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Recruiting With Confidence
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By steve
Sept. 9, 2013 5:06 p.m.

This is an excerpt from my new book, Organizational Psychology for Managers
Near the end of the award winning movie, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Aragon leads his pitifully small army to the Black Gate of Mordor, realm of Sauron the Dark Lord. Sauronís forces outnumber Aragornís by easily a hundred to one. On the surface, there appears to be little chance of success. Indeed, during the planning of the assault, Gimli utters the famous line: ďCertainty of death, small chance of success… What are we waiting for?Ē
As those familiar with the story know, the attack is diversion. Its goal is to draw the attention of Sauron so that Frodo can destroy the Ring of Power. Aragorn, however, cannot let on that the attack is anything but an all-out assault on Sauronís fortress. To fool Sauron, indeed, even to convince his soldiers to follow him, he must act and speak as though he has complete confidence that his badly outnumbered army can win. Aragon must not just be confident, he must be so confident that people will be inspired to follow him to almost certain death. That act of confidence is what makes it possible for Frodo to succeed and for Sauron to be defeated.
Small chance of success indeed, but a small chance is better than no chance at all. No chance at all is exactly what they had if they did nothing. It took immense confidence to seize that opportunity, but it worked in the end.
Okay, The Return of the King is fiction. What about reality? Whether in sports or business, confidence is key. Confident teams are more likely to win. Confident entrepreneurs are much more likely to get funding. Confident salesmen are more likely to sell. Confident engineers successfully solve more difficult problems than their less confident brethren. Confident CEOs are much more likely to build a successful business. To hire effectively requires confidence.
Why do people lack confidence in the system?
I heard a hiring manager comment that she would ďPrefer not to hire anyone at all.Ē
Her company is growing, they are actively looking for people. At the same time, this manager who has been tasked with building up her team is openly telling candidates that if she has her way, not one of them will be hired. Indeed, given the choice, itís hard to imagine candidates accepting an offer if they did get one, compared, say, to an offer from an enthusiastic and confident employer.

While making the observation that this woman lacked confidence might be something of an understatement, it is only a start. Confidence begets confidence, just as lack of confidence begets lack of confidence. This manager was demonstrating a lack of confidence in herself, her company, their hiring process, and in the candidates. That, in turn, makes it extremely difficult to attract top people: if the hiring manager doesnít seem confident, what does that tell the candidate about the company? Those who can get other offers will go elsewhere, leaving this manager to choose less qualified people, further confirming her lack of confidence! Therefore, it is important, and far more useful, to understand why she lacked confidence. Only then is it possible to do something to increase her confidence and make it possible for her to hire effectively.
Indeed, this manager cited one major reason for her unwillingness to hire. No surprise, it was the economy. Despite what sheíd been told to do by her boss, she fundamentally did not want to hire anyone because she was terrified that the economic recovery would fail and the company would go under. Listening to the news of that day, itís easy to understand why she felt that way: The fact is, it is hard to listen to the news without feeling discouraged. Itís even worse in a world where the news is always on, as close as our computer or cell phone. When we hear the same five dire forecasts over and over, it reinforces the message of doom and gloom, even when itís the same news story being repeated five times! Being tough and bucking up only works for so long. Eventually, even the toughest will get tired: a steady diet of discouraging words can undermine anyoneís confidence in a variety of subtle or not-so-subtle ways.
In the end, though, while this womanís lack of confidence may have been made obvious by the economy of the time, further investigation revealed the economy wasnít the actual cause. The actual cause was both more immediate and less obvious: she fundamentally didnít trust the hiring process her company used. If you donít trust the process, itís hard to have confidence in it, and the more vulnerable you are to surrounding influences such as the news. In a strong economy, her lack of trust could easily go unnoticed simply because the positive news flow would allay her fears; without the positive backdrop, however, her fear and her lack of confidence in the system were fully exposed. Sadly, this lack of confidence appears to be the case in a great many different companies.
Now, lest I give the wrong impression here, this lack of confidence is not necessarily unjustified. In fact, when people donít have confidence in the system, there is often a reason. Letís take a look now at those reasons and what can be done to build confidence so that you can find the best people and convince them to come work at your company. Believing that theyíll come to you because theyíre desperate is not a good strategy! In the best case, you get a lot of desperate people who will likely have second thoughts as soon as they donít feel quite so desperate any more. If you donít mind being a way-station for those seeking better jobs, thatís fine. But if youíd like to be a destination for the best, that requires having confidence your system.

Balzac combines stories of jujitsu, wheat, gorillas, and the Lord of the Rings with very practical advice and hands-on exercises aimed at anyone who cares about management, leadership, and culture.
Todd Raphael


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