How to improve your recruitment process

Photo: Negative Space

There is perhaps no other decision faced by Human Resources professionals, that comes with such great responsibility, and yet so much uncertainty at the same time, than hiring a new person. There are endless resources with good advice on how to manage the entire process from advertising to appointing the candidates, and recruitment over the years has become its own industry, from agencies to thought-leaders, apps and software, to certification and training organisations.

And even though the industry is booming, particularly in the current labour market context, the majority of tools and methods we apply to attract and hire employees have proven to be not efficient in predicting future work performance, employee engagement and organisational success. As so much depends on finding and holding on to the right people, I venture it is time to spend some time on reflecting about our recruitment habits and re-consider some of the tools and approaches we deploy.

Skills, skills, skills…. and yet, chit-chat

A number of surveys in recent years have confirmed that the skills and talent of their employees is growing in importance to companies, and organisations also report that finding the right talent, meaning the right people with the right skills and the right potential, is getting increasingly difficult. This means lots of unfilled vacancies in a growing number of sectors and countries. This trend alone would have had to surely influence the way organisations are viewing their hiring practices, as ensuring the right talent pipeline is business critical.

Yet about 70% of organisations do not measure the Return on Investment (ROI) of their recruitment activity. We know that skills, talent, intrinsic motivation and a good cultural fit are vital, and yet, what do we do? We sift through a mountain of CVs, and toss candidates into the “yes” and the “no” pile.

Then we sit with the short-listed candidates in an office and have a good ol’ chit-chat in order to “get to know them better”, and then we make decisions, which are based on… based on what? Our gut feeling? A score-card? The chemistry? According to a recent CIPD report, three-quarters of organisations experienced recruitment difficulties in 2017 and a tenth had trouble recruiting for more than 50% of their roles. Yet the vast majority of organisations still uses assessing CVs and then interviews as their main method of selection – which only predicts future role performance 14-15% of the time.

We make decisions about hiring persons, which are based on… based on what? Our gut feeling? A score-card? The chemistry? Click To Tweet

Employers are increasingly willing to spend money on both recruitment outsourcing for agencies and technology, and are also increasingly investing in employee engagement programmes, yet very few organisations (with the likes of Google) have actually placed their recruitment practice under a microscope to understand:

– Who are the people we want to work here?
– Who are the people who will take this organisation to the next level?
– Who are the people currently interested in working for us?
– How are we attracting them?
– How are we making the selection – and most importantly – is it effective?

Let’s admit it… we are all full of bias

The average time for a recruiter to assess a CV is about 6 seconds. Based on the information we process in that time we make decisions about whether to continue with the candidate and invite him or her to the interview, or not.

Let us take a little neuroscience detour to understand what exactly is going on here. At any given moment we are bombarded by a vast amount of information, and millions of neurons in our brain are processing them. In order to save energy and to select only the few that are really important for us, our brain creates shortcuts, so we can deal with the world around us without overwhelm. This is called bias.

You have probably heard about the recent Starbucks scandal, where a Starbucks employee called the police on two African American young men sitting down without ordering anything. Turns out they were waiting for someone, but the employee decided to dial 911 only two minutes after they have entered. This is a highly mediatised and quite extreme case of racial bias – but make no mistake, we are all full of different bias, and unless we become aware of them they will continue to heavily influence our decision making – and not always to the best interest of our organisations.

We are all full of different bias, and unless we become aware of them they will continue to heavily influence our decision making - and not always to the best interest of our organisations. Click To Tweet

Think back to the last couple of times you went through a hiring process. Did you prefer candidates that went to the same school? Who were your age? Who do the same sports as you? That’s the natural thing to do – because we are all biased towards the familiar. However, a number of studies (Delivering through Diversity, McKinsey, January 2018) show, that diversity is really good for the organisations, and this is why we need to confront our unconscious bias. We may think we will feel more comfortable working with someone who resembles us, but this is not to the benefit of organisations in today’s context.

Some of the most common bias that influence our decisions are around gender, age, race, affinity, disability and school. If you would like to test yourself, whether you jump to conclusions about people based on their gender, skin colour or name, you can take the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) on this website for free. The research was then formulated into a book titled Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, in which Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald explore hidden biases that we all carry from a lifetime of experiences with social groups – age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, or nationality.

Better retention via better recruitment

At any given moment, about half of the workforce is considering changing jobs and even changing careers. As the war for talent increases, employers really need to up their game on the retention front, but one of the main predictors of employee longevity is the fit between the person and their job-role.

There are a lot of different factors that come into play to determine if somebody will enjoy their work, engage with it and really pour their whole self and their energy into the performance of that role. In some sectors, like fintech, where a couple of lines of code can make a bank lose or gain a couple of million EUR, finding, attracting and keeping the right IT professional is taken incredibly seriously. My main mission with this article is to hopefully pass a couple of messages about the importance of reverse-engineering the recruitment processes, that the point of departure is no longer the process (CVs plus interviews), but the needs of the organisation and the kind of person it needs to add to the team.

The point of departure is no longer the process (CVs plus interviews), but the needs of the organisation and the kind of person it needs to add to the team. Click To Tweet

Technology for sure is very useful in a manner of ways, from adding to the recruitment channels, to enabling a smoother candidate experience and analytics could even be applied to predict certain outcomes. The solutions however are not in the technology, but in the methodology. So here are a couple steps organisations can take to improve their recruitment practice and hopefully improve job-person fit and retention too:

1. Become aware of your bias and counter them by asking yourself the simple question: “so what?”. The candidate has a tattoo? So what? The candidate has been engaged in a bit of job-hopping? So what? We may be jumping to conclusions that have perhaps nothing to do with how well the candidate is suited for the job, but much more with our past experiences. It’s time to get over them.

2. If you still want to interview people – that’s fine. However, consider adding other tools to the process. Try to engage the candidate in a conversation about process, and not only eliciting solutions. Set a number of real challenges to the interviewee and observe how the approach problem-solving, collaboration. How do they react to failure and to success? At what point do they change strategy. When do they elicit help? All of these will greatly improve your ability to make the right choice.

3. Why not invite the final shortlisted candidates for a day of job-shadowing? Allow them to fall in love with your organisations before they are hired, or perhaps the opposite, both parties may decide that it’s not the right fit. Making big life-decisions based on a corporate recruitment website, a job-ad and one meeting is a relatively risky choice.

Hiring for potential and skills are the way to go to ensure the right skills-match and also the right culture fit. Hiring based on past experiences and the interview are a very poor predictor of how the employer-employee relationship will unfold. So in order to maximize the chances for the beginning of a great collaboration, take another look at your recruitment processes and address those leaks in the pipeline.

How to improve your recruitment process

Photo: Pexels

The Zukunft Personal Europe 2018 will offer a number of very relevant and provocative talks on the future of talent management and recruitment, make sure you don’t miss out on those, so that you can maximise your talent management budget and the return on the investment in recruitment. Join us in Halle 3.1, where you will be able to meet a great variety of recruitment companies and service providers. Make sure you also visit some of the smaller exhibitors, with the likes of Firstbird, Talentwunder and Talentry, who are helping you enlarge your hiring and talent pool through referral programmes and social media recruiting, innovating the referral aspect in hiring.

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