Eighteen years ago, I developed the Pareto concept around a core philosophy: the significant few against the insignificant many. It’s a practice that has infiltrated the business marketplace for decades. These days, it’s also evident in the entertainment industry. Witness the X Factor’s quest to unearth the ‘significant few’. So I have to wonder, why aren’t we taking the same approach to finding our own superstars?

HR representatives want to reduce time to hire. As such, popular tools of choice remain the age-old CV, followed by the failsafe interview. Occasionally, the process is punctuated with a secondary interview, the occasional psychometric test, backed by references.

But are we really risking £100k+ investments based on nothing more than a couple of chats? When I hire, I want people to stop telling me, and start showing me. After all, the stakes are high and the costs considerable if the choice is wrong. We can invest in developing a mediocre performer who talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk, or we cut our losses and start over. Either way, it’s a painful mistake.

Taking a page out of the X Factor book and introducing multi-stage recruitment safeguards the process. Assessment centres and competency-based testing are far from novel, but tend to be adopted at entry level as a means for sorting wheat from chaff. It’s ironic that businesses invest more time in entry-level recruitment processes than at senior level.

So when the MD of an international logistics organisation came to me frustrated at failing to source the perfect head for his sales function, I looked to his recruitment process. He headhunted within the industry, relying on experience as an indicator for potential and the interview to unearth the ‘X Factor’. The result? Candidates who had been around the industry and looked great on paper, but failed to deliver.

So why not cast a wider net and make the funnel bigger at the top? Then, put candidates to the test with a multi-staged elimination process. Competency-based assessment combined with cognitive and psychometric tests introduce transparency through ‘live performances’. After three years of failing to find the one, this process filtered out the best. Task accomplished: recruitment, the X Factor way.