What can we learn from the hiring practices of Facebook?

Recent revelations from Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who announced that his biggest recruitment ‘decision maker’ is to ask himself not only if someone could work directly for him, but if he could work for them, caused a media storm.

Many recruiters, business owners and leaders were all quick to commend Zuckerberg on his powerful recruitment methodology, with a number calling for an industry wide ‘rethink’ of current recruitment practices. Many expected the recruitment industry to take heed of his trusted advice, and adopt their recruitment and subsequent HR polices accordingly.

But scratch below the surface and you begin to see some obvious holes that Zuckerberg’s statement has failed to acknowledge. Firstly, his comment only refers to staff who work directly underneath him. Zuckerberg’s policy, for example, wouldn’t work when recruiting graduates or other none executive positions as candidates here would not be working directly for Zuckerberg and visa versa.

Secondly Zuckerberg has overlooked the importance of effective team dynamics. For example, a marketing manager may wish to hire somebody very competent at a particular task but for whom they would never wish to work, or someone who might make a great employee, but would make a poor manager. In this instance it wouldn’t necessarily be a mistake to recruit that particular person. However following Zuckerberg’s strategy neither of these people, though competent, would be hired. Any successful team is comprised of a number of different personalities who possess a variety of complementary strengths. In an effective team, the whole should always be greater than the sum of its parts.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Zuckerberg fails to recognise the importance of pre- employment screening. While many businesses may be quick to disregard the role effective pre-employment checks can offer, there is no denying that, when done correctly, pre-employment checks remain one of the most effective ways methods of ensuring a recruitment decision is the right one.

While Mark Zuckerberg’s statement certainly grabbed headlines, and in many respects caused the recruitment industry to sit up and take note; perhaps proving to be a useful catalyst for many firms to review and update outdated recruitment processes, unfortunately what it did not do was provide much needed industry context. Zuckerberg has failed to understand that while his fail-safe question may yield results for the Facebook brand, the stark reality is that poor screening following a simplistic approach to recruitment, as offered by Zuckerberg can be very costly to employers to rectify.

Time and time again employers make hiring decisions based on gut instinct, or in the case of Mark Zuckerberg, one single question. However, overlooking the importance of pre-employment screening can be extremely costly to your business both in terms of money, and your reputation. Comprehensive pre-employment screening embodies much more than a formal ID check. When carried out efficiently it can verify a candidate’s qualification or membership with any required professional bodies.

Pre-employment screens can also conduct DBS screening (Disclosure and Barring Service), formally known as a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, to notify employers should a potential employee hold a criminal record or be the subject of any safeguarding issues. This is of particular importance should the position be public facing, or working closely with children or vulnerable adults.

At Signature HR we go beyond these expectations, working in close collaboration with our clients to offer a completely bespoke pre-employment screening service. We are able to conduct media and internet searches on candidates; for more specific job roles pre-employment screening may involve searching land registry and property searches. For higher level industry specific vacancies, employers may also require information on a candidate’s financial history, including any bankruptcy. This is particularly useful for any candidates entering a high-level position within a financial environment. After all, a successful hire cannot all boil down to one ‘magic’ question or to gut instinct.

The world of pre-employment, along with the recruitment industry it serves, is a complex one. But whatever recruitment strategy your business deploys, from Zuckerberg’s one question, to more formal recruitment methods, it is important to back it up both legally and professionally, ensuring your business continues to unearth talent.