May 28, 2021

Is Dumbledore a terrible hiring manager?

I was seven or eight when I read the first Harry Potter novel. After that, I grew up with it everywhere – the films, the legendary PS1 game, and it’ll surprise no one that I was queuing outside of Waterstones at the release of every new book..

With Lockdown 3.0, I’m yet again revisiting the world of Hogwarts, admittedly through audiobook form. Only this time, I had a revelation. A moment of awakening. My eyes had opened. Halfway through the Chamber of Secrets, it became glaringly obvious. 

Dumbledore is a horrible hiring manager.

Like, the worst.

Don’t believe me? Let’s examine each of his Defence Against the Dark Arts hires (major spoiler alert – but by now I think you’ve not read/seen them all, it deserves to be spoiled for you, you silly muggle):

Philosopher’s Stone – Professor Quirrell – terrible re-onboarding process

It doesn’t start well, does it? Sure, Quirrell is an employee returning after a year-long sabbatical. And there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, it’s important to encourage work-life balance and offer opportunities to explore the world.

But everyone knows that readjusting after that amount of time away from work is a struggle. Especially when you’re sharing your body with the Dark Lord. Some sort of phased return to work, along with keep in touch days and a re-onboarding process may have helped mitigate the issues experienced at the end of the school year (namely, attempted murder of a student and death of the teacher).

Verdict – fail

Chamber of Secrets – Gilderoy Lockheart – poor assessment process and background checksPhilosopher’s Stone – Professor Quirrell – terrible re-onboarding process

To the greatest wizard of the age, it should’ve been clear that Lockheart was a fraud. A simple aptitude test as part of an assessment day would’ve made that clear. But even if he had lied on his CV, a thorough background check should’ve raised enough red flags. I had to provide three years of addresses just to get a branding role for a FS company. I wasn’t working with children, nor was I in control of a wand.

Verdict – fail

Prisoner of Azkaban – Remus Lupin – solid hire

I’ll give Dumbledore a pass with this one. It’s a great example of the benefit of hiring candidates with a diverse background – judging them on their ability to do the job rather than labels like ‘werewolves’. In fact, Lupin is quite clearly the best teacher on this list!

Verdict – pass

Goblet of Fire – Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody – conned by a convicted murderer

Let’s start with the positives – I’m a big fan of ex-forces hiring. As, evidently, is Dumbledore with the hiring of former Auror Alastor Moody. People from a forces background bring discipline, problem solving and specialist skills which are a valuable add to any organisation.

However, while he may have been the Supreme Mugwamp of the International Confederation of Wizards, Dumbledore is again caught out by a lack of proper background checks.

This time, he’s tricked for nearly a year by convicted murderer Barty Crouch Jnr. At the very least, Dumbledore had a duty of care to support a colleague who evidently had substance abuse problems (no one who works at a school should be drinking from a hip flask that much).

Verdict – fail


Order of the Phoenix – Dolores Umbridge – secondment gone wrong

This is probably the most difficult to assess. After all, she wasn’t hired directly by Dumbledore, instead being sent on secondment by the Ministry of Magic before she went on a power grab and brought corporal punishment back to the school.

But secondments are always difficult, and it was evident that Umbridge was not a culture fit from the first Feast of Term. Despite the high cost of a failed hire, it’s often important to recognise a poor hire early on. Because let’s be honest, there’s no way Umbridge would’ve passed her probation.

Verdict – fail


Half Blood Prince – Severus Snape – internal hire, ends up murdering hiring manager

Kudos to Dumbledore for enabling internal progression. After all, sideways career moves are often more fulfilling than vertical progression. There’s evidence of succession planning as well, given that the next year Snape was promoted to Headmaster of Hogwarts.
However, Snape brought a new meaning to “dead men’s shoes”, by murdering the person above him in the hierarchy. Now, I’m sure we’ve all had managers that we’ve thought of cursing. But murdering them at the top of the astronomy tower?! Now that’s a bit much.

Verdict – fail


So there it is. One decent hire in six years. And let’s not even get into the labour issues he mismanaged regarding the unionisation of the schools non-academic employees.

Not good enough from the man many say to be the best headmaster Hogwarts has ever had!

What are your thoughts on recruitment practices in fictional worlds? Does the Fellowship from Lord of the Rings suffer from a culture of toxic masculinity in the workplace? Is the Hunger Games an inappropriate form of early talent assessment centre? Let me know in the comments below.