a shocking waste of time, effort, energy and talent.

Much research has been undertaken to support the theory that good leaders are also good learners. But you don’t need to read the research, common sense and lived experience would suggest as much. We can probably all think of good leaders we know who are thirsty for knowledge, eager to understand and play to their own strengths and who are constantly alert to opportunities that might improve their performance. 

In many cases it is often the successful candidate, delighted by being chosen, keen to leave their current organisation well and possibly preoccupied with the practical arrangements of transition to a new wrole and location who neglects to ask some valuable questions. Why did they choose me? What did I learn through the process?  What could I learn from the data that might help me to land successfully in my new role?

There might be nothing new to learn, although that is unlikely. But what if there is just one new insight that could help you? Success is predicated not only on ‘what’ you do, but ‘how’ you do it. Truly understanding your strengths, your core capabilities and your weaknesses enables you to plan strategies for success.

So, if you have recently been successful in a recruitment process – many congratulations.  But don’t waste this opportunity. You put the hours in, so make sure you take some of the insight out. Ask for feedback. Talk with someone who is qualified to walk you through the results of the assessment centre and help you interpret them. Ask them to support you in formulating an action or personal development plan for the next 12 months that helps you achieve optimal performance.

And here’s a thought. If you are making a senior hire this year, what can you and your organisation do to ensure the money you spent on the recruitment process yields a full dividend? Assessment centre reports should not be consigned to the human resources archive – digital or otherwise. They should be living documents, well-thumbed (or scrolled) by those seeking to be the best they can be.  And that is something that can be done any time of day, not just over breakfast.

Martin Tucker is managing partner at Faerfield

Martin Tucker