A confession follows, one which I’m not embarrassed to share since I’ve learned a huge lesson – always follow your gut when recruiting – always!

MUCH has been written this week about psychometric testing for job applicants. I even agreed with some of it and you probably know by now just how rarely I agree with anybody. I don’t seem to have that personality trait in my genetic makeup, although I’m sure there are a few admirable qualities in there – somewhere.

But it got me thinking about my own recruitment experiences, of which there have been many, and the shocking mistakes and surprise finds that recruitment brings.

It’s true that psychometric testing can flush out those with psychotic personalities or work avoidance tendencies, but it’s truly dangerous to ignore the most fundamental aspect of recruitment, the big question and the hardest to answer, of course: do you like this person?

If the answer is no, then don’t even look at the results of the psychometric test, because your gut instinct is the very best judge of whether or not the applicant is the right person to work in your company.

You see, recruitment is personal. It has to be. As an entrepreneur you have invested everything into your business – money, blood, sweat, tears and more often than not, your marriage – and if the person applying for that job isn’t the sort of person you would invite to your house to join in the family meal (if you still have a family that is) then don’t even consider making a job offer. Just don’t.

I made that mistake once. Our very first job offer was to a guy who, to all intents and purposes, was the perfect candidate to join our fledgling IT company. He had all the right qualifications, his references stacked up, and he appeared to be enthusiastic and keen to work with us.

No wonder he was so keen to work in an IT environment. One of his first tasks was to audit networked PCs in a number of client offices and he used this opportunity to swap the Compaq memory in each PC for a cheaper version. He then sold the Compaq memory for a tidy little profit.

That was just the first of his many misdemeanours and when we found out what was going on we sacked him. Or tried to. He didn’t want to be sacked, so he continued to keep his company car and computer equipment and refused to give them up until we visited him one day with some friends from the local rugby club!

His behaviour, gross misconduct, breach of trust, whatever you want to call it, could have cost us our business. And it was all our fault.

It was our fault because we didn’t listen to what our gut was telling us. We felt that something just wasn’t right from the moment we met him, but since we had nothing solid, nothing tangible to base it on we ignored our instinct. How naïve can you be?

We learned a hard – and expensive – lesson from that experience. And, touch wood, we’ve never made the same mistake since. From that point on we only recruited people we liked.

We actively weeded the wanks from the good guys, to coin a well-known Chewin’ The Fat phrase. We encouraged our employees to recommend their friends, people that could be vouched for impeccably. It didn’t matter if they didn’t have a degree in IT or a secretarial diploma. Indeed, we actually preferred it that way; it meant they hadn’t picked up any bad habits along the way.

We spent a fortune on training to give all our employees the skills they needed to do the right job for us. In return, they worked hard, delivered great customer service, and came to all our parties. We made a great team.

So don’t be too proud to learn from mistakes. If you can learn from the mistakes of others, like myself, so much the better.

Don’t be so process-fixated that your recruitment system eliminates the opportunity to employ people you like. And don’t be so macho that you can’t get in touch with your feelings and follow your instinct.

People are the most important part of your business. The right team is the difference between success over your competitors, and their success over you. The wrong people will ultimately cost you everything you ever worked for. Believe me, we came close!