The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Top Ten Tips: To recruit better

by Paul Halliwell, The Urquhart Partnership

Firstly, what do we mean by ‘Recruit Better’? Is it just getting the right person? No, there is much more to it than that…

There are 3 ways in which a poor recruitment strategy can have a negative effect on your business:
  • Getting the wrong person
  • Taking too much time to get the person
  • Spending too much money getting the person

Below are 10 ways to reduce the risk of these 3 things happening…

1. Think of your recruitment as a project
Recruitment is a process with 4 distinct sections – Clarify, Source, Select and Start. Clarify who you need, work out where you will source potential candidates, define the selection techniques you will use and create a plan for the person to start. Build these 4 sections into a project plan, with milestones, owners and required resource and things will run far smoother.

2. Clarify who you are looking for
What skills, knowledge and experience do you need from the person and what type of person, in terms of behaviour, personality and culture fit are you looking for? Bear in mind that skills, knowledge and experience can be trained into a person, whereas the right behaviours and personality that a person displays are far harder to change. What are the goals and targets of the role? Have you got a job description and/or person specification? Do you actually need to recruit someone or is there another way? Answering these potentially challenging questions will make the rest of your project fit together better.

3. Work out your sourcing strategy
Sourcing is how you find your pool of potential candidates, the people who you will make the choice from. This could be agencies, advertisements, recommend a friend schemes, social media etc. If you are going to advertise, look closely at what media you will use, don’t just choose the ones you always have. Is there a specific publication for the area of your business that the role sits in? Remember you are writing an advert, not a notification, so you should be looking to ‘sell’ your company to potential candidates. Are there free sourcing strategies you can use – such as Twitter and LinkedIn? Do you know how to use these? And finally who do you and your current employees know? Are you motivating your people to ask around their own networks?
If you are thinking of using agencies, bear in mind that they are mainly just a part of your sourcing strategy, not your selection process. You’ll still be reviewing CVs and carrying out at least one interview, and the cost of their sourcing can be significant. Driving down an agency on their rate could lead to them choosing not to forward their best candidates, because if they have another client paying a higher rate, it’s commercially sensible for them to send the best candidates to them.

4. Define your selection techniques
Many companies rely purely on a read through of a CV and standard biographical interviews in their selection process and combine these with a large element of gut feel. Is this the wrong thing to do? Not necessarily but it certainly has significant risks involved. CVs are advertisements from candidates and therefore accentuate positives. Are you selecting someone on the basis of their suitability or their skill at writing a CV?


Interviewing is a skill and like most skills it gets better with training. If someone is an experienced interviewer, does that mean that they are a good interviewer? Have you or your nominated interviewers been trained in the skills required? Think about this… if you were to recruit someone on a £25k salary who you could reasonably expect to work for you for 3 years, you are looking at a £75k investment. Are you comfortable making such an investment based on what could be a mix of unskilled interviewing and gut feel?
The use of behavioural profiling, psychometric testing, assessment centres, competency based interviews and role plays can all significantly enhance the success of the selection process – which of these are you able to deliver?

5. Set your timescales
There are 2 reasons for doing this. Firstly, if you have to have someone in place by a given date, you can work backwards and check how feasible it is. You need to have defined the steps you are taking in sourcing and selection to be able to work out your timescales. The second benefit of having timescales is that you can start to check your resource capabilities. Can you actually carry out interviews at the time when you want to? Are you in the office? Is there an important conference to attend?
The impact of recruiting on your time is a key factor often missed by businesses. Once you start to calculate the time spent on sourcing (however you choose to do it), selection (planning interviews, arranging them, preparing for them, actually carrying out the interviews and then reviewing), plus all the other associated work involved, you could easily find a week's worth of time has gone. Can you afford that time?

6. Think Legal
Without being too clichéd, recruitment is a minefield. From the wording of your advertisements to the criteria you use to select and especially the questions you ask at interview. It pays to be aware of what you can and cannot do.

7. Keep people informed
As you start to receive applications and meet people, bear in mind that every candidate could be a potential future customer, rival or colleague. As well as common courtesy it could be beneficial to have a process which keeps people informed of where they are in your process. Firstly, it will reduce unwanted phone calls from them. Secondly, your applicants could be suitable for other roles you may have in the future.
If you have chosen to use agencies for your sourcing, it’s worthwhile to make it clear to them how you want to operate. They will chase you for feedback on CVs and interviews and you want this to be at your convenience, not theirs. This will help you manage the amount of time you spend on the recruitment project.

8. Get to know your shortlist
Once you are at the stage of having a final few candidates in mind, it’s always worthwhile to get to know them better. After all, if you only meet them at interview, it’s a formal environment where neither you nor they will be totally at ease. Think about bringing candidates in to meet the team or for an informal lunch. Getting a second opinion, either by having a co-interviewer or by having someone else carry out a second interview, allows a more rounded opinion of your candidate to be gained.

9. Plan your induction
Starting a new job would be in most people’s top 10 stressful occasions in life. Always put yourself in the shoes of the new starter when you are planning an induction. Even better, when you make them an offer and it is accepted, call them and ask them what they would like to be included in their induction. Once you have an outline, get the right people involved and make sure you have a clear goal for each session of the induction.

10. Ask yourself some honest questions
Once you have got a project plan in place, you then need to ask yourself some honest questions. In your business, do you have the time, skills and financial resources to carry out the plan you have designed? Does it make commercial sense for you to be involved in the recruitment process, or would it be better to bring in resource instead? What effect will taking on this project have on your day to day activities? If the answers cause you concern, seek advice…

The Urquhart Partnership is skilled in supporting companies of all sizes in achieving excellent recruitment results. We do this by creating a bespoke recruitment plan delivering ideal candidates, at lower rates than agencies, in a way which minimises the time impact on the client.

For further information please contact:
Paul Halliwell
ph@upwebsite.com or Stephen Seymour ss@upwebsite.com

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