May 2016

Can you know if a job applicant is a good fit for the job?

How to use Behaviour Assessments for Recruitment

how to use behavioural assessment tools to identify the best person for a job

Case study: ‘Mary Smith’ applying for a job as a branch manager in a retail store

Over the last three weeks, we’ve introduced 3 tools that we use on a regular basis:

  1. The CVS: A simple one page tool that summarises any CV in a standard format to enable comparison of a number of CVs for recruitment, development and promotion purposes.
  2. Four-factor personality tools such as the PPA, PI, PDA, Discus and many others: tools that enable our understanding of basic behavioural drivers required for any role
  3. Shadowmatch: which enables an understanding of habits, task efficiency and attitude. The tool profiles a team enables the comparison of the candidate or a team member to the benchmark of the team.

Starting this week, I thought it would be useful to demonstrate the use of these tools in helping you to tackle recruitment, promotions and individual people/team issues more effectively.

Naturally, we’ve changed the personal and context details for purposes of confidentiality. This week: Recruitment.

‘Mary Smith’ applying for a job as a branch manager in a retail store

We start with the CV of the individual and, as discussed before, we summarise the CV using the CV Summary (CVS) tool that I wrote about here:

Mary’s CV is summarised below:

Mary Smith - CV Summary

Mary Smith – CV Summary

At first glance, Mary is midcareer with a Matric, a teaching degree, and later an IMM. She has basic skills with MS Office and – specifically – good Excel skills. If this level of skill is simply stated on the CV of the candidate or employee, it’s important to check that the claimed skill level is justified. There are many online tests that one can take for a reasonable fee.

She’s done various sales and marketing short courses. In her personal time, she’s a member of the church choir and involved in various church programmes.

Her work diary started off in teaching, which she pursued for nearly 6 years. She then decided to move to the retail trade and became a shop floor supervisor. For reasons unknown, she leaves the retail trade after two years and joined an IT company as a salesperson, and later a sales manager.

Unfortunately, before two years is up, she leaves the job and the industry to go back into education.

Unfortunately, she only lectures for a short time before going back into the retail trade as a branch manager.

Unfortunately, that job comes to an end after a year and Mary has been unemployed for the past year.

The good news is that Mary is well-qualified, with experience in education, the retail sector and IT. The bad news is that Mary has jumped ship too many times, leaving her as a jack of all trades and master of none at the age of 35.

It’s important that Mary’s next job is part of a longer-term career decision to settle down and focus.

She’s applying for a job as a branch manager in retail, which at least resumes the path she was on before she became unemployed.

Now we understand her background, it would be useful to understand more about her behaviour.

This leads us to the second tool described in one of my recent blogs:

In this particular case, we used the PPA, sold by Thomas International. The tool takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete and the system enables a number of simple explanatory reports to be read, downloaded or printed. If you are a trained user of the tool, then the image below will make sense to you. For those of you who have never seen this kind of graph before, here is an abridged extract from the PPA report:

Mary's DISC profile gives us an insight into her working behaviour

Mary’s DISC profile gives us an insight into her working behaviour

Mary is sensitive and possesses a desire to get things done quickly and accurately. She has creative ability, combined with attention to detail. An investigator of facts, this person will pursue different avenues when solving a problem. This process results in a flow of different and often creative ideas.

A perfectionist, her drive for tangible accomplishments is counter-balanced by an equal drive to maintain correctness. Mary needs someone to tap her creative flow. She needs assistance in bringing projects to completion.

Mary tends to resent restrictions. She needs an understanding supervisor who appreciates that she does not stop thinking about an assignment, even after work. When it comes to decision making she may vacillate and procrastinate.

In order to take the process further, we need to be able to compare Mary’s profile to the equivalent behavioural job profile of the job for which she is applying.

The Thomson International system enables this through a 24 question survey that builds a profile that approximates the requirements of the job in behavioural terms.

This is the profile for the retail branch manager which is accompanied by a report. I have copied a part of the report to provide you with a quick summary below:

The retail manager job profile outlines the behaviour of a person well-suited to the role

The retail manager job profile outlines the behaviour of a person well-suited to the role

The Job Profile suggests that the job requirement is for a person who enjoys working with and through people.

The incumbent should be friendly and have the drive to achieve results through a logical and systematic approach. The job environment requires actively influencing and motivating a variety of people in changing situations.

The person fulfilling the role should have strong influencing skills as selling a product or a concept must be accomplished by gaining willing acceptance. The job could include specialist / technical skills and the incumbent should enjoy challenging situations and have the ability to work within the broad parameters of the organisation. The ideal person for this position will be positive, participative, self-confident, friendly, self-starting, competitive, inquisitive, imaginative, factual, consistent and somewhat conventional and self-disciplined.

A quick reading of the two reports above in grey suggests that there are some differences between the requirements of the role and the work behaviour of the applicant.

The key difference appears to be around interacting with people. A branch manager in a retail environment needs to motivate his staff to do their jobs and provide customers with the service they expect. If the branch manager is less outgoing, more task focused and sees people management and customer service as tasks, there is good potential for customers to experience service that doesn’t meet their expectations.

This is not because a person like Mary can’t or won’t deal with people, it’s just that it might not be the first thing on her mind. It’s possible that Mary will concern herself with quality, detail, stock losses, rules and regulations, problem-solving, policies and analysis. These are all good qualities. But without a people-focused approach to managing the staff, the store and the customer experience, these attributes lose their power. If Mary doesn’t value people interaction, doesn’t see the need to motivate people or get to know them personally, doesn’t account for the differences between staff members and all the different issues that customers raise, then Mary might find the job of retail branch manager quite tough as her people and customer problem in-tray fills up.

One wonders if this issue hasn’t been a factor in her CV to date. It is this kind of thing that tools like the PPA help us to consider. I stress that these factors are not the be all and end all. They are simply contributing factors that paint a picture of a person’s capability compared to the requirements of the job. These tools will raise red flags (or none) that the interviewing organisation should take into consideration when an appointing or promoting people.

Finally, the third tool that I wrote about here: is Shadowmatch.

Using Shadowmatch, we build an understanding of the current team or top performers in the organisation by profiling the team or top performers. Their profiles are combined into a behavioural benchmark. Any individual team member or applicant can be compared to this behavioural benchmark in order to understand any significant differences. Mary’s graph appears below in blue and it is being compared to the team benchmark in grey.

Briefly, it is a good match to the benchmark. As you can see most of Mary’s habits are similar in strength to those of the benchmark.

The Shadowmatch report compares the behaviour of an applicant to that of a team

The Shadowmatch report compares the behaviour of an applicant to that of a team

In the final section of Shadowmatch, the individual’s task efficiency is compared to that of the team. Task efficiency measures the speed and accuracy with which the individual completes work. It is a 10 question simulation. It is not important that your scores are fast or slow, accurate or inaccurate. What is important is that your scores are comparable to the benchmark of the team that you will join. For example, imagine an individual with the task efficiency of 67% and a conceptual fitness score of 90% joining a team with the task efficiency of 33% and a conceptual fitness score of 50%? Both the individual and the team are likely to be uncomfortable in the execution of their work because there are such large differences between them and their work speed and accuracy.

Again, as for the PPA, Shadowmatch is not to be used exclusively to come to conclusions about the suitability of an applicant or a team member to a position. This information paints part of a picture of the candidate or team member and assists us to put the right people in the right job.

Are the three tools above exhaustive? Absolutely not.

Over the years, I have come to use tools like these to help my clients get a better understanding of applicants and employees.

We write a short report of 1 to 2 pages, with a recommendation and a score out of 4 – from not recommended to highly recommended.

Depending on the client, we are involved with the response management process at the CV stage and the final shortlisting, interviewing, and selection steps. For some clients, they simply want a short recommendation based upon the CV and the behaviours uncovered by basic tools.

When necessary, we recommend a more thorough investigation of the CV, track record, references and qualifications. We may also recommend the use of other tools including psychometrics. For example, it might be worthwhile to include a cognitive assessment or an integrity measure. If that’s the case, it makes sense to retain the services of a qualified psychologist to provide further assessments. (Just keep in mind the cost of these assessments compared to the annual salary of the applicant or incumbent. It doesn’t make sense to spend R50,000 ($3000) on assessing and recruiting an entry-level worker.)

In the case of Mary, we suggested that the employer investigates her time with previous employers in more detail to try to understand the reasons for leaving or any other detail that might shed light on her application. There should be a particular focus on her people interaction views and skills. Assuming nothing untoward is uncovered, Mary may become an excellent employee with the right support and people interaction coaching or training.

If you have any questions about this process, please contact me by clicking here.

I look forward to your comments or questions. Have a great week!


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Habits, task efficiency, and attitude

Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve introduced 2 tools that I use for recruitment, promotion, development and retention purposes. 

The first was the CVS that enables a one-page snapshot of pretty much any CV. This enables the comparison of two or more people on a quick and objective basis. That blog is here.

The second was the use of any 4-factor work behaviour tool such as PI, the PPA, the PDA, Discus and others. These tools assist managers to define required work behaviours and then to compare any applicant, incumbent or successor to that profile.  This comparison enables managers to understand what they’re getting themselves into when they recruit, transfer or promote individuals. That blog is here.

Forearmed is forewarned: if the profile of the individual is significantly different to the requirement of the work, there’s a good chance that the individual will be spending a lot of energy adapting to the role and performance/job satisfaction may suffer.  

What is not suggested is that the profile be the only arbiter of a deployment decision.

The CVS and a good four-factor tool provide useful insights for better decision making.

This week, let’s travel a little further down the road to habits, task efficiency, and attitude.

The journey so far has described the individual’s track record and his or her behavioural fit to the job. But what about the team our hero is going to join?

You’ve heard the stories:

“Joe joined us and the whole team dynamic changed (for better or for worse)”


“Shame, Helen joined the team and they destroyed her. She resigned within 6 months”.

There are many reasons for these outcomes, including that the team may have needed a wake-up call and Joe delivered it. Or else Joe was a little odd and everyone learnt to avoid him. But Friday afternoon team drinks died because he couldn’t be left out and no-one wanted to go anymore.

Or …

Helen was a top performer and she quickly showed everyone up. The team decided this wasn’t going to happen and they made her life a living hell.

I’m not talking about those issues which speak to symptoms of organisational disease more than individual fit issues.

So what do we mean?

Simply put, teams build a culture, a way of doing things. Some teams are people-oriented. Relationships are built. The team works together. Things are done quickly and accurately.

Other teams are task-oriented, more a herd of cats than a team. Each person fulfils their role, but relationships are task-centred and the members are individually oriented, quite at home on their own. They solve problems. They are responsive but not altruistic or communicative.

So you can imagine that a person who feels at home in the former team environment and then transfers to the latter environment, is likely to suffer. And the individual at home in the latter environment will be mystified by the over-friendly, team central and ‘noisy’ environment of the former.

So how do understand this before we hire / transfer / promote people?

Well, nine years ago I came across Shadowmatch ( Initially, it took me some time to see the value. But – as with anything – practise reveals trends and insights.

Now, I find the tool an indispensable source of information about a team and the individuals in it. If I’m working with an existing team, Shadowmatch describes the team before I even meet them. This is powerful in setting the right agenda from the start.

If we’re discussing an individual within a team, the data comparing the individual to the team is invaluable in identifying strengths and potential challenges.

If we’re recruiting a team member, Shadowmatch colours the data already built up with the CVS and one of the job/person fit tools.

There are 3 main components to a Shadowmatch profile:

1. 19 Habits:

Our stronger and weaker habits we apply every day to do our work, to how (unthinkingly) we interact with people and build our friendships, careers, and lives.

2. Task Efficiency:

The way we apply ourselves to work. Are we fast or slow, accurate or inaccurate?

3. Attitude

Our involvement or lack of involvement with our environment and our level of assertiveness from aggressive to agreeable

Habits, task efficiency, and attitude – a practical view

I’ll tell a story to illustrate the use of the tool. It’s a true story (with the names of innocent people changed to protect them!) and it’s happened a few times. The story also illustrates why I like to use both types of tools in my work: a job/person fit tool and a team/person fit tool.

So, let’s use an unusual alias like … Fred …

Fred’s CV indicated he’d been in sales for over a decade but his average tenure was relatively low.  Upon profiling Fred (using the PPA in this case), we discovered a natural selling profile: confident, outgoing, quick-paced, driven, and not risk-averse. So far, so good. If we’d interviewed Fred and he’d shone (as salespeople tend to do at job interviews), we might have hired him. Gosh, we need to fill the position now!! Let’s go already!

But hold on a minute, that low average tenure thing: what does it mean? Wouldn’t a successful Fred find his spot in the sun and build a client base … and associated earnings? Why move so regularly?

The Shadowmatch result provided some interesting insights:

  1. Habits: Fred prefers to hand off as against own his work. Fred is more individually motivated, not team inclined. Fred is less of a problem solver and doesn’t simplify his work. Fred is not people-positive or altruistic. But hold on, he’s outgoing! Yes, he is. But being outgoing doesn’t mean one cares to build relationships with others. We already know he’s not team-inclined and not altruistic. Fred plays on Fred’s terms. The team and relationships secondary.
  2. Task Efficiency: Fred is quick and inaccurate. In other words, he is more interested in finishing his work quickly than doing it accurately. Speed trumps accuracy.
  3. Attitude: And Fred is assertive and less involved. He’ll make his viewpoint known (possibly quite vociferously) but, from his perspective, not necessarily with a solution in mind or his involvement in the solution.

In summary, Fred’s habits and way of working are more individualistic.

In itself, that’s fine. But in many sales teams, the team itself is promoted as the core strength of the sales effort. Team-centred sales teams help each other. The sales manager is there for his or her team. Sales teams work and socialise together.

So when Fred joins a team like that, he finds himself the odd man out, confused as to why everyone has made a big deal of welcoming him. He joins the first Friday drinks but is soon skipping them or leaving early. He feels peopled out by Friday, and the thought of a long evening out with the team is not welcome. So the team (not understanding Fred’s habits and attitude) will break Fred. Or Fred (not understanding the team’s habits and attitude) may even break the team.

So, what to do?

Simple: define the team’s culture using a tool like Shadowmatch. If the sales team is ownership-oriented, team-inclined, people positive, altruistic, accurate, and slow, Fred is not going to enjoy himself.

Maybe that’s why his tenure has been questionable. He moves on, looking for the “right” job or team.

Assessment Tools are only PART of the Process

Using a toolset of the CVS, a job/person fit tool and a team/person fit tool like Shadowmatch (combined, obviously, with the regular recruitment / promotion steps such as interviews, background checks and references) is a powerful way to build useful insights to a recruitment, transfer, or promotion decision.

Assessments are not silver bullets. But, used judiciously, with common sense and proper training/practise, assessments provide insights that take too long to discover through daily interaction.

Assessments provide a framework for managers to structure their thinking. For example, it’s not uncommon for a job description to specify that a candidate should be co-operative and confident, people-oriented and task-focused, methodical and driven, comfortable with uncertainty, and able to see the big picture whilst being careful to apply their minds to the detail and quality of their work.  This sentence rolls off the tongue … until one realises you’re asking the individual to handle anything and everything.

We human beings are blessed with a variety of cognitive and behavioural attributes, likes and dislikes, passions, preferences, prejudices, upbringing, experiences, natural or developed skills and competencies. We make better or worse decisions over time, that have led us to where we are today. Some of us were born into abundance and love. Some of us into poverty and hatred.

Given the complexities introduced in the simple (to write) paragraph above, shouldn’t we as managers up our people management game? Shouldn’t we account for our own biases, prejudices, blessings, and life experiences before judging the many applicants and employees who pass our way?

If we agree, it is incumbent on us to build a better framework of understanding, so that we can make better people decisions.

The tools introduced over the past 3 weeks are not exhaustive by any stretch, but I use them the most for two reasons:

  1. Time: managers are typically under pressure to make people decisions quickly.
  2. Cost: Employing and losing people is expensive when all the hidden factors such as training, management time, productivity and learning costs are all added in.

The tools I’ve introduced are quick and inexpensive.

Where required, additional tools can be deployed. For example, I wouldn’t expect a senior manager or technical specialist to be employed or promoted without the use of other tools or psychometric measures, simulations , and the like.

Starting from next week, I’ll summarise a case study each week showing actual profiles and CVs to illustrate the practical application of the tools. I’ll include the caveats as well. because we can’t escape the fact that humans are involved and too many assumptions based on too little data can be short sighted.

If you have any recruitment or promotion decisions pending, or an individual is struggling to make headway, please contact me by clicking here and I’ll come back to you within 24 hours. I work remotely or on site as required.

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Understanding Capability: The Role of Behaviour Profiling

behaviour is a key factor in determining job success

Behaviour is a key factor in determining job success.

Tools to Understand Capability

Part 2: Behavioural Assessment

Last week, we discussed CVs and the need to inspect the content and quality of a CV more closely and objectively.

This week, we move from the track record of the individual to a less directly observable capability factor – especially at the point of recruitment: behaviour.

Behaviour is a complex topic with important input variables such as intelligence, EQ, maturity, experience, attitude and achievement.  The intelligent, emotionally mature, experienced, and unassuming achiever behaves differently to others with less of those qualities. Our upbringing and access to opportunities, our family and friends, teachers and mentors – and some luck – all have an impact on how we behave.

But when we read a CV, we can’t measure a lot about behaviour, especially if we don’t understand the behavioural components of the job we want the individual to perform.

So we use the interview to assess the individual. How did they dress? Were they late? How did they behave? Were they boastful? Did answers to questions come easily? Were the answers substantial? And most importantly, did I get a ‘good feeling’ about the candidate, and did my colleagues also like him or her?

As you can imagine, this is a minefield.


What if the interviewer is unskilled?

What if the interviewer is racist, sexist, follows unspoken class rules, plays the ‘old boy/girl’ network game, looks for personal reasons to like a candidate: e.g. looks, interests, personal background such as school, neighbourhood, language, and sexual orientation?

In an increasingly multicultural world, with users of social media ready to pounce on the prejudiced utterances of its citizens, people have to be more and more cognisant of their own biases and competencies before they assess other people.

One of the ways we can reduce  subjectivity is to use assessment tools. There are hundreds available: both psychometric and non-psychometric. Unsurprisingly, these tools generate fans and detractors. The tools can get it wrong, because humans are humans. People can answer assessments honestly or dishonestly. People try to beat the assessment, to create a result they think will be positive for the purpose in question. People can be stressed out by the assessment and perform poorly simply because of the stress. People can misunderstand the assessment and perform poorly.

Some people even ask their family or friends to complete an assessment for them!

Let’s assume for a second, the assessment is completed correctly and does provide an accurate answer. We then rely on the HR executive, psychologist, or trained user to interpret the result. If they are incompetent, we may lose perfectly good candidates, or hire less capable people due to poor analysis. Finally, and sadly, many assessments are simply ignored: the assessment is a requirement in the recruitment process, but trained users have moved on and the new users don’t support the use of the tool. They just don’t stop using it as “it’s always been done”!

As I said, a minefield.

But with a little training and practise, in combination with the other factors of capability, there’s no reason why many of these tools can’t provide very useful and informative insights to the human being inside the applicant.

What is true is that we should never use any particular tool as the only (or even main) deciding factor for employment.

When I first returned to South Africa, I had the good fortune to join a company called Praendex SA (now The Confidant Group). They provide training and consulting services with the Predictive Index (PI), a tool invented by Arnold Daniels in the US in the fifties (more about the Predictive Index here: I write ‘good fortune’ because the licensee of the tool in South Africa, Ben Venter, is very particular about the correct interpretation of the tool for clients. So my first exposure to this kind of tool was led by a person who cared deeply about the meaning and application of the tool for business people.

This is an important issue. Too many people in my experience learn how to use a tool only to the point of finishing a 2- or 3-day course. Once the course is finished, application and practise may be delayed. The result is that the tool users have forgotten a lot of what they learnt on the course, and haven’t practised to make ‘perfect’. Naturally, when a good tool is misinterpreted and the individual doesn’t perform against expectation, the tool – not the user – is blamed.

Personally, I think the tool providers should require ongoing assessment of the capability of the users of their tools to ensure that quality is maintained. I’ve heard some interesting misinterpretations over the years, which negatively impact on the reputation of the tools among business people.

There are a number of other tools in the market similar to PI: The PPA (, the PDA (, and other DISC-based tools such as Discus ( The point of this blog is not to promote any particular tool or to compare the tools but rather to argue for the application of these tools by companies when they recruit, develop, promote, and retain people. These tools are also useful to understand why conflict is occurring, why teams are strong or falling apart, why some people struggle to get along with other people, and so on.

The starting point is this: we can look at the CV of a person and assume that that person will fit our environment perfectly. So we recruit, transfer, or promote them. Some time after appointment, the complaints or compliments start.

The conversation might be, “Joe is such a great guy: he takes charge. He’s outgoing. He gets things done quickly – and he doesn’t get too bogged down in the detail”. The listener might say “Great, pleased to hear that!” But actually, he has no idea why Joe is such a great guy in this particular job, when his last boss made no such comments.

We put it down to life.

That’s a pity and a waste, because if the speaker and the listener had had the benefit of one or two good behavioural tools, the conversation might have run along different lines. Something like, “You were right about Joe. That behavioural job analysis we developed together was on the button.  Joe’s profile is a perfect fit.” The listener might then say, “Great, I thought Joe would work better there. His last job required a greater level of task focus, less people work, more patience, and more detail. I think the move will do him good.”

This conversation is enabled by simple tools applied correctly.

In very broad language, there are 4 basic drives that describe one’s level of assertiveness, extroversion, patience, and attention to detail. Of necessity, the large amount of detail behind these terms will not be covered in this blog. (The websites that cover these are listed in the paragraphs above, and the footer below.)

I can help you to identify the tool best suited to your needs.

Behaviour Factors Made Practical

Suffice it to say that a nurse should be co-operative, fairly friendly, patient, and detail-oriented. On the other hand, an army general on the battlefield should be assertive, task focused, impatient, big picture-oriented, and not risk averse.

How do we know this?

The tools provide the answers. There are 2 sides to each tool: the job analysis and the person analysis.

Once the KPIs for a job have been defined, the trained user runs a behavioural assessment of the job with the relevant managers, top performers and HR. The assessment is based on these KPIs. The result of the assessment is discussed and finalised in the form of a profile graph and report.

Then the existing incumbents or applicants are profiled, and their results compared to the job analysis.

There are 3 broad results:

1. The first possible outcome is a behavioural fit to the role. This means that the individual will find it quite easy to work in the role, because the behavioural requirements suit his own behavioural profile.
2. The second is a partial fit. The individual fits parts of the behavioural profile. Our question then is: are the differences critical to performance, or can the individual still be successful?
3. The third is a misfit. For example: an introverted salesperson with a high requirement for detail, certainty, and structure will probably find a hard, commission-based sales role tough to manage long term. Every day will be an effort:

  • To engage strangers to sell them something
  • To make prospecting calls
  • Making small talk and building rapport
  • Building new relationships frequently, and
  • Asking for the order.

Each of these key aspects of a hard sales role are hard work for an introverted and risk-averse person.

Starting in 2 weeks’ time, I’ll write a weekly case study to illustrate this in detail for different jobs in different industries.

Behaviour Analysis – The Takeaway

In summary, we ignore behaviour at our peril.

When the assertive, dictatorial, task-oriented, impatient, pedantic, risk-averse and detail-oriented leader comes crashing down on his or her people on a regular basis, a climate of fear is built – peopled with sycophantic staff keeping out of trouble.

This is no way to build a high performance culture.

Conversely, the co-operative, outgoing, friendly, patient, big picture-oriented, no-detail kind of leader can be equally disastrous.

So what is right?  There are a number of leadership styles, depending on the industry, size, nature, and location of the organisation. The leader of an advertising agency is no doubt very different to that of a mine.

So choose and apply the tools. Don’t rely on gut feel. And ensure the users of those tools are competent. If you need any assistance, please contact me, it’d be my pleasure to assist you.

Next week, we’ll talk about different aspects of behaviour: our habits, task efficiency, and attitude.

Until then, have an excellent week as 2016 approaches the halfway mark.

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Understanding Capability: The CVS

CVS system for simple resumes

The CVS system for simple resume analysis

Tools to Understand Capability

Part 1: The CVS

Last week, we defined the idea of capability: Capability is the flip side of the performance coin. One needs to be capable in order to perform. Whatever the job. Mechanic, accountant, soccer player, comedian, parent, student, even politicians.

While performance management is a dirty bureaucratic word for many people, the fact is that any company that doesn’t measure, can’t manage effectively. This doesn’t mean that a tedious measurement bureaucracy is necessary. Performance management can be efficient if managers focus on the core issues. Most importantly, performance and capability measures must not be confused with one another.

The most famous assumption is that the MBA is the ticket to the top. Many can testify against that. The MBA is a fantastic opportunity to improve your capability, but it isn’t a reason to be promoted. It may improve your capability to perform.

The HR and Training functions are the custodians of capability improvement.

They assist people managers to define the capability requirements for each job. Once done and tested, they define, build, select, outsource, and implement capability development solutions.

If they use external partners, these partners should describe how their solutions will build the capability to perform.

However, some organisations are susceptible to the charms of the slick marketer whose executives and training/marketing materials look professional and substantial. So we are persuaded to think that the largely canned materials on offer will sort out our training needs. But how will we know for sure, if we don’t define the capability requirements for each job and then score the people in those jobs to establish the nature of the gap between individuals and their jobs?

Furthermore, we should correlate individual capability improvement to individual performance improvement to test whether or not our training activities are worth the money and time spent on them. More on this in a later blog.

That’s why the capability scorecard makes sense. It is a reasonably objective way to assess the current potential of people to deliver the objectives for their roles.

Over the next three weeks, I’ll introduce three tools I use to understand applicants, existing employees, and students (for career planning purposes).

The first is the CV Summary (hereafter the CVS). The second is the 4-factor job-person fit tool. The third is a team-person fit tool.

I’ve found these three to be very useful, quick, and inexpensive tools to get a basic understanding of a few job-person fit variables. Naturally, the tools do not form an exhaustive list. There are hundreds of tools available to managers and psychologists, and to try to do justice to more than a few will become a perennial blog post series all by itself!

So let’s begin.


CVs are the most frustrating documents. Some people think a CV is an autobiography, a chance to cover their achievements in primary school – but not their achievements in their last or current job! That’s odd! Why will First Team Cricket in Grade 7 be more important than ‘Delivered the following Objectives in F16’

So while people wax lyrical about their home address, how many kids they have, their school achievements, marital status, and hobbies, they’re thin on substantial content about their work.

A CV Should Tell a Story (A Short Story)

The other thing I hate about CVs is the idea that we should go backwards: last job first, first job last. It means we have to start reading the CV on page 5 (or page 15 if we’re unlucky). It makes no sense. I like to read a CV like a book: from the beginning to the end. Piet started work here as the Tea Maker, stayed for three years, left as Head Tea Maker. After joining the company’s internal training programme, he became an Apprentice. Later he joined ABC as a Technician. Within two years, he was Team Leader, and four years after that, Shift Supervisor. Then he left and became Junior Manager: Warehouse for DEF Co. He went back to college and got his N6. His company promoted him to Manager: Warehouse and Operations. Etc.

That’s a cool story. So why tell it backwards?

My other major hate (and I promise to stop hating after this) is CV length. Why – oh why? – do people think that sending a company recruiter or a consultant a 15-page tome with a 2-page cover letter is a good idea? If I ask for it, perfect. But when you’ve got 10, 100, or 1000 CVs to scan, long is not going to work.

Besides, it’s not necessary.

I remember reading the CV of a well-known South African consultant in the 90s. He has a DBA from Harvard, consulted worldwide, led 2 organisations, and started his own highly-rated business with many CEOs relying on him for leadership advice. He sold the business years later and still consults today in his seventies.

His CV? Three quarters of a page.

But it speaks volumes in very few words.

And yet Joe from purchasing takes 15 pages to describe his career to date. Wragtig! Not to mention including a copy of every one-day course he ever attended.

The CV Snapshot

All of this got me thinking. How can I reduce the volume of a typical CV? Can I create a format that allows me to get the basic facts onto one page – a single page that enables the comparison of two to three candidates or staff members quickly? I turned to a spreadsheet for this task. After a number of iterations, I ended up with a one-page summary that shows the following:

  1. A list of qualifications
  2. A list of other relevant training undertaken
  3. A list of relevant certifications / software competencies etc
  4. A list of extramural activities (beyond socialising, watching TV, reading romantic novels, and church …)
  5. A diary of the individual’s career to date, showing start date, end date, employer, industry, last job, age at start and finish, tenure, achievements, and reasons for leaving.

Here’s an example of a CV in the CVS format (names and details changed):

CV Summary example 1

CV Summary example 1

At a glance, I can get a feeling for the individual’s level of education, competencies, work diary, average tenures, consistency, career ladder progress, and stage of life.

The individual above has consistently applied herself academically, extramurally, and at work. Average tenure is good. Se has shown more interest in management as against pure finance. She has the entrepreneurial temperament to take the leap into a new and, by definition, risky venture. (More about ‘entrepreneurial temperament’ over the next 2 weeks.)

Here’s another:

CV Summary example 2

CV Summary example 2

‘Gavin’ has a Matric and a post-school management certificate. He chose property as his industry, and he has consistently stayed in that environment in different areas for over 13 years. All good. The problem for Gavin is that his career seems to have cruised at the same altitude for most of that time. And recently, he has moved away from management back to being a specialist salesperson.

Maybe this is what happened:

Gavin has always been a specialist, with less interest or capability to manage people. But he was successful in the sales role, and found himself promoted. Who wouldn’t accept a promotion? The rise in status. The money. The office.

The Peter Principle

In 1969, Dr Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull wrote a book called The Peter Principle. In it, they describe how people are promoted to their level of incompetence. And there they remain. There are many salespeople making fabulous incomes, who have poor management skills. But it’s common to take our best worker and promote them.

So, for years, Gavin may have moved from management role to management role (which explains his relatively poor average tenure – see top right of the graphic above), blaming his employers and other circumstances for his situation, until eventually – after losing a decade of his career – he realises his optimal role is in the field. He excels as a salesperson.

Without the CVS, I might not have picked up the trend of his career cruising at the same altitude. Glancing through a CV, I would have seen the word manager multiple times in multiple property-related industries. ‘Good’ I might have said.

But looking more closely, with most of the 1250 words excluded, the skeleton of the CV shows itself.

Gavin also hasn’t helped himself by not furthering his education. If he had studied a BCom, that might have opened doors. Maybe he has achieved more, but left it off the CV. Not clever. As you can see from the summary, the words ‘None Listed’ are common. Given that the CV is a sales document, why would you leave off your best features? That’s like BMW not letting you know that the car has traction control, ABS, and a hybrid engine.

Now, we might still employ Gavin. His CV doesn’t say ‘Don’t Recruit’. But it does say ‘Look more closely at the detail’.

Questions would include:

  • Will Gavin stick for more than 1.6 years? How long do our best people stick in our organisation?
  • If Gavin has been passed over for 10 years, why would you promote him now into your organisation?
  • Should we ask Gavin to take a few assessments which may reveal cognitive, behavioural, EQ, intelligence, or other psychological strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do Gavin’s past employers say about him?
  • Can Gavin provide evidence of past performance? (This should be easy to do for a sales role.)
  • What does Gavin say about his career to date?
  • What do Gavin’s social media profiles say about him?
  • How strong were his Matric and Management Certificate results?
  • Why hasn’t he studied further?

There may be good answers for all of these questions.

But without the CVS, it’s harder to ask the questions, because the clues are hidden in those 1250 words … and the craziest part is that those words have been carefully crafted – for hours – to look good!!

Mind the Gap

understanding gaps in a CV lets us make good decisions

In a more traditional CV, it can also be harder to spot the gaps. Once exposed in the CVS due to the date calculation, I’ve seen gaps as big as 10 years pop up. Often the gaps that pop up are between three and 12 months. Gaps are OK. But only sometimes.

What are good reasons for gaps? Maternity? Fine. Studying? Fine. Took a break? Fine. Unemployed? Retrenched? Fine. But let’s understand it.

Proving Competence

An important area of any CV is the technical competencies section.

Often labelled ‘skills’ on the typical CV, this is a candidate’s opportunity to showcase their worth to a potential employer. But in many cases, it’s wasted. For instance, people often declare MS Office as a competency. But what does that mean? Can you use Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, and Outlook at an Expert level?


OK, so what does it mean?

Anything, really.

The employer should know what they want from their candidate. MS Office is an incredible armoury of tools. But most of us hack it. How many people spend 30 minutes or more each time they need to do something new, fiddling with footers and headers or sections in Word? Or animations in PowerPoint? Or ‘If’ Statements in Excel?

Isn’t that incredibly inefficient when relatively inexpensive training options exist online and in traditional classroom environments?

So what do we want?

In today’s online world, there’s a course for everything. For example, type the search ‘MS Office 2016’ into the search bar on, and you’ll discover courses from $20 to $50 a shot. Not bad.

Anyone with an internet connection can study today.

Excuses are harder to justify – unless, of course, you’re expecting the government to provide … A naïve assumption at best.

When we measure competence, we cut through the resumé jargon and clarify exactly what skills a potential candidate offers the company.

Dancers and Bulldozers

The CVS is a useful tool to understand – at a glance – if the recruiter or manager is dealing with a dancer or a bulldozer.

What?! I hear you frown.

Dancers try different moves. A bit of banking. Some retail. Manufacturing. And – hey, hospitality – why not? Within those sectors, dancers try different functions: some technical work, sales, service, ops. Dancers can be very useful in environments that require broad experience.

The bulldozers go straight – because they can! They start at the bottom as an apprentice or intern, and build a deep, long career in a few companies in the same industry (or similar). They have extensive networks and deep knowledge of the industry. Not much surprises them. Mining, manufacturing, banking, IT, engineering, medicine, law, accountancy, and public service are typical sectors where people bulldoze a long career.

Hospitality, consulting, financial services, retail, service- and sales-focused organisations might be more suitable for the dancer. (Of course, I recognise that you’ll find dancers and bulldozers in any industry.)

CVs made Simple

Simply put, the CVS is a tool that enables one to reduce 1200+ words and too many pages (with too many verbs, and adjectives like ‘excellent’ and ‘managing’) to a one-page, quick-glance snapshot that helps managers and recruiters to sum up a CV quickly.

So, instead of retyping a CV, rather CVS it.

I use the CVS for recruitment and performance management projects. The feedback from managers is always good.

If you’d like to try the template, feel free to download it here. You can download the key to the different fields here.

If you have any questions, send them to me. I’d love to help.

Until next week (person/job fit tools), have a great week!

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