The Anti-Candidate

Tariq wonders if the recruitment market can learn something from ‘The Donald’…

I very much dislike the idea of giving Donald Trump more column inches – but I did read a very interesting take on his success this morning which I wanted to highlight. So, a little grudgingly, here we go…

The author Tom Gentile – a highly respected brand specialist – brings a fascinating perspective to things. He likens ‘The Donald’ to David Ogilvy, the brand and advertising guru of Ogilvy & Mather. Not of course in the sense that Ogilvy was a Mexican and Muslim hating property magnate with non-implementable ideas (Ogilvy was definitely a man who knew how to implement) – but in the sense that he went against the grain and ‘knew – intuitively, how to build icon brands’.

Trump has no political experience, but that is entirely the point; he has built his brand as a straight-talking, non-PC firebrand who doesn’t need the money from special interests or other outside influencers. He is not part of the existing system which so many distrust. He spouts cheap and outlandish ideas, he is almost constantly on US network television, and he takes full advantage of social media platforms to ensure that his face and name are never far away from the limelight. The fact that he is completely vague and non-comital on actual policy detail is not a problem. He is a non-politician. The Anti-Candidate.

Being a recruiter, this got me thinking about the types of candidates I meet and speak with every day. I would never suggest to any of them to be flaky on the details regarding experience and relevance for a role – but maybe there is some method to Trump’s madness here. Maybe we can learn something from his success.

Here at BLT, if you were to look through the long list of candidates we have placed with our clients over the last 28 years, I would guess that very few of them – if any – actually match the corresponding job description. The ‘perfect candidate’ simply doesn’t exist and, consciously or otherwise, firms almost never hire people who actually match the blueprint.

Now more than ever, a candidate bringing something different or unexpected to the table is in a good position. Of course you need to tick most of the basic boxes first – but after that it’s very much about how you differentiate yourself from the others.

As an example; for many management consulting firms today, great academics and progressive experience within the Fortune500 is not necessarily enough anymore. There is an all-important third criteria; personal brand. What is the character of the candidate? What have they achieved off their own back outside of the immediate job description? How do they stand out from the crowd?

It applies to all industries. I recently saw Sir Ben Ainslie – the multiple Olympic sailing gold medallist – give a talk on the importance of innovation within his America’s Cup team. He didn’t want a group exclusively made up of sailors and sailing engineers who might be brilliant but will all offer the same thinking. In addition to those from sailing, Ainslie recruited Martin Whitmarsh from Formula 1 as his CEO along with innovators from the worlds of aerodynamics, aerospace and others.  They’ve apparently built the ‘world’s most advanced boat’.

One of Ogilvy’s famous maxims was to ‘hire people better than yourself’. Well, hiring those different to yourself seems just as applicable here. Those from different backgrounds or with different life experiences will bring different ideas, they will bring innovation with them, and they will challenge incumbent thinking.

Trump of course takes this a few steps further; he misses out the seemingly pre-requisite boxes labelled ‘political experience’ or ‘holding a relevant office’ or even ‘don’t offend huge swathes of the electorate’ – but this is a candidate who definitely challenges the status quo, who absolutely brings a different perspective to the table and who undoubtedly stands out from the crowd – and yet still remains valid.  He knows, intuitively, how to build his personal brand.

I’m like my new phrase: The Anti-Candidate – and like him or loathe him, he is a great example of one. I don’t like Trump, but I do say long live the Anti-Candidate!



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