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You are probably familiar with its story Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryBut did you know that it also teaches an important lesson in recruitment?
For those who need a refresher, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, A book that has been turned into a movie more than once, follows a bizarre, isolated chocolate that creates a “golden ticket” contest, giving the five lucky winners a chance to visit his factory. What the winners of the Golden-Ticket-Contest don’t know is that he plans to use the contest to find a successor who will take over his Chocolate Empire. Five children finally got tickets: Charlie Bucket, a kind-hearted, selfless boy; Augustus Glupp, a greedy, greedy young man; Varuka Salt, a spoiled, demanding young woman; Mike TV, TV-addicted boy; And Violet Beuregarde, a skilled, blunt, gum-drenched girl.
In a viral Tumblr post a few years ago, a user sued for the position of Violet Beauregard as the winner. And it makes me wonder what the research and science of selection and recruitment actually says about Willie Wanker’s legacy-planning decisions.
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For a second, let’s take a look at the basics Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Business makes sense (i.e., transferring an entire business to a child around the age of 11 is a reasonable inheritance plan). Once we get over that, we can consider what the research says is the most effective way to select the best candidate.
Assuming “culture fits” will be the best successor
With the golden-ticket competition, Willie Wanker’s goal is to find a successor to run the factory. At the end of the movie, her decision is based on who among her kids “likes the most” and believes that she will run a chocolate factory just like him or her.
It is a cunning mistake that many agencies and hiring managers still believe they will find the best candidates. Although many feel that hiring for culture is the key to organizational success, very few studies support it.
First, it is tied to biased recruitment practices that reduce diversity within the organization. Although there may be less conflict as many similar people are working together, the lack of diversity leads to even worse organizational results. For example, different companies have outperformed 36% less diverse companies. Second, hiring great thinkers who all think the same way would put the company at risk of group thinking, which is bad news for companies that need to adapt to change. After all, culture rarely fits in with actual performance. In terms of predicting how well a person will do on the job, this is one of the worst.
In the book, Violet shows that he is not consistent with Wanker’s approach to running the factory several times. Often, this is in a way that would improve the organization. For example, he brought up a safety concern for Ompa Lumpads when they sailed through a dark tunnel on a boat. While Wanka confirms that they can’t see where they’re going, Charlie’s grandfather is the only adult who clearly supports Wanka’s unsafe working conditions. Instead of treating his objections as a constructive form of criticism that could improve factory operations, he sees them as appropriate to Charlie’s culture and an example of Violet’s cultural incompatibility.
Related: 4 ways to test ‘cultural fit’ during recruitment process
Candidates are being tested in a way that does not match the actual work
At no time did Wanka run a chocolate factory for one person to test his potential successors in a realistic way.
Testing candidates with a realistic work sample is a good way to predict performance (2.5 times better than culture fit). This interview strategy consists of a task where the candidates do the same job related activities. Imitating the work environment as much as possible can help increase the predictive validity of this recruitment practice. Generally, there are also limited biases based on gender or caste for realistic job models. However, it can be time consuming and expensive to implement. Working conditions can also be difficult to imitate.
Ironically, what makes Violet out of competition is that it mimics the situation around realistic work patterns. Violet, an expert in gum, tries a piece of eighteen that Wanka himself calls one of his greatest discoveries – gum that works like a three-course meal and makes the cheer feel full. Unlike Augustus Gluppe, who was specifically told not to drink from the Chocolate River because it requires a sterile condition, Wanka simply tells him that the gum is not yet perfect – not that it is not ready for testing. Examining products that are considered to be part of a candy maker’s work that is close to reaching the public, ready to show its expertise on violet gum. Instead, he is tricked into trying a dangerous gum piece that turns him into a blueberry.
Each candidate holds different values
Each child in the factory is tested separately. Wonka seems to have set up separate rooms for different kids to experiment with based on their backgrounds and preferences. Each person should be asked a unique question in an interview based on his or her resume or interests It may seem like a good idea to hire, but it may not actually get you the best candidate.
In fact, a structured interview is one of the best ways to predict performance. Structured interview involves a process where each candidate is asked the same set of questions by the same people, in exactly the same order, according to the job requirements. Then, they are rated on a standard scale, and the candidates are compared. It predicts four times better performance than culture and is the best way to find a good candidate outside of personality. While some may describe the process as cold or dry, there are several advantages. In particular, it has been shown to reduce bias in recruitment, and is a legally defensible recruitment process.
If Violet is asked a job question, she is more likely to do well than any other candidate. Of all the Golden-Ticket winners, he is the only one who has made a career out of the candy-adjacent field: Gum chewing gum record-breaking.
Related: The key to hiring the best employees
Recruitment is hard, and there is no magical way to do it. However, some strategies are better than others – both predict effectiveness and reduce bias. Although Willie Wanka didn’t choose the best recruitment practice, we can all learn from his example – and find ourselves a violet.