Recruitment; More than just ‘Bums on Seats’

Posted in : HR Updates on 14 December 2017
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered:

I recently completed recruitment and selection training. One of the reasons for embarking on the two-day course, complete with ‘homework’ and a one day follow up coaching session was to enhance what I already knew having worked in HR for let’s say, quite a few years! What I did not expect however was to leave the experience having learned new skills with a completely fresh outlook on what I thought I was pretty well-versed in. After all, as an HR practitioner, it’s my job to know this stuff but I soon learned through the course that I probably had what is known as ‘unconscious incompetence’.

So what was so great about this training? In sum, it went well beyond the typical practical approach of what we need to do at each step of the recruitment cycle to looking at the process much more holistically. I learned about the importance of skills beyond my comfort zone including marketing, project management and NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) as well as examining motivational theories.

As quoted in our training material, ‘the ability to fill a position is far from a reliable way to determine if our recruitment model is working’ or in other words, it is much more than just being about ‘bums on seats’.

So, where to start? Well, you’re probably already aware that the recruitment process is a cycle starting right at the request for the role. There is always the temptation to plough on and dust off a job description at this point however this is where we need to ask why we are hiring in the first place. Exit interviews can be a good opportunity to find out the reasons why someone has left that then leads to the requirement to look for someone new. But very often either employees do not want to tell us the real reasons why they are leaving or we do not want to hear it. We need to nurture a culture which is positive and receptive to feedback so that when our talent departs we act on it rather than the exit interview being just a tick-boxing exercise. The main point is that if we never learn the real reasons why our best people leave then we will keep making the same mistakes which will negatively impact any attempts to recruit, no matter how sophisticated our process may be.

The next question we need to ask when someone leaves is whether there is a genuine need to replace this person or whether the duties can be spread reasonably among the team or if a promotion opportunity could be considered. If this is not the case then a thorough job analysis needs to be carried out before a job description or specification are even considered. It is this job analysis that will identify the key skills, knowledge and attributes which should be split between essential and desirable criteria. It is important to take care when we are examining the skills and knowledge needed for the role. For example, vague requests for academic qualifications such as ‘educated to degree level’ need to be weighed against experience. That said, there is no denying that some roles do require certain qualifications however we should be specific and not rule people out unnecessarily. Attitude is also a very important quality, and again we may find hidden talent in those who are really enthusiastic and willing to learn compared with someone with a bad attitude who is not open to change. The important point to remember when completing the job analysis is that it should not be done by one person but by involving a range of stakeholders including key performers who are already doing the job.

The NLP Multi-Level modelling strategy is a great tool to help you map out the key tasks and competencies for the role when you are carrying out a job analysis exercise. It is important however that you practice using the model a few times and decide on its appropriateness before fully implementing it. The job analysis process is the cornerstone of the entire recruitment cycle as the key competencies identified will be used during shortlisting and the design of each assessment element. The findings from the job analysis can also be used for staff learning and development activities, so its scope is far-reaching.

The second stage of the recruitment cycle is the planning stage. This is where we start to put our project management and marketing skills into action. There are a number of steps involved in the planning stage that effectively involves answering lots of questions about your recruitment drive in advance. These are around the process itself, the candidates and the location of the assessments/interviews. A lot of consideration also needs to be given to the sourcing tools available including the difference between employer and candidate driven markets. Where jobs are scarce and a lot of people are looking for work then we are in an employer-driven market. In this instance, some employers consider themselves as having the freedom to ‘call all the shots’. This is short-sighted however as often the market dynamics change and where people do not feel respected by their employers they are likely to leave in search of employers that look after their staff. Employers need to be aware of how scathing a bad employee experience can be, considering the prevalence of social media outlets where people can easily vent their frustrations on the likes of Facebook and Glassdoor, posts which can be liked and shared countless times.

We also need to be aware of the difference between the active and passive job seeker when sourcing talent. As many as 75% of the market are passive candidates which means that while they’re not actively looking, they are open to possibilities. This is where a strong employer brand and a great candidate experience become even more important. Difficult application processes for example can be a deterrent particularly to passive candidates and the importance of effective communication and a relaxed selection environment cannot be underestimated. Inspiring Employer Brands (what we say our company is like to work for) and Talent Brands (what our people say our company is like to work for) are equally important. Building strong brands on social media takes time and a lot of planning but it is well worth the effort. The main thing is that your Employer Brand is authentic and that there is not a disconnect between what we say we are and what we actually are. The starting point is looking at our Company’s Vision, Mission and Values and ensuring that they are aligned to both our people and our customers. Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’ concept is very useful in a recruitment context as it inspires people to do the things that inspire them. People want to do meaningful work and by sharing the value of what your organisation does can help attract people who want to be part of that rather than simply advertising a bland list of duties and responsibilities. We also need to establish our employer value proposition which is basically our sales pitch and involves asking the reasons why our people enjoy working in our organisation. This process revolves around employee engagement so we should also ask staff at the same time the reasons they would consider leaving but be prepared to address those issues rather than risk stirring up resentment. While we’re here we need to understand what motivates people and while it is often cited that money is not a motivator, it is important to recognise that poor pay and benefits can often act as a demotivator putting people into financial hardship which impacts them both inside and outside of work. Ultimately this can lead to sickness absence and departure from the organisation at which point we have to start the hiring process again only to face the same issues at a later stage.

The next stage in the recruitment cycle is pre-screening. Also referred to as shortlisting, this is the term used to describe who we take forward to the selection stage and is much more complicated than often realised. This is where the job analysis will come back into play and will refer to the essential and desirable criteria outlined in this document. Telephone interviews, whilst not to be used in isolation, can be useful in identifying the strongest candidates by probing to establish if they have the required competencies. Communication is key at this stage not only to shortlisted candidates but to unsuccessful ones especially anyone who has sought feedback.

The selection stage is the next step in the process and is much more than just interviewing.  A range of selection methods increase the predication of job success with varying levels of predictability. All forms of assessment should be linked to the job analysis criteria and anything that is gimmicky is not necessarily going to find the person you are looking for. Interview questions that put people on the spot and make them feel uncomfortable only serve to affect their performance and make the interviewer feel important. Consideration should be given to different types of interviews available and the questions asked and it is often better to ask situational questions about how someone would act in a certain situation rather than ruling them out because they haven’t carried out a specific task that you’ve asked for. This does not necessarily mean that they would not be great at the job! Attention also need to be given to any scoring system in place with scoring guidance agreed in advance rather than a meaningless 1-10 ‘poor’ to ‘excellent’ rating scale.

In our role as HR practitioners we should all be aware of our requirement to conform to Equality legislation during recruitment and selection but how many of us are aware of our unconscious bias? This is when we make unconscious choices or assumptions without even thinking about it. We tend to form friendships for example with people who are like us but how often do we unconsciously rule candidates out who are not like us in favour for those who have traits and characteristics like our own?

The final stage of the recruitment cycle involves evaluation. This is where we take stock of the recruitment drive to see what has and hasn’t worked and learn lessons from this rather than thinking our job has ended once someone has been hired. We should ask our new recruits for feedback directly and even those who were unsuccessful to help improve future recruitment activities.

This article has merely touched the surface of the complexity of the recruitment cycle and my learning will only really begin once I start to practice and develop the techniques over time. What my training has highlighted however is that recruitment is much more than just about job descriptions, job adverts and interviewing and that there are an array of different processes that should compliment our internal efforts to make our organisations a great place to work.

Useful Reading

Simon Sinek - Start With Why - TED Talk 

This article is correct at 14/12/2017

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Olga Pollock
firmus energy

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