Shooting yourself in the foot, the recruiter way

The term, “war for talent” is both divisive and massively open to interpretation. But I can tell you that, if there is one, a lot of recruiters are busy taking aim and shooting themselves in both feet.

Over the ten years I’ve been blogging, I’ve come back to this topic again and again, yet little seems to change. Now that could be a reflection of my lack of influence, or the inherent failings in the recruitment industry.

Most of us have started our working lives doing part time, temporary employment – maybe whilst at school, college or university. It’s our first experience of the world of work and the first experience of recruitment. When I was a teenager that might have been with an independent shop, pub or restaurant but with the changing face of the high street it’s increasingly likely that a young person now will experience this with a chain.

A chain that will hopefully have this young person not just as an employee, but as a consumer. Yet my observation of their collective recruitment practices is one of woeful inadequacies and systemic failure.

Let’s be clear, recruitment is not the same as bidding for an item on eBay, it is a deeply personal transaction. Rejection in recruitment is rejection of a human being, not a bid. It simply isn’t good enough to have an automated acknowledgement and then radio silence. It isn’t good enough to have a line saying, “unless you’ve heard from us within 14 days, assume you’ve been unsuccessful”. And to even think it is, suggests a deeply flawed understanding of the consumer/candidate interface.

Let’s flip it on it’s head. Can you imagine receiving an automated response from a candidate saying, “Thank you for your job offer, if you haven’t heard from me In two weeks assume I’ve rejected the offer.”? What would you make of them? Arrogant?

See where I’m going with this?

That’s before we unpick the detailed connection between the treatment of candidates and their relationship with your brand. You can talk all you like about candidate experience, but unless you define the experience you want to give and transform your processes to deliver it, you might as well be talking about the price of coal.

Recruiters, my ask of you is this. Treat candidates as you’d want a love one to be treated, regardless of their stature and status. Your summer or Christmas temp could one day be your CEO, that is if they haven’t started a new enterprise that will eventually put you and your company out of business.

Are we there yet? The art of onboarding.

So you’ve made the hire, done the deal, the offer has been sent and accepted. Now you just have to wait until they’re finished in their current gig to join. Job done.

Or is it?

That period between offer and commencement might be a chance to get on with things for you as a line manager or recruiter. But what about the candidate? What is going on for them and how can you possibly help them during that interval?

As a candidate you’ve been through the competition, you’ve landed the prize, you’ve won. You’ve the sense of elation, the satisfaction, the excitement. And now the wait…

It is a funny period of time psychologically, you’re neither one place or another. You have hopes for the future that you can’t fulfil and attachments to the past that are slowly separating. It is the ultimate transition.

First of all, don’t forget communication. Stay in touch by text, by email, with a call. Especially when the notice period is long, maintaining contact can maintain the positive bond that has been made during the recruitment period.

Think about the sorts of materials or information that you can send in advance – are there business reports, structure charts, handbooks or brochures that go beyond the offer pack that would be helpful?

How can you prepare them for day one? What practical and helpful information can you make available to them? Where will they be, what will they do, what should they wear, where can they get lunch, what do they need to bring?

How can you maintain engagement beyond your personal relationship? Think about the opportunities to meet other people, to attend company events, to have a coffee or a breakfast or a glass of wine. Start creating the supportive network before day one.

Onboarding is more than paperwork, it is about the psychological transition from one organisation to another, from one state to another. Done well, it can not only enhance your employer brand, but also increase the speed at which your new hire starts to be productive and at ease in both the organisation and their role.

 

Give better interview

Let me start this piece with a giant caveat – I know I’m not the world’s best interviewer. I get bored, I have a tendency to wander in to areas that interest me and I want to explore and I have (on the very odd occasions) been known to be judgemental – don’t wear Christmas socks to an interview with me in March.

Whilst I’m willing to accept my own foibles are far from ideal, I’m also constantly surprised by the approach taken to interviewing by HR professionals and business leaders alike. Let me put it another way…

If you were making any other £50,000 investment decision, would you turn up to the investment meeting five minutes late, not having read the investment proposals and make a decision based on a variety of criteria and questions that have little if anything to do with the required product or service?

Ultimately each piece of recruitment, each interview is exactly that – a piece of procurement. And as such there are simple steps we can take to make sure we increase our chances of a better outcome.

  • Looking far and wide for the best providers (recruits)
  • Carry out good research and due diligence on the shortlist (application process)
  • Assessing against relevant and comparable criteria (interview questions)
  • Selecting based on moderated assessments (marking and rating of interviewers)

Too often we approach the interview process through the lens of employment law and regulatory requirements. And whilst this is a necessary consideration it shouldn’t be our ultimate focus.

Best practice is about best outcome and delivering real commercial value, perhaps more than anything else.

5 interview questions that you’re asking (but probably shouldn’t)

1) Where would you like to be in five/ten years’ time?

Nothing says, “tell me a bag of lies” like this question. Given the chance to answer honestly, most of us would probably say, “on a beach, having won the lottery, without the need to work for any other sucker, ever again”. Instead we say, “I’d like to think my career would have progressed, that I’ve taken on more responsibility and I’m well respected by my colleagues” or if we think we are uniquely funny, “sat on the other side of this table”. *Groan*

Possible alternative question: How do you see this role fitting in to your overall career? What else would you like to do/achieve in your life?

2) If I were to ask your current colleagues what they thought about you, what would they say?

If you really want to know, why don’t you ask them? Because if you ask me, I’m going to tell you that I’m a good team player, I’m well respected and that I have a good sense of humour. In addition, my mother also loves me – but you don’t need to know that either. I get what we are trying to do with this question, but if you’re a sociopathic lunatic, singularly hated by your peers, you’re not going to say that. Are you?

Possible alternative question: How do you go about getting feedback from others? What have you learnt?

3) What are your weaknesses/areas for development?

The Catch 22 question which begs the obvious answer – “I’m a perfectionist”. Are you? Or have you just rehearsed the most clichéd response to the most cliched question ever? Again we’re just asking for a lot of hot air and nonsense, which will give us very little to differentiate the candidates with. If you’re really interested in finding out, try asking them what they’re currently working to improve and how. Try answering perfectionism to that one….

Possible alternative question: What are you working on improving at the moment? What would you like to be better at?

4) How do you handle conflict in the work place?

Let’s go Pinocchio! Are you the ostrich that buries their head in the sand? Or the sewer rat that likes to undermine colleagues in a silent but deadly manner? You’re going to tell me now that I’ve asked the question, aren’t you? You were just waiting for the opportunity to spill your guts on the darkest aspects of your psyche and here is the moment, right now, in the middle of an interview, in front of people who you want to impress. Where else could be more perfect?

Possible alternative question: When have you experienced a situation where there has been conflict between colleagues at work? How did you feel about it? Why?

5) Why did you apply for this specific role?

I have to admit to being guilty of variations on this one (I’m not perfect, ask my mum), but really what on earth am I expecting to learn that would help me differentiate between two candidates? What evidence could I possibly elicit that would be helpful to me in making a choice on who to recruit? This is a classic example of recruiter vanity – I want you to tell me how wonderful we are, how we are the company for you….tell me you love me.

Possible alternative question: Which aspects of this job are particularly appealing to you? Which elements would be the biggest stretch? Why?