Rory Jeffcock

Recruitment & Recruitment Tech Leader

1. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?

Growing up in Ireland in the 70s with my identical twin brother was a stroke of luck. Our childhood was marked by a sense of safety, with the countryside right at our doorstep. I remember carefree summers spent mucking around on our beaten-up old bicycles and camping out in the garden. Our home was always full of life, with our five other brothers and sisters back from school with boyfriends and girlfriends in tow, bringing energy and banter to the house. We lived in an old Georgian house, an Anglo-Irish family with simple means. We didn’t have much cash, as my father was always working on his next big project. Despite the financial constraints, our days were filled with adventure and a strong sense of family.

2. At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you know?

At 25, I met Emma, who would become my fantastic wife, and together we emigrated to Toronto, Canada. We arrived knowing no one, jobless, with only a week-long stay in a hostel as our anchor point. For me, this marked the true beginning of adulthood. The path we chose was ours alone, and the mistakes and successes that followed were entirely of own making.

3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

Four and a half years ago, I decided to give up alcohol for a year, which eventually became a permanent change. In the UK, drinking is a common habit, and I was great at it without breaking any laws or being too much of a nuisance to my loved ones. People often say that you only discover the reasons behind your drinking habits once you give it up, and I believe this to be true. I do miss an all-day sessions in a classic London boozer, reminiscent of the 90s Cool Britannia era, but I certainly don’t miss the hangovers. Then again, perhaps it’s just my youth that I miss!

4. When was the last time you changed your mind about something really important? What was it and what led you to change your view?

A common trait among dyslexics is perfectionism, which often develops as a defence mechanism against being labelled as wrong or stupid during childhood. This perfectionism can lead dyslexics, much like many neurodiverse individuals, to become fixated on black or white, even though life is often more nuanced and grey. People with neurodiverse conditions have the advantage of hyperfocus, which can result in recognised expertise but also make them susceptible to accusations of being too rigid in their opinions. You can often be right but still wrong as I remind myself. I often change my mind on parenting as this is the most important and sometimes difficult job for parents to navigate together.

5. If you wrote a ‘user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what would be the most important point in the manual?

Easy, first impressions can be deceiving, some people are growers and they take time to understand and they will become your most loyal allies. I find the term, “they are a bit Marmite you either love them or loathe them” offensive. It demonstrates a clear lack of emotional investment by the person saying it. The world of business speaks of the need for disruption but often finds it very hard to accept from disruptive employees.

6. What is your untrainable superpower?

I’ve always found it easy to think differently. The question of “why” is never far from my mind, and I love how technology can make us more connected and human, rather than less. Dyslexic thinking and the movement around it are important to me, especially since my children have dyslexia. I believe it is an advantage, particularly as many jobs that require memorisation will be eliminated by artificial intelligence in the years to come. The way businesses measure potential by ranking candidates based on academic results needs to change. This approach often rewards those who are adept at regurgitating facts rather than thinking creatively. This might have been great for traditional roles like lawyers, bankers, and accountants, but it’s not suited for today’s world where AI will democratize questions and answers.

7. Have you always had the same political beliefs? If so, why do you think you have held them so long? If not, what event caused you to change your view?

Coming from a big family and being an identical twin, fairness and equity have always been important to me. This perspective has shaped me into what I might call an academic socialist. While there is much I agree with in socialism, I recognise that human nature and self-interest make it unachievable without dictatorship which is often tyrannical. Politically this leaves me in no mans land. Maybe that is what a champagne socialist is and I should move north of the river (London joke)

8. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?

The Internet has brought incredible advancements to humanity, but it has also disrupted capitalism, benefiting only a handful of entrepreneurs and their followers. Pension funds and big business only measures success in efficiency but we should value success in people having work and looking after their families. There is a race to zero employees by shareholders and stock markets and do not see this as progress. Bill Gates said when he left Microsoft that he could see a time when countries would have to tax robots (read efficiency) as not enough tax dollars would be raised by working humans, and that was twenty years ago, he is often right.

9. What would be the perfect gift that someone could buy you right now?

An upgraded suspension kit for my self-converted long wheelbase Mercedes Sprinter mobile office / camper. Not cheap but needed. The van sways in the wind or when cornering. Building a camper van has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It is easy to see why people build more than one perfecting their ideas.

10. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

My dream project would be to build an expedition vehicle out of an old army truck and then travel and work around the world as a true digital nomad. The mixture of freedom, discovery and creature comforts would be amazing. Googling expedition vehicles should come with a health warning as you may never return.

11. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what would it look like?

There is nothing better than an old boozer where you have a saloon and a bar with two separate entrances and two separate clientele but all enjoying banter and stories. The UK and Ireland do pubs like no other nation. Gammon, egg and chips followed by a few Guiness 0.0s. Nice.

12. If you were to survive the zombie apocalypse, what role would you play in the new society that would follow?

I am a prepper! I prepare for the end of the world every time I go to B&Q thinking I wanted a bag of compost but coming back with a 240v diesel mini-generator. I would be the guy who you would want around to help you build self sufficiency from wind and solar power. I loved this part of my camper van build.

13. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

Powerpoint skills, work is about communication and from my years of building sales decks in the middle of the night and in taxis heading to pitches means I am pretty handy at building a persuasive slide deck. Being able to tell a story both visually and verbally is very important in business.

14. What decision makes you say, “What was I thinking??” when you look back on your career?

There isn’t one decision that makes feel this way but there is a trend of trying to get to places too quickly and benchmarking myself against others that put to much pressure on myself. A career is a marathon, and the best marathon runners make it look effortless and people like to be around people like that.

15. What’s one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?

Building an assessment tool that genuinely automates the decision-making process for determining “fit” within a team or company is a challenging endeavor. Humans have evolved over millions of years to read subtle signals, an ability that has given us an evolutionary edge over every other species on the planet. Replicating this nuanced skill with AI won’t be feasible anytime soon.

16. What is your biggest professional regret? What do you think might have happened otherwise?

There have been several instances where I’ve been involved in starting a business with others who later sold these ventures for millions. However, I attribute much of this to chance. My only real regret is not turning my self-taught skills in Microsoft Access from the 1990s into a career. Back then, I was building recruitment CRM and ATS databases for fun, and I was good at it. It was the perfect time to get in on the ground floor of that industry.

17. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

The obvious one is cyclical redundancies due to bad planning and forecasting but for me it’s AI. It’s not that I fear AI, I actually embrace it and believe it has the potential to have a huge positive impacts around attraction, automation, candidate experience, efficiency, information consumption etc but my fear is that many businesses won’t invest in AI within Talent Acquisition.

18. What’s one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?

Sadly, it’s bias in hiring. Although we have made huge strides with awareness around diversity and inclusion, and many companies have deployed processes that minimises bias, both conscious and unconscious bias will continue to influence recruitment decisions.

Firstly, it’s a battle against human nature which naturally holds certain biases (The Chimp Paradox also talks to this). Secondly, every organisation has and talks about the company culture which is subjective at best and shapes the criteria and methods used in recruitment.

I do think AI could play a huge part in continuing to help remove certain biases but AI is trained and is based on the data inputted into it so that could actually continue the bias if we aren’t careful.

19. If you could add a question for the next person to answer, what would it be?

What would you do if you didn’t do what you did today? My answer, be a mid-wife. Babies just make me smile.

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

Nick Holmes as he is simply one of the most interesting and articulate guys in recruitment and one that I have known for 20 years. He thinks differently always.

Thank you to Rory Jeffcock for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Rory on LinkedIn

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