A businessman is having breakfast when one of his children looks up from their cereal with widening eyes and asks, “What’s that spotty thing strangling you, Dad?”

No, our hero hadn’t been attacked by a boa constrictor: he was going for a job interview.

The job interview.  That little cocoon of altered reality we share with the interviewer and little else of the known universe.  Where we get rewarded for hamming up our strengths, stretching the truth to breaking point, and, with faux-humility, admitting to tiny frailties that actually enhance our flattering self-portrait.

Where we laugh indulgently with the interviewer at the follies of others, and at the absurdity of organisational behaviour, as if we somehow exist on an island of sanity apart from all that nonsense.

And engage in a playful dance of niceties that comes nowhere near the tension and frustration of the moments in the job (that we’re applying for) that will actually define our effectiveness.

All an interview really calibrates is our ability to tell tall tales in a tie (or trouser suit.)

I know, I know, I know: often there’s more to a selection process than interviews – like testing, profiling and assessment centres.  But how close do these processes really come to bringing to life the organisational edges upon which the new appointee will trip – poor decision-making, inefficient meetings, parochialism and status-consciousness?  How will the new hire respond to what their boss is really like – fair-minded and empowering, or a controller who deals poorly with challenge (neither style, by the way, is without its downside)?

This year’s shiny new thing becomes next year’s damaged goods because both the candidate and the hiring organisation squeeze themselves into a tie (or trouser suit) that they wouldn’t normally wear, and cannot re-adjust when they don’t recognise each other six months down the line.

To remedy this situation, we can start by insisting that all those who are involved in the selection process receive training – interviewing, like management, seems to be a skill that we often assume everyone is born with.

Next, we can ensure that all selection processes somehow replicate the dysfunctionalities of our particular organisation.  Like getting the candidate to prepare a presentation for their next interview at the last minute – see what they come up with in the time available, and, more importantly, if they respond to the imposition of an unreasonable deadline as a challenge or an affront.

And my third suggestion for now (to avoid misfiring hires) is this: rather than treating your new recruits with kid gloves for the first three months after they join, put them under as much pressure as you can.  Within reason of course, but there’s a case to be made for allowing your new recruits to make as many mistakes as possible (the best way to learn) whilst it’s still okay to make them.

Unless there’s already one out there that I’ve failed to notice, I think I might set up a ‘real world’ recruitment agency – Inadvertent Saboteur® recruitment services, here we come!



I have an entirely new perspective, one that allows me to view my Inadvertent Saboteur as a colleague. Whereas before I may have just given up, I now feel I can work with my ‘little helper’, and find solutions together.  As a direct result of this, my business is now on a new commercial trajectory!

Feedback from a participant currently attending a Glorious Day, 6-month commercial breakthrough programme (feat. the Inadvertent Saboteur®)


Because we can still be so much better at business