Forrest Gump was spot on: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are gonna get.”

That’s exactly how I feel about recruiting new staff. News organisations’ most valuable asset has always been the staff. The great minds of brilliant people. So, of course, recruitment day is of the utmost importance.

There’s always that tingling feeling of hope that this could be the moment when you find the person that will be tomorrow’s big star. This is sometimes followed by the disappointment of realising that the person who at first seemed like the perfect match is more of a great salesperson in an interview situation than actually being able to deliver exactly what you hoped for when put to the test.

These days, recruiting top journalists is more important than ever.

So, what’s the secret to success?

Well, I wish I had the perfect recipe that always works, but of course I don’t. However I think I know what doesn’t work: the usual interview. This is more or less just a basic check to see that the person in front of you is a socially capable person that knows how to handle an interview situation and, also, has read and understood your job advertisement. Hence, he or she gives the right answers when you ask about qualifications.

But you know what? I’m tired of people saying they perform well under huge amounts of stress. Or people who say they are the best writers or television reporters. I want proof.

What if other editors spent hours rewriting all those articles the person in front of you presents as his or hers? How do you know he or she will really deliver?

Well, this spring we at GT, decided to put our top aspirants for our editorial positions to the test. Did they perform well under stress?

Well I sort of saw that for myself when, without giving them any warning, I presented each one with a fake news scenario, gave a quick brief, turned on the television camera, put a bright spotlight in their faces, and said, “You are due to go live in one minute. What do you do?” This was right in front of all the existing editorial staff working in the middle of the newsroom.

Was it mean? Yes, a little. But it was very efficient and told me who really delivered under stress.

And, of course, this was just one of many tests we presented to these top applicants.

Our big recruitment day took a day, instead of an hour. Was it worth it? Definitely.

Don’t take your recruitment lightly.

Next time you invest in a box of chocolates, if you have the opportunity, why not try the pralines before you make the purchase? That’s all I’m saying.