Neurological Dominance and Recruitment

Several years ago I was approached for a job at a large company. The job sounded interesting so I duly went along to be interviewed. However, instead of sitting down with my potential new boss as I had expected, I was shown into a small room and asked to complete a number of psychometric and aptitude tests.

As I sat in the room completing the tests I became increasingly annoyed. This wasn't what I had anticipated at all! I had been expecting an interview – a two-way conversation in which I could get to know them and quiz them while they got to know me. Instead I was being subjected to an interrogation in which they were learning about me whilst I was learning nothing. Nothing two-way about that process!

Two hours later I had a meeting with a person from the HR department. They told me that the results suggested that I would be a good fit for the organisation and that they would like to arrange for me to meet the CEO. They were surprised when I told them that I was no longer interested in the job as the impression I had formed of it suggested that it was not somewhere I would want to work.

For me, this experience represented a turning point – the point at which I started recruiting people in a different way. It made me realise that, when recruiting people, a lot of organisations place too much emphasis on competence and far too little emphasis on preference. In other words, too much focus on questioning whether a person is capable of doing the job and too little time spent on deciding whether they would enjoy doing the job. We all know that when we enjoy our jobs, we will be highly energised, engaged and in our flow. The opposite is true if we don't enjoy the job – and I have never been prepared to do a job I didn't enjoy, even if I would have been good at it.

To assist in this process I used the subject of Neurological Dominance. The subject takes as its starting point the fact that different parts of the human brain process information in different ways. As we grow, our brains develop a natural preference for which parts of the brain is used to process information and thoughts, in much the same way as we also develop preferences for which hand we use to hold a pen or which foot we would prefer to use to kick a ball. However, in the same way as a right-handed person could probably learn to write with their left hand if they wanted to, Neurological Dominance is about preference, not competence or ability.

To use the subject in recruitment we would begin by profiling the entire team that a person was to be recruited into and running a Neurological Dominance workshop to debrief them on both their individual profiles and that of the team. We would then use this as the basis for a broader discussion on the workings of the team and the additional contribution that a new member of the team might make. In particular we would be looking for the ways in which a new person might stretch and challenge the group and help them be more 'whole brained' in their thinking.

We would then set about defining the types of characteristics we would anticipate finding in this 'ideal' candidate before creating an imaginary Neurological Dominance profile for them.

Finally, we would explain the process we had gone through to short-listed candidates and offer them the chance to produce a profile for themselves. We did this through a third party and never had sight of the results unless the candidate chose to show them to us. The reason being that we were not using the tool as a pseudo-scientific means of matching people to jobs, we were simply using it to provide a common language that would make it easier for us to discuss the type of energy and motivation a person would need if they were to find the role enjoyable and fulfilling.

Interestingly, we quickly found that this discussion opened a whole new area of conversation that the organisation had previously not explored in interviews. As a result, our interviews became much more behaviourally oriented, we employed people who truly bought into the role and, as a result, our staff attrition rates fell.

The Neurological Dominance profiling tool I now recommend for this type of purpose is MiND from MyBrain International, as it is unique in producing discrete profiles for a person's professional and personal lives. But regardless of what tool you prefer to use, the important thing is to focus on preference as well as competence.

Published May 2011

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