Thirukkural’s Theory Of Recruitment

“Historical background of recruitment theory and selection concept in ancient Tamil literature in India”

Getting benefit from the knowledge of our ancestors has always enriched the skills of mankind. Chapter 51 and 52 of Thirukkural provides advice on how to recruit and select people for a job or designation. The “Thirukkural” written hundreds of years ago by Thiruvalluvar, enlightens us on recruitment theory and selection techniques leading us tackles the issues from the grassroots level of recruitment theory needs based on human psychology social effects on work performance. 

“Thirukkural’s theory of Recruitment” ensures that the process is starting with effective decision making, the need for background checks, consideration of equal opportunities, the importance of settling the new person into the role and the process of measuring the effectiveness of the recruitment itself. This theory can be explained with the help of translating the verses of chapter 51 and 52.  It starts with understanding recruitment theory and selection as HR role of a manager & essential skills they need in developing role as a recruiter. 

Chapter 51 : தெரிந்துதெளிதல் (Evaluate Before Accepting)

Verse 1:

அறம்பொரு ளின்ப முயிரச்ச நான்கின்
திறம்தெரிந்து தேறப் படும்.

Meaning: Dharma (religion), Artha (Money), Kama (to fulfil the desires) and Praana Bhaya (fear of life) should be tested before the selection of an employee in an organization.

Verse 2:

குடிப்பிறந்து குற்றத்தி னீங்கி வடுப்பரியும்
நாணுடையான் கட்டே தெளிவு.

Meaning: The one who is born in a reputed family, is above any flaw and is afraid of bad fame, he only is suitable for your selection.

Verse 3:

அரியகற் றாசற்றார் கண்ணுந் தெரியுங்கால்
இன்மை யரிதே வெளிறு.

Meaning: When you test you will come to know those knowledgeable people too have areas of which they have nil knowledge.

Verse 4 :

குணநாடிக் குற்றமு நாடி யவற்றுள்
மிகைநாடி மிக்க கொளல்.

Meaning: Have a look at a person’s good qualities and virtues and then see his weaknesses or bad qualities also, whichever is greater in number, which decides the type of inner nature of a person. This means Test the inner nature of an applicant by the quantitative technique of evaluating a candidate’s good and bad qualities.

Verse 5:

பெருமைக்கு மேனைச் சிறுமைக்குந் தத்தங்
கருமமே கட்டளைக் கல்.

Meaning: Do you want to judge whether this person is broadminded or a narrow-minded one? Remember that your behaviour decides what type of character is yours. 

Verse 6 : 

அற்றாரைத் தேறுத லோம்புக மற்றவர்
பற்றிலர் நாணார் பழி.

Meaning: Be alert! Be careful while selecting those who do not have friends or family because they may not understand the meaning of good relations and may lack affection in their treatment.

Verse 7 : 

காதன்மை கந்தா வறிவறியார்த் தேறுதல்
பேதைமை யெல்லாந் தரும்.

Meaning: If you wish to recruit someone as your loyal bodyguard just because you like or love him, and then be assured that he will surely land you in great trouble someday.

Verse 8 : 

தேரான் பிறனைத் தெளிந்தான் வழிமுறை
தீரா இடும்பை தரும்.

Meaning: One should not trust someone without testing and examining his loyalties because such an act will bring troubles to you for generations.

Verse 9 : 

தேறற்க யாரையும் தேராது தேர்ந்தபின்
தேறுக தேறும் பொருள்.

Meaning: Do not trust anyone without proper testing, after appropriate tests assign jobs suiting his qualifications and skills.

Verse 10 : 

தேரான் தெளிவுந் தெளிந்தான்க ணையுறவுந்
தீரா விடும்பை தரும்.

Meaning: Selecting without assessing and doubting after selecting, both these things will bring troubles to you.

Chapter 52 : தெரிந்து வினையாடல் (Evaluating & Assigning Tasks)

Verse 1: 

நன்மையுந் தீமையும் நாடி நலம்புரிந்த
தன்மையா னாளப் படும்.

Meaning: For a vacancy select only the one who understands good and bad qualities, both, but follows good only in life.

Verse 2 : 

வாரி பெருக்கி வளம்படுத் துற்றவை
ஆராய்வாஞ் செய்க வினை.

Meaning: While recruiting a manager for your company, select the one who can multiply the sources of income and keeps it safe from all troubles.

Verse 3 : 

அன்பறிவு தேற்ற மவாவின்மை யிந்நான்கும்
நன்குடையான் கட்டே தெளிவு.

Meaning: Love, wisdom, fearless analytical mind and lack of misdirected desire, while selecting go for a person who scores high on these.

Verse 4 : 

எனைவகையாற் றேறியக் கண்ணும் வினைவகையான்
வேறாகு மாந்தர் பலர்.

Meaning: There are people who pass all tests but fail in real-life situations. 

Verse 5 : 

அறிந்தாற்றிச் செய்கிற்பாற் கல்லால் வினைதான்
சிறந்தானென் றேவற்பாற் றன்று.

Meaning: Don’t recruit someone just because you love or like him, instead of judge him by his competencies, skillset and calm implementation of planning while accomplishing a task in hand.

Verse 6 : 

செய்வானை நாடி வினைநாடிக் காலத்தோ
டெய்த வுணர்ந்து செயல்.

Meaning: First see the expertise of a person, and then assign jobs accordingly. Wait for the right time and ask him to start the task when the appropriate time comes.

Verse 7: 

இதனை யிதனா லிவன்முடிக்கு மென்றாய்ந்
ததனை யவன்கண் விடல்.

Meaning: Analyse the stamina/expertise of the employee and the (skill set required for) task to be assigned, only after that assign the task to him.

Verse 8 : 

வினைக்குரிமை நாடிய பின்றை யவனை
அதற்குரிய னாகச் செயல்.

Meaning: When you finally decide that this particular person is appropriate for this particular designation, then designate him for the same.

Verse 9 : 

வினைக்கண் வினையுடையான் கேண்மைவே றாக
நினைப்பானை நீங்குந் திரு.

Meaning: The person who gets angry on his loyal and skilled employees, the Goddess Lakshmi will turn her face away from him.

Verse 10 : 

நாடோறு நாடுக மன்னன் வினைசெய்வான்
கோடானைக் கோடா துலகு.

Meaning: The company owner should monitor the jobs done by his employees on a daily basis because the company can never land in trouble whose employees are hard working.

Dos and Donts in Thirukkural’s Recruitment Theory

Do’s – What is to be done in the process of recruitment 

  1. Four criteria of selection: Dharma, Artha, Kaama, Fear of life are to be taken into account while making the final selection of employees. Thirukkural explains the non-materialistic approach of recruitment theory, while modern management theories are based on materialism. 
  2. Background check: The techniques used by kings addressed in Thirukkural might have been slightly different – say in place of family background check, with increasing population and globalised economy modern recruiters have shifted to reference check. For eg, Gary Dessler says, “Even though most people prefer not to give bad references, most companies still carry out some sort of reference check on their candidates.” Though western recruiters do not follow this approach but in India trusting someone after checking his family background is too common. There are organizations where employees of the same religion as its Owner/CEO are found. It is a common practice in minority communities. Brahmins prefer Brahmins and Muslims prefer Muslims in many cases. 
  3. Knowledgeable also experience lack of knowledge in some areas: We come across situations in life when highly qualified people who have learnt everything theoretically fail in a real-life situation. Difference between theory and practical life situations is depicted well in Thirukkural and the recruiter is advised to take people who are good in real situations too. 
  4. Character/inner nature of a candidate should be checked: Inner nature of a candidate is very important for an organization, as it decides the core path of implementation of strategies and policies designed by higher management to achieve the organizational goal. In the modern world also it has great importance. 
  5. Enough alertness is required when trusting people not having a family: The Thiruvalluvar indicates the psychological status of the people who do not have a family to which they belong. Such an employee may lack the required amount of affection and tolerance.  
  6. Selection of skilled candidate: Candidates with appropriate skill set should be selected in the end of the recruitment process, skills are the first and foremost criteria of selection. 
  7. After testing an employee a job suiting his/her skills should be assigned: Thirukkural advocates relevant skills for a particular job. After testing the candidate, whether he is suitable or not for the job vacancy, the duties should be assigned. 
  8. Evaluate the good and bad qualities of an applicant: Thirukkural accepts that we all have a blend of good and bad qualities. A recruiter is supposed to analyse these qualities and understand the basic inner nature of an employee, Then the decision should be taken whether he will be able to act as a suitable employee. 
  9. Select an employee who can be an asset to the company: This is a common statement used by modern recruiters “This employee can be an asset for the company” while recommending a candidate for selection to higher authorities. This has been said in thirukkural long ago that the one who can add to the organisation’s resources & multiply the source of income is to be selected. 
  10. Passionate, wise and prompt decision-maker should be selected: Emotional stability and stamina are also to be checked while selecting a candidate after testing and interviews. 
  11. Physical Examination: Balance between an employee’s stamina and the task assigned should be maintained by the recruiter. Gary Dessler uses the same idea in his book saying, “One is to verify that the applicant meets the physical requirements of the position; another is to discover any medical limitation that you should take into account in placing the applicant” Surprising similarity of ideas in a hundred years old book and a twenty-first-century book. Thirukkural advocates the idea that no test is foolproof. 
  12. Designation suiting the qualification of an employee: Thirukkural stresses that qualification of a candidate and designation gave to him should be in line. A PhD degree holder should not be assigned the designation of a clerk. This theory is applied by modern recruiters also.
  13. Monitoring the task of all the employees: Western managers end the recruitment process after selection and induction (at the most), but the recruitment theory of Thirukkural is more advanced in that sense. As the last verse of chapter 52 talks about continuous monitoring of the employees by the top management through various tools and techniques, in this manner, Thirukkural recruitment theory ends at controlling. 

Don’ts – What is not to be done in the process of recruitment? 

  1. Do not select unwise candidates: The thiruvalluvar advises recruiters not to select unwise candidates. This refers to general awareness and knowledge of current affairs assessed in face to face interviews or written test techniques of testing. If a candidate lacks general intelligence or is not presentable enough, then he should be rejected initially only, should not be sent for further tests. This initial elimination reduces the cost of the recruitment process. 
  2. Do not trust an applicant before testing him/her: An employee should be selected only after appropriate testing, not before that. If an employee is taken without testing, then the chances of his failure in the work field are higher. 
  3. Do not select a person with bad inner nature: If the quantitative technique of assessing a qualitative aspect of a person in terms of his good virtues and bad qualities results in a negative impression of the candidate, then he should not be selected. 
  4. Do not select your favourites: A recruiter is advised not to select his favourites on the roll, but to take those who are suitable for the job with an appropriate skillset and qualification for the vacancy. 
  5. Do not disrespect hard working and dedicated employees: Thirukkural advises the employer to respect and recognize the hard work and dedication of employees. 
  6. Do not trust strangers/new employees: When a new employee is selected and taken in a department, the boss should not start trusting him at once. Both need time, the new employee to get absorbed in the culture and the boss getting used to new employee’s style of working. 
  7. Do not doubt trusted employees: Again advice is given to employer that they should not doubt an employee once he proves himself in the organisation, because doubting a trustworthy person is a negative HR policy that may bring the morale of the employees down. 

8. Do not rely on test scores too much: Only passing all the tests is not enough, real-life sense of responsibilities is also to be considered. This shows that significant relationship between scores on the test and performance on the job may be missing. Though modern management scholars like Gary Dessler have developed an expectancy chart based on test score and performance on job relationship, we experience in real life that such a relationship may be missing in many cases. For example, an actor doing well in rehearsals may face camera fear in real shot taking the process of a scene.