Square Pegs in Round Holes: Is it Time for a Rethink?

Square Pegs in Round Holes

For a long time, companies have sought candidates who are the perfect fit. The right fit technically, the right fit in terms of depth of experience, the right fit culturally for their business. The round peg for the round hole – someone that ticks all the boxes. Whilst it seemed to make sense, today we’re starting to see a few cracks appear in that particular formula.

The Employment Landscape

Crack #1 is the current employment landscape in Australia, especially Sydney. With national unemployment running at 5.2% (ABS), the competition for good people is fierce. The Sydney market is even tighter though, with unemployment sitting at 3.8% (ABS). The competition for people becomes less fierce and more ferocious. Trying to find that perfect fit is as hard as its ever been in the local market so, if you’re not willing to open up your thinking, that role might be sitting vacant for a long while.

Looking at Potential

The second crack is also market-related. A lot of companies look at recruitment through the prism of risk, so often a company’s “round peg” is someone who has experience in a similar role and organisation to theirs. The idea being that by hiring a proven entity who knows the game, they’re able to lower that risk. Here at Sustainability, we feel that’s not so much reducing the risk, but rather shifting it. Yes, you might be confident that the person is capable of doing the role (and doing it well), but the issue becomes the challenge of retention.

With the job market flying and people being hard to find, many businesses have responded by giving candidates the opportunity to step up into roles; incorporating that bit of stretch and personal growth into roles. So, for example instead of hunting for an experienced team lead, they instead choose to take the journey with someone craving a step up into team leadership. Candidates (a) love it, and (b) know this is the climate for career progression.

Although, if your business wants to recruit people just to do things they’ve done before, you might find yourself struggling to hang on to those lovely new round pegs, let alone the other existing pegs within your team.

Employing a Diverse Team

The third issue is an interesting one that is quite topical at the moment. Often the mystical round peg is someone very similar to other team members – similar age, demographics, background, as well as likes and dislikes. And yes, it might make the team Christmas party easier to agree on but at a time when businesses are trying to engage and resonate with a diverse array of customers, are we really going to achieve that with such a one-dimensional team of people?

Now this isn’t to say that cultural fit isn’t an important piece of the puzzle when recruiting (it’s absolutely critical in our opinion!), but it’s important to distill out the key elements that are going to create a happy and harmonious workplace rather than focusing on filling the work futsal team or ensuring there’ll be plenty of people who want to head to the pub come COB Friday. Not only does it significantly open up the market in terms of candidates, but there’s also real value to be reaped by having a diverse team – people who view the world through different lenses.

This is a big issue at present in both Australian politics and the boardroom for many ASX-listed companies. They’ve realised the value that exists in diversity, yet  are trapped by long term and one-dimensional recruitment practices.

So, next time you plan to go to the recruitment market, sit down with the leaders within your business, and identify those critical elements to being a good fit for the team, and explore whether looking for someone a step down the career ladder is an option. Also, discuss whether you’re happy for the role to remain vacant for an extended period of time.

Closing Thoughts

Now, no discussion about pegs, holes and recruitment would be complete without what I think is the best single response I’ve ever received from an interview:

I said to a candidate that it was very hard to pigeon hole his CV, as he had such an eclectic background. He responded by telling me he was the octagonal peg – able to fit in both round and square holes.

If you’re looking for some new pegs (whatever the shape) to take your business forward, then get in touch with the team at SustainAbility – we’d love to help!