Five steps to successful recruitment

With employment at an all-time high, companies are having to work harder than ever before to find and keep talented people. A structured approach to recruitment is fundamental to getting the right candidate in the right job at the right time.In a busy environment, however, managers are often so keen to get someone in post that they launch into the search without proper preparation.

Rushing into the hiring process often results in both time and money being wasted. Managers are flooded with inappropriate CVs, spend hours interviewing unsuitable candidates and can end up appointing someone who isn’t a good fit and leaves within a few months.

So what are the key steps you need to take to streamline your recruitment and make sure you end up with the best person for the job?

1. Reflect on what you need

It’s tempting to use the job spec from the previous incumbent as the basis for recruiting a replacement, but what you previously had might not be what you need right now. Take a step back and think about what your ideal candidate looks like. What do you want the person to achieve and how will you judge whether the recruitment has been a success? What kind of person would complement the team? If you have a lot of ‘big picture’ people, for example, maybe you need someone who is strong on the detail? It’s also important to be clear about how much management input you are able to give the new team member. It’s no good hiring someone who needs a lot of support if you are rarely in the office. Equally, if the new recruit prefers a ‘hands off’ approach, you need to make sure you will be comfortable letting them get on with the job with minimum supervision. Another good reason for you to review the job spec is to use the opportunity to redefine the scope of the role, taking into account the aspirations of others on the team. There may be an opportunity to give a different focus to other roles and pitch the new role differently or to reshuffle your team’s overall salary allocation.

2. Identify key skills and traits

A really useful exercise to undertake prior to recruitment is to identify the five key skills you need the new hire to have. Are project management and problem-solving skills essential to the role? Or may its communication and IT expertise you need? Once you’re clear about skills, move on to the key personality traits the new recruit needs to have. Are you after a determined, decisive, goal-focused individual, or is someone collaborative and relationship-oriented more likely to fit in well with the team and your organisation? Make sure the competencies and characteristics you identify are not just suitable for the role, but also fit in well with the skills and qualities that will be required by the business as a whole going forward. If you know, for example, that your team will need to grow in the near future but no-one currently has the potential to step up, you could look specifically for a candidate who can fill the gap. Document the main skills and traits that you are looking for, so that everyone involved in the interviewing process can prepare how to assess candidates against these essential skills and can give you feedback that will really help you make a decision.

3. Clarify the hiring process

One of the first decisions you need to make is what channels you are going to use to get word out about the vacancy. Is advertising in a specialist professional journal appropriate or will a recruitment agency be a better bet? Online job boards, LinkedIn or employee referrals are other avenues you might pursue. The next step is to think about who you want to involve in the interviewing process. If you have an internal HR manager they will probably need to be involved at some point, but you could also consider including some of the people on your team, a manager from another department or other key stakeholders. Decide what form the interview will take. Do you want an initial interview, followed by some kind of skills test, are you planning to use psychometric testing, or do you want the candidate to give a presentation to demonstrate their knowledge and the way they perform under pressure? Don’t forget to consider how the final decision will be made. Some interview panels take a vote where majority or consensus is required to hire, while in other scenarios, the manager may take advice from colleagues, but will make the final decision themselves.

4. Plan questions carefully

One of the biggest mistakes hiring managers make is to go into an interview thinking they will be able to sum the candidate up on the basis of an informal chat. Although gut feeling has a role to play, you cannot rely on instinct alone to make the right decision. Developing a set of consistent questions that interviewers can ask each candidate means you can compare people fairly and objectively. Ask the candidate to describe real situations where they have used the skills and attributes you need, to make sure they are not over-exaggerating their experience or abilities. Try and avoid ‘novelty’ questions (if you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?); they may give you an insight into a candidate’s personality, but are unlikely to demonstrate whether the person is really up to the job. On the flip side, it is also important not to fall into the trap of following the same list of standard questions that you use for each and every role that you recruit for, as these are unlikely to give you enough information. Be aware that during the interview, you are also being assessed by the candidate as their future manager, so try your best to be engaging. An interview should be a dialogue, not feel like an interrogation and the candidate should leave with the feeling that they really want to work for you and your organisation.

5. Don’t let the recruitment drag on

It isn’t always easy to find the right person for a role, particularly if you are looking for talent in a competitive market. But if the recruitment process is dragging on for months, you need to analyse what might be going wrong. The first question to ask is whether you are devoting enough time to hiring. Good people are in demand, and if you are taking weeks to get back to someone, you will find the candidate you want has been snapped up elsewhere. If you cannot commit the time, it probably isn’t worth starting the process as you will just be wasting your time and the time of your already stretched colleagues. As a benchmark, make it your target to recruit within 8 weeks of starting advertising, and review the process every couple of weeks so that, if necessary, you can adjust the strategy and move on.

If timing is not an issue, examine whether there are other aspects of the recruitment process that may be causing a problem. Is the job advert making the company look like an attractive employer? Is a lengthy and convoluted application process putting people off? View your candidates as a customer or a client. The application process shouldn’t be any more complicated than placing an order with you. You can always ask for more details later on, the first step is to receive their CV so that you don’t miss out on a potentially great candidate. Look at the salary you are offering too, to make sure it is not out-of-line with the compensation being offered for other, similar roles.

Many companies prefer not to state salaries on their advertisements for a number of reasons, but this often deters candidates. There is nothing more frustrating than spending time on a job application, only to find the salary is way below expectations. Often, just a few small tweaks somewhere in the recruitment process can make a big difference to the quality or quantity of candidates coming through so don’t miss out, schedule some time to work on your process and tweak a few things; it will make your recruitment process a lot more productive, efficient and rewarding.

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