Thursday, 28 April 2011

Recruiting the UK’s Meerkat Ambassador: Simples

One of the things I love the most about the world of recruitment is the diverse range of candidates I get to meet. However nothing I’ve experienced to date could have prepared me for the line-up I faced this week.
For the last two days I have been interviewing candidates for the role of UK Ambassador to the Meerkat village of Meerkovo. No you didn’t read that wrongly; that’s Meerkovo, home to Aleksandr Orlov and a community of highly frustrated meerkats. Despite Aleksandr releasing epic trilogy adverts, documentaries, an iPhone app and even writing a best selling book, the confusion between meerkats and cheap insurance deals continues to have a major effect on the villagers of Meerkovo and their livelihoods. The successful applicant will become the meerkats’ first ever, human, UK-based Ambassador and will be required to represent Meerkovo at a number of high-profile sporting and cultural events to raise awareness of the plight of the village.

Thousands of people applied for the role and understandably so as it does come with a not inconsiderable £40k salary for six months’ work. On the strength of their written applications, and in some cases accompanying Youtube videos, the group was whittled down to 24, all of whom were invited in for a face to face interview. I was asked to act as an independent recruitment consultant, leading the interview process and ultimately helping to shortlist a final group who will campaign publicly for the role.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the chosen few but given the people who I would be putting through their paces included a croupier, a zookeeper, a former bodybuilder and a parrot trainer I was keeping an open mind. On the whole they didn’t disappoint. 
For the role of ambassador we wanted someone who showed a clear understanding of the problems facing Meerkovo, outstanding communication skills, in-depth experience of using social media, and the social skills needed to make an impact at public events. There is no doubt whatsoever that each and every one of the candidates desperately wanted the role. Who wouldn’t? As opportunities go it doesn’t get much better. But whilst some of the candidates rose majestically to the challenge, delivering engaging interviews and showing exactly why they fit the bill, others were not as successful in responding to the demands of the brief.
It is imperative to remember that no matter what role you’re gunning for the fundamental principles of successful interviewing remain the same:
-           Prepare, prepare and prepare some more. You can never prepare too much.
-           Adopt an enthusiastic, alert, positive mindset. You don’t have to try to be someone you’re not but make sure you show some spark from the outset. If the chemistry is missing invariably your chances have gone.
-           Answer the brief. Identify the key criteria and ensure you demonstrate how you tick the necessary boxes.
For me it’s back to recruiting the UK’s best talent in PR, comms and social media. The shortlisted finalists for the Ambassador role will be announced on the 10th May and I wish them all the very best of luck as they thoroughly deserve their shot at glory.
Tim Court

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