How The Best Leaders In Nuclear Are Attracting Senior Talent And Eliminating Bias

Callum Thomas

Thor Executive is the global executive search division of Thomas Thor, a search and recruitment firm whose purpose is bringing talent to the nuclear sector. Our regular bulletins aim to provide ‘’to the point’’ insights for senior leaders that consider the attraction and retention of talent in their teams as a key success differentiator. The theme in this bulletin is how becoming disciplined in objectively assessing and comparing competencies is a game changer when it comes to making smart hiring decisions and reaching much wider communities than competing employers.

It is commonly said that the nuclear sector is a very close community and often candidates being interviewed for senior roles are either known to the interviewers or one degree of separation apart. This is incredibly useful when gaining deeper insights on potential hires, through formal or informal references. The opportunity to do some additional due diligence on people you may be working closely with in the future seems too good to pass up, but one of the consequences is that it creates a distance between candidates in terms of data gathered which can lead to bias in decision making. Another major consideration is the harm it can do to reputations, and the risk of legal repercussions, if an unfair process is perceived.


Trusting the unknown: helping leaders leverage expertise from beyond the nuclear sector

Every organisation we work with is committed to spreading the net wide when hiring for senior roles, looking into adjacent sectors and also ensuring that the shortlist of interviewees is sufficiently diverse. However, it is very common for chosen candidates to come from the same community and to bear a striking likeness to the interviewers. This is where disciplined competency based hiring can make a real difference.


Defining competencies that allow objective comparison

Senior leaders that want to interview the best talent from both the community they are part of as well as all other relevant communities take a proactive role in defining the key competencies that are required for a role. It is rare that more than 6 key competencies are essential for a role and creating a job description that effectively articulates these is the first step in reaching wider communities. Competencies such as ‘’managing vision and purpose’’, ‘’innovation and creativity’’, ‘’relationship and network building’’ or ‘’influencing and negotiation’’ that are well articulated in a job description make the role attractive to a wider community. Defining questions around each competency that are used in all interviews allows objective comparisons and prevents familiarity from becoming a bias. Of course, familiarity with the sector, stakeholders or technologies may be very important factors, but separating this information from core competencies allows for objective comparison.


The candidate experience

Great leaders think about what their hiring process looks and feels like to those going through it, asking questions such as:

  • What does a candidate look for in a quality hiring process?
  • What does our current process say about us as a company, us as an interview panel?
  • Does our process/panel reflect who we are as a company and who we want to be?

It is easy to tell when senior leaders are personally invested in the hiring process, and it often makes the difference when candidates have multiple attractive offers to choose from.

At Thor Executive we support senior leaders in identifying core competencies, defining interview questions and supporting interviewers in conducting non-biased high-quality interviews. Often, we are working with leaders that have conducted thousands of interviews that still find huge value in revisiting the competency based approach for specific roles they are hiring for. Continuous development in this area is especially valuable at a time when competition for high quality senior personnel is so great.

Callum Thomas

Founder and CEO of Thomas Thor (ENS Corporate Member), a company which provides recruitment, search and workforce solutions to sectors and organizations shaping a Net Zero Future. As Co-founder of Inclusion and Diversity in Nuclear, Callum is deeply invested in building and sustaining a diverse workforce and an inclusive working environment in the nuclear industry.

The opinions expressed on this page are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the European Nuclear Society.