From building up enough air miles to travel to the moon, to pursuing a career psychometric testing in the middle of a global pandemic, Sabby Gill, now CEO of Thomas International is on a mission to drive forward successful, fairer hiring.
Here we talk about his passion for psychometric science in recruitment, the challenges of working online and the future of Thomas International.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and bred in Reading and have since settled down near the Northern Hampshire border with my family. I’ve been married for 15 years and have two children, Jaia, who is 15 going on 21, and Hari who is 13 - who I only see if he’s hungry or tears himself away from his XBox. I have worked in technology for 37 years and I have loved every second of it.
Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky enough to travel across the world, building up enough air miles to get to the moon - whether or not I actually make it to the moon one day is a different story. I thrive on new challenges so in October 2020, I joined Thomas as its new CEO, which was a very exciting move for me.
What sparked your interest in psychometric testing?
I’ve always believed that psychometric testing has the ability to give us a greater understanding of ourselves and others, which leads to higher levels of achievement. I’m passionate about these types of assessment because I think they can give you far more information that you don’t get from a standard CV or interview process.
They also help companies understand more about the qualities of candidates that can’t be easily assessed by academic exams or rehearsed interviews, like aptitude and empathy. They give a fairer, unbiased understanding of someone's capability for a role, rather than experience.
What drives your passion for improving recruitment?
When making hiring decisions, I believe it’s important for the system to be completely fair, to ensure that the best person - no matter their background - gets the job. Everyone deserves a chance, and now more than ever it’s crucial to consider what additional attributes someone might bring to a role. We don’t want to be hiring the same person every time, so it’s important to reduce unconscious bias. Better recruitment practices lead to increased diversity, which help businesses to stay innovative and dynamic. In the future, careers might require people to upskill or shift their focus, so finding people who are flexible and willing to learn is really important.
You started in a pandemic, what are the biggest challenges have you faced?
The biggest challenge has been losing out on the physical and social connection. This can’t be replicated through online channels. When I went through the interview process, I didn’t meet anyone, everything was done via Zoom. It was only after I’d accepted the job and the UK started to reopen that I was able to meet my colleagues and the owners of the business. It makes it harder to understand what you’re walking into. I’ve got customers and partners all over the world and haven’t been able to travel to meet them.
I’m hoping we’ve seen the worst of the pandemic now, and that it will get easier to meet people face to face. However, the changes will have a lasting impact on the way we communicate. For younger people, who have already missed out on a huge part of their personal development, it will be especially hard. Many will be expected to work online with a remote team, which will make it difficult for them to know if they’re choosing the right position and pathway for them.
With Thomas turning 40 this year, are there any important trends you’ve witnessed in recruitment during this time?
In the 80s and 90s, recruiters focused on one thing: finding a person with the skills and qualifications to do a particular job. Information about a candidate was taken at face value and derived almost solely from a CV and a formulaic interview process. Since then, companies have gained a much wider understanding of the importance of other qualities, such as empathy and passion.
Twenty years ago, nobody was interested in leadership skills or emotional intelligence. Even if it had been included in the interview process, I think it would have been disregarded. Through a combination of cultural change and the introduction of techniques to measure these skills, it’s become much easier to incorporate these factors into the hiring process. When I’m considering someone for a job, I know I can teach them certain processes or skills, but I can’t teach empathy or a strong work ethic.
The pandemic has clearly accelerated the pace of change, what has been the biggest impact for you?
The acceleration of technology has been by far the biggest, most obvious impact. Before the pandemic everyone was talking about things like AI, video conferencing and automation, but progress was slow. When lockdown happened it facilitated rapid change, because suddenly we needed these tools to be able to work. Another key trend has been the rise of remote offices, and the changing dynamics that brings with it.
People no longer need to be based in a particular city for a job, they can do it from anywhere in the world. That’s opened the door for recruitment, leading to increased diversity in teams and even a reduction in salaries with London weighting. I’d like to point out though that while companies can make cost savings, it’s important they assess each employee or potential employee on a case-by-case basis, to ensure that they continue to receive fair remuneration for the job they’re doing.
And finally, as CEO, what are your hopes for Thomas for the future?
I believe we will be the dominant provider of psychometric assessments globally. We operate in 60 countries in 56 languages, so we’re already in a really strong position. My job as CEO is to continue to create a global network that’s working collaboratively to deliver our goals. I want to see a world where companies can use psychometric assessments to truly get the best from people, building more cohesive, successful, and dynamic workplace environments.
Lastly, I want to say a special thank you to all our employees and customers who have shown passion, commitment, and dedication in the past 40 years, and especially since the start of the pandemic. We wouldn't be celebrating this milestone if it wasn't for you.
Here’s to the next 40 years!