Jeff Grout – Recruiting Excellence

Highly talented people can always find employment, whatever the economic environment. Organisations that want to tap into that talent and recruit excellent people must ensure that they always strive to achieve recruitment excellence themselves.

Before getting into the detail of what makes for top quality recruitment practice, it is essential to understand the importance of employer branding. There is no doubt that job applicants are attracted by strong employer brands. The employer brand is essentially a sub-set of the general corporate brand, encompassing the organisation’s values, systems, policies and behaviours with a view to attracting, motivating and retaining current and potential employees. It tries to convey the personality of the organisation so that external candidates can develop a sense of what it might be like to work there.

During the recruitment process you can take steps to strengthen your employer brand by presenting consistent, positive messages and images about life inside the organisation. The message should be consistent across job adverts, recruitment presentations, brochures and applicant literature, as well as during interviews and any subsequent meetings. For example, if your employer brand claims that the organisation is a fun and dynamic place to be, your recruitment process must itself be dynamic – efficient, slick and involving people as interviewers and assessors who present the appropriate image and style of working.

It is essential to pick the right method for recruiting particular roles.

Recruitment excellence also requires you to develop a sense of candidate insight. Try to understand what it is that individuals in your target candidate pool seek from their working lives. Older workers may be focused on pension contributions and financial security, but younger employees are likely to be more concerned about softer issues, such as the potential for personal development, support for a healthy work-life balance and the organisation’s external image. Try to ensure that your advertising, organisational structures and pay and benefits packages reflect the target group’s needs.

Understand too that the modern employee has evolved into what could be called a “career mercenary” – someone who will compare the relative advantages of different organisations and who is willing to move relatively frequently in search of new or better opportunities. Sometimes people may move because their priorities have changed, perhaps because they seek a greater work-life balance. Whatever the reasons, the high degree of workforce mobility means that becoming skilled in recruitment is even more important today than ever.

It might sound simple, but given how many organisations still get this wrong, it clearly needs to be said: it is essential to pick the right method for recruiting particular roles. For example, advertising in the press is money down the drain unless you know that a sizeable pool of potential candidates exists. For senior roles or those demanding rare skills, appointing a search and selection consultancy is a better bet. Younger job-hunters will almost certainly make extensive use of the Internet when researching career opportunities, so advertising through an online jobsite or through the recruiting company’s website is a good investment when filling junior positions.

If you do decide that the best option is to advertise a vacancy, select the most appropriate media for the target candidate pool. Try to design the advert so as to build on the employer brand by involving your marketing team in the process. Include the key information that candidates look for, such as job title, salary, location and the recruiting organisation’s name. Provide the maximum number of ways for candidates to apply, including fax numbers and an email address as well as a postal address.

If advertising online, adjust the advert style: online ads are typically 25% shorter than paper-based ones to avoid browsers having to scroll through several PC screens.

When conducting an interview you are not only trying to assess the candidate, but the candidate will also be assessing you.

Once the recruiting process is underway, keep it moving. This means responding to applications quickly, giving prompt decisions after interviews and assessment centre sessions. Candidates can lose enthusiasm if kept dangling and the best will be snapped up by more efficient recruiters.

The interview remains a key part of most recruitment processes. Effective interviewing is therefore a key requirement for any organisation seeking to identify and employ the most talented people, and those most likely to succeed within in. Unfortunately, not everyone has natural interviewing ability. In fact, from experience, it seems there are three things in life that people generally refuse to admit they are bad at: driving, making love and conducting an interview. The problem is that job candidates tend to associate the interviewers they encounter with the organisation itself. If the interviewer is unprepared and uninspiring, the chances are the interviewee will conclude that the organisation itself is not of the highest rank. Never forget that when conducting an interview you are not only trying to assess the candidate, but the candidate will also be assessing you.

A professionally conducted interview will create a positive impression on candidates, not only of the interviewer, but also of the organisation.

The good news is that interviewing skills can be developed through training and practice. Once the skills are learned, they must be maintained. In general, any interviewer must always prepare in advance by reviewing the candidate’s application and lining up questions designed to get at the heart of the candidate’s real experience and working style. Competency-based interviewing techniques are particularly valuable, enabling you to ask questions that focus in increasing detail on specific examples of how a candidate behaved in a particular real-life situation. If you subscribe to the notion that a leopard doesn’t readily change its spots, how someone behaved in the past is an excellent indicator of how they are likely to behave in the future.

Assessment techniques such as personality questionnaires and aptitude and skills tests provide additional information when making a selection decision. The type of assessment selected should be appropriate for the vacancy. Even simple options can be effective. For example, asking short-listed candidates to prepare a brief presentation on a key issue currently facing the organisation can give you valuable information about their ability to research a topic, as well as their communication skills.

Effective interviewing is a key requirement for any organisation seeking to identify and employ the most talented people,

Note that recruitment excellence is not achieved at the point that the perfect candidate has accepted your job offer. The most outstanding recruitment activity will come to nothing if your new recruit is disillusioned once they come on board. Recruitment and retention are in fact interdependent aspects of maintaining the quantity and quality of personnel your organisation needs. Effective recruitment can reinforce retention, and vice versa.

You can help to get your new recruit off to a flying start, and reinforce their positive view of the organisation, by creating an effective induction process. Planning for an individual’s successful induction must start early. For example, if assessments used in the recruitment process identified any immediate training needs, these need to be built into the induction programme.

The induction plan should also make sure that someone has responsibility for greeting the new joiner on day one and making sure they have somewhere to sit. Plans need to be made for giving the new joiner an initial briefing on departmental practices and processes, and outlining initial work schedules. The induction plan should also clarify how the new recruit’s progress will be monitored, and their key priorities in a given timescale. Appointing a “buddy” or partner who the new joiner can turn to for help or advice can also assist the on-boarding process. The buddy could be a colleague doing a similar job in the same department, or someone of equivalent status in another department.

At the end of any recruitment exercise it is always worth reviewing what happened. Could anything have been done better? As an employer you can use new recruits’ induction sessions as opportunities to get feedback on their experiences during the recruitment process. They may well be able to make suggestions for improvement.

In summary, high quality candidates are attracted to organisations that reward talent and don’t tolerate underperformance. It is essential, therefore, that your recruitment process is seen as part of an overall human resource strategy that encourages high calibre personnel. That strategy should include a rigorous selection process for new applicants and an objective and transparent on-going appraisal mechanism giving regular feedback. Performance-related pay and structures to deal with underperformance (including the termination of employment contracts) all emphasise that your organisation is a high quality organisation, and one where talented individuals will be rewarded for their ability and efforts.

Creating a positive impression at interview

Little things can make a big impression on candidates.
• Check your facts about the candidate and prepare questions in advance.
• Don’t keep candidates hanging around in reception.
• Choose an interview room where you will not be interrupted.
• Try to relax the candidate before launching into the interview.
• Pay attention to the candidate’s responses.
• Don’t talk too much yourself.
• Give a brief, positive description of the organisation and its culture at the end of the interview.
• Offer to answer any questions.
• Be clear about when the candidate can expect to hear from you