5 simple ways to make recruitment better

I’m a supporter of the Good Recruitment Campaign and will often help out my friends at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation by going and speaking on the value of good recruitment. I do it simply because I believe it matters.

I wouldn’t mind betting that all of us have been through a recruitment process that completely sucks. And yet, we don’t do enough as professionals to strive to improve the overall quality of the recruitment experience.

When I call this out, the pushback I hear is, “I don’t have the time” or “I don’t have the resource”. Which frankly is just a pitiful excuse for inaction.

Here’s five things you can do tomorrow that don’t take any time or resource but make a hell of a difference;

  1. Commit to a timeline – tell candidates how the process will work, when you’ll communicate to them and stick to your commitments.
  2. Set the standards – be clear what you’re looking for, how candidates will be assessed and what success looks like.
  3. Get personal – refer to candidates by name, not “candidate” or “sir/madam”. Remember they’re a human being with human emotions too!
  4. Give and receive – depending on how much effort you’re asking the candidate put in, give the same back when it comes to feedback. And don’t forget to ask what you could have done better too.
  5. Be realistic – about your requirements and what you can expect from candidates both in terms of their skills and experience and how much time they can put in to the process. After all, you’re not the only recruiter in town.

I know it sounds simple, but that’s because it is. Ask candidates and you’ll hear that time and time again these simple steps don’t happen. It wouldn’t take much for us to improve our overall performance, so why don’t we even try?

Nobody needs an HR strategy

Call it an HR strategy, a people plan, a road map. Call it whatever you like, but one thing is certain it will mostly be a waste of your time and energy.

Because being more strategic, doesn’t mean writing about it on paper. It doesn’t mean going on an away day and it certainly doesn’t mean focussing on your HR brand.

There is only one strategy that really matters and that’s your business.

Yet my experience of HR professionals is that they spend more time working on their own strategy than that of the business.


Well firstly because most businesses don’t build the people implications into their strategy in any fundamental sense (I’m not talking about the nominal “Talent” column which the board include to show that people are their greatest asset…).

Secondly, because HR Directors then try to demonstrate their commercial acumen and business value, by taking their team away to focus on the people strategy.

But the problem with doing this is that you automatically create the first degree of separation between the two. And that can then only get worse.

Instead of wasting everyone’s time and money, invest it in understanding your organisational strategy, reflect on the people requirements now and in the future and then realign your HR activities to support it.

It may not sound as big and clever, it may not be something you can have designed and put on the wall and it may not get you a day out a venue where you can indulge in your favourite ice breaker or personality profiling tool.

But it will make your business more successful, it will create meaning in what you do and it will, most likely, get you noticed by the people who really matter as they start to see you genuinely add value.

We’re a little bit funny…

I work in HR.

I don’t save lives, cure diseases or run the risk of being maimed on a daily basis. Nobody dies as a result of my actions.

And in most cases, this is the same for all of us.

So why on earth do we come across as such an over earnest, serious and downright unengaging profession?

A few weeks back I wrote a post that was just for a bit of a laugh. In fact, if you read to the bottom of the post it is tagged as “humour”. No you may think that my humour sucks, I get that a lot, especially when I tell my joke about the nuns in the bath. But to accuse me of knocking the HR profession on the back of a lighthearted, playful throwaway piece of writing is just……well silly.

But this isn’t so much about that, but about our inability to laugh at some of the things that we do. Because, let’s face it….we do a lot of dumb stuff.

And just because we do a lot of important and meaningful work, shouldn’t mean that we can’t have a bit of humour and lighthearted observation around the things that……aren’t.

Our ability to be a profession that can cope with the light hearted as well as the earnest seems to me to be one of the missing links. I’m not talking about organised fun, or the icebreakers we impose on people to test their willpower and commitment. I’m talking about being able to just have a laugh.

Imagine a workplace where people say, “the HR are team are really cool, they’re great fun….you should hang out with them at the Christmas party”. Imagine a world where people valued us for our personalities as well as our professional capabilities.

Imagine a world where we could laugh at ourselves. And take a moment to consider whether our inability to be human, to laugh and be just a little bit frivolous and light hearted, might just be one of the things that is holding us back.

Dump the internal customer

When I hear people refer to “internal customers”, my hackles get raised. It dates back to my years in retail, my CEO then had a mantra that there was only one customer – the one that came in to the shop. It’s a logic that really sticks with me and something that I hold dear to this day.

Put simply, I HATE the concept of an internal customer. And I DOUBLE HATE it, when referring to HR and “the business”.

I get the allure of referring to a customer service mentality, and the seeming simplicity of applying this to assuage the views of HR as bureaucratic. But when things seem too good to be true, they usually are. And in this case, the simplicity hides a number of major faults with this approach which makes it more of a distraction than a cure.

Customer implies a value transaction and yet in most organisations, this doesn’t occur. There are some that engage in internal charging models, but this tends to become more a bureaucratic source of dissatisfaction. How much would a pay award cost? Is there a mark up on it? What’s my cut?

Customer implies a choice of whether to transact, but in most cases we’re not suggesting any level of choice. “Do you want to use the disciplinary process or not? It’s a bargain I promise. In fact, I tell you what, if you buy one I’ll throw in a second one for free”.

Customer implies a power imbalance. What happens when HR is serving someone from IT, but that person is serving someone from Finance, who in turn is serving someone from HR? Who is the customer and who is the provider? Or are we back in the world of bartering? “Give me some training and I’ll fix your PC”, “Wait, I can do better than that, fix my PC and I’ll turn a blind eye to your budget overspend…..”

And therein is my biggest issue with internal customers, it makes an industry of the internal machinations of the organisation and takes us away from our true focus on the customer, the consumer, the procurer or purchaser. Whatever industry we are in, we are there to provide something to someone external. That is why we exist. If HR wants to be commercial then it would be better off getting the business to focus outside, rather than in.

I don’t have customers. I don’t have a customer service mentality. I have colleagues, team mates, co-workers, friends and collaborators. Together I want to work hard to deliver the best for the business and the people who interact with us.

Because they’re the real people we serve.