Sir Ernest Shackleton's Methods of Recruitment


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Sir Ernest Shackleton has been called the “the greatest leader that ever came on God’s earth… bar none". From 1914-1916 Shackleton and his team survived the wreck of their ship, Endurance, in the crushing Antarctic ice, stranded twelve hundred miles from civilization with no means of communication and no hope of rescue. It was Shackleton’s ability to choose the right people and his leadership skills that have been credited for the safe return of every member of the team.

His approaches to recruiting and leadership in general were decades before their time and have been the subject of close examination and emulation. Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell in their book Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons From the Great Antarctic Explorer is a comprehensive analysis well worth your reading.

Below is a summary of his key recruiting methods.

  • Start with a solid core of workers you know from past jobs or who come recommended by trusted colleagues.

  • Your Number Two is your most important hire. Pick one who complements your management style, shows loyalty without being a yes-man, and has a talent for working with others.

  • Hire those who share your vision. Someone who clashes with your personality or the corporate culture will hinder your work.

  • Fire quickly when it is clear you made a wrong recruiting decision even if it means legal action.

  • Weed out potential slackers or people who are not prepared to do mundane or unpopular jobs.

  • Be a creative, unconventional interviewer if you seek creative, unconventional people. Go deeper than job experience and expertise. Ask questions that reveal a candidates personality, values, and perspective on work and life.

  • Don’t stick doggedly to your list of questions; rely on your intuition as well.

  • Surround yourself with cheerful, optimistic people. They will reward you with the loyalty and camaraderie vital for success. Also, they will stick by you when times get tough.

  • Applicants hungriest for the job are apt to work hardest to keep it.

  • Hire those with the talents and expertise you lack. Don’t feel threatened by them. They will help you stay on the cutting edge and bring distinction to your organization.

  • Spell out clearly to new employees the exact duties and requirements of their jobs, and how they will be compensated. Many failed work relationships start with a lack of communication.

  • To help your staff do top-notch work, give them the best equipment you can afford. Working with outdated, unreliable tools creates an unnecessary burden.

    Michael Brooke, Ph. D is an adult educator, university administrator, published author, who lives in Victoria, British Columbia where he is retired from conventional work. He now has ebusinesses which keeps him interested and busy.

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