Staff Selection: Do You Respect Canny Dooit and Willie Fit?

April 26, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 


Staff selection requires satisfactory answers to only two questions. The answers determine the success or failure of the overall selection.

The Two Gnomes

Two gnomes ask the questions. They’re called Canny Dooit and Willie Fit. They know that selection can be prohibitively expensive when you get it wrong. Canny and Willie don’t like wasting money. They’re Scottish.

What Confuses Canny Dooit

Canny becomes confused when we:

  • Fail to determine exactly what skills we want job applicants to have.
  • Fail to state in the job ad, the exact skills the successful applicant must have.
  • Ask anybody who feels inclined, to write and apply for the job regardless of whether or not they have the skills we want.
  • Ask applicants, most of whom are complete strangers, to nominate other complete strangers, whom we call referees, to tell us whether the applicant deserves a job with us.
  • Conduct long, formal interviews with applicants to decide whether they can do the job we want done. Decide whether an applicant can, for example, drive a car or design a gown or clear a drain or repair a PC merely by having a long talk with them. And we rarely, if ever, bother to check whether or not what the applicant tells us is true.
  • Never ask the applicant to actually so whatever it is that we want them to actually do on the job in our business.

Canny’s Questions

When Canny Dooit asks, “But can he do it?” We tell him about qualifications, experience, referees reports and psychometric test results. When Canny persists and asks, “Why didn’t you get him to demonstrate his mastery at the skills?” we say: “All the Key Performance Indicators tell us he’s the best candidate”

Talking Not Doing

Is it any wonder that Canny Dooit gets frustrated? We spend hours and hours reading, talking, discussing, analysing and evaluating the suitability of job applicants. But we never ask them to demonstrate that they’re competent in the skills we require. Of course, we might ask a machine operator to demonstrate their skills. But we won’t ask an applicant for production manager, a far more senior and demanding job than machine operator, to demonstrate that he or she can handle the competing demands of the job.

What Worries Willie Fit

Willie becomes concerned when we:

  • try to decide whether an applicant will fit our business culture at the same interview that we also use to determine skills.
  • ask leading questions such as, “What would you do if…?” And encourage applicants to speculate about their answers even if they’ve never experienced the situation we’ve described.
  • send favoured applicants for psychometric testing to help us decide whether they’ll fit our culture. We don’t ask whether the testing matches the culture we want the candidate to fit.
  • don’t determine whether candidates possess the required job skills before we test for and evaluate corporate “fit”. We may find people who’ll fit very well but who simply lack the knowledge and skills.
  • find a really good “fit” in an applicant, then find it’s easy to convince ourselves that the skills “can be picked up”.
  • treat the “fit” issues very subjectively. We may not have carefully worked out exactly how we’ll tell whether an applicant is likely to “fit”.

Willie’s Questions

When Willie asks “Is he or she going to fit the culture?” He’s likely to be told something like, “We think so. All through our selection process he’s been comfortable and confident. And he ‘interviewed so well'”.

Other Canny And Willie Concerns

  • The selection process is based on submission of a written application or resume. The applicants who submit what are assessed as the “best” applications get the “inside running”. They’re ranked highly on the shortlist, they’re interviewed first, they’re perceived as “likely appointees” from the start. They receive “favoured” treatment at the interview because we want to appear attractive to them. There’s a grave danger in such cases that the selection process becomes an elaborate Self Fulfilling Prophecy. The person who’s assessed as “best” on the basis of the resume, ends up getting the job.
  • We don’t understand that selection is a retail process. The business is the buyer, the candidate the seller. We try to convince a candidate with an “outstanding” resume that joining our company would be “good” for them. We unwittingly reverse the buyer and seller roles.
  • Mangers like to have lots of candidates to consider. They don’t realize that the purpose of the job ad is to attract the “ideal” candidate and deter everyone else. When you cast your net wide you catch a lot of “tiddlers” that have to be thrown back or discarded. It’s costly, time consuming and distracting.
  • Many managers don’t give staff selection the time and attention it merits. It interferes with “normal” work. Job analysis becomes rushed instead of being a carefully considered and measured process. Job ads are thrown together hastily. Everything can be sorted out “at interview”.
  • After the written application/resume, the interview receives far too much emphasis. Managers give preference to candidates who “interview well”. This usually means candidates who impress the manager with their skill at selling themselves and how well they’d suit manager’s needs. Canny Dooit and Willie Fit are forgotten. And when the appointee “doesn’t work out” Canny and Willie often get the blame. “He couldn’t handle the total job”. “She couldn’t handle our way of doing things”.


Two simple questions. Why on earth do we make it so complicated to answer them? Let’s face it. It’s not too difficult to construct competency tests to discover if job applicants have the skills required. It may take time and effort but we can discover for ourselves. And there are many ways to answer the Willie Fit question without resorting to elaborate external assessments. Unless we bring practical common sense to the selection process, these gnomes will have the last laugh.

Leon Noone helps managers in small-medium business to improve on-job staff performance without training courses. His ideas are quite unconventional. Read his free Special Report “49 Practical Tips for Removing Employee Apathy, Aggravation And Resistance In Your Business”. Simply visit and download your free copy now.

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