What is a “Recruitment Anti-Pattern”?

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When we meet simple problems – ones where we understand all the possible outcomes, every possible factor – then we can work out the “best” solution. A problem in Algebra or Physics always has a “correct” solution, and if you have the right skills and training then it’s easy to find. The real world … is nothing like that.

Software Engineers found that designing software was much more like “human problems” and much less like “algebra problems”. Unpredictable, scary: projects failed or overran, and it was difficult to improve at your job (“skill” was not enough, you needed a lot of luck too). They sought ways to make vague, confusing, huge, problems turn into smaller, understandable, measurable problems.

One huge success was Design Patterns: “a general, reusable solution to a commonly occurring problem”.

Each Pattern is a simple, short, description of a general kind of problem, with a high-level guide on “how to fix that” in a known, predictable, way. Experts have explored each pattern, learnt the do’s and don’t’s, the pros and cons, and documented them. By learning a handful of these Patterns, junior Developers are able to punch above their weight, and senior Developers are able to reduce the luck-factor in their success, become more reliably brilliant.

But the expert version of a Pattern is … the Anti-Pattern, which: “initially appear[s] to be an appropriate and effective response to a problem, [but in reality] has more bad consequences than good ones”. This is where the most money can be saved.

When you know the Anti-Patterns, you are no longer deceived by situations, you stop making expensive mistakes, and you’re able to identify failed strategic plans before they go into motion. Rather than “try something, fail, and pay the price” … you can see through the (deceptive) reality and avoid making the mistake at all.

I’ve been collecting Recruitment Anti-Patterns for the last 20 years, based on trial and error, and my own positive and negative experiences in recruitment as a Hiring Manager / Line Manager. I’ll be publishing some of them on this site, and others in ebook/downloadable guides – to keep up to date on this, follow me on twitter or subscribe to the mailing list below.