Staff recruiting is undoubtedly one of the more difficult aspects of building a business. In general, it is something that most newer small business (Small Business is defined as having less than 100 staff) do quite poorly compared to bigger businesses, and something that if focused on, will make a tremendous difference to the business’s outcomes.
For many smaller agencies, it can be a revolving door. The industry is talent starved and people move around as they gain experience and seek to improve their prospects. The owners and/or leadership needs to have a strong proposition for their employees to keep them from straying.
Then there’s the other side. People looking for work nowadays are just as discerning in who they choose to want to work for as you are in hiring them. So when your business is young, small and unknown, chances are you are not going to attract ‘dream employees’. And so your recruiting technique and effort will have to allow for that.
As you grow and become more interesting, more relevant and look like a more substantial employer, so, the quality of candidates starts to improve. In addition, as your business matures and you build out your infrastructure, systems, marketing and everything else, the two main functions that need continual effort are client acquisition and staff acquisition. Business growth depends on it.
Whatever the backdrop, recruitment is a business function that has to be performed, and performed well. As a business owner it is really important that you take the human resource components of your business very seriously. How you manage this is how your business will go.
What aspects of recruitment are not done well?
Doing a good job of recruiting is not just one thing. It’s a sequence of activities that culminate in someone new joining your firm. In most cases, the process in its entirety is not done well enough and the results reflect this. Without the people you need, you simply cannot move your business plan forward.
For most business the (typically non-formalised) process looks like this
- Compiling and posting the advertisement
- Responses handling
- Making the offer
In the age of electronic job advertising, one should take the time to understand the nuances of this medium and the psychology of job seekers in order to do this well. Once job seekers register on these sites, they are exposed to a large number of options. Your job advertisement is effectively competing with all the others for attention.
So ask yourself critically
- Is your brand recognizable to your target employee?
- Does your advert headline ‘cut through’?
- Are the pay figures on offer competitive?
- Is the description adequately ‘sexy’?
- Does your copy come across in a way that is magnetic?
- Does the advert invite a quick response?
In most cases the points above would not get more than a 5/10, simply because you don’t have the knowledge and experience that is required to pull this off with aplomb. The strength of your job advertisement will dictate the quality of the applicants.
So how can we make writing job advertisements easy?
Usually when you sit down to write a job ad, you are quite unclear about what aspects to promote and how to specify what you are looking for. So you end up with a non-specific ‘verbiage’ that does not target effectively. This will attract people who are equally non-specific in terms of what they are looking for. And that won’t work out well.
A much better way of going about this is to base your advert on the positional documentation that you use to specify the role. If you don’t have this, then you have your problem right there!
Once you have developed, used and tested a good advertisement, then you should file it such that you can easily re-use it in the future, should a similar position become vacant.
The issue you now need to deal with is dealing with ‘a high quantity of low quality applications’ that is the norm for this form of recruiting.
Better still you should develop the job advertisement at the same time that the position is defined, when you are in the thick of it and quite clear about the job’s specifics. If you do that at the same time you are doing your organisational design, then you will never have to give this topic another thought and the hardest part of recruiting will be behind you forever.
If the role is well defined and the job application done and on file, then placing an advert for a new person becomes an administrative exercise that someone at a far lower pay grade can do. Thats a win!
The handling time of responses is very important and quite commonly this is very badly dealt with.. The key point to keep in mind is that good candidates are likely to be snapped up quickly. So if your response handling is tardy, then you could well lose the better candidates right at the start. So you have to be efficient and move quickly.
Depending on the role, it is not uncommon to get over 50 or more applications, not that has any relevance other than the time required to go through them.
So how can we improve the handling of responses?
You need to be able to respond quickly and consistently and ideally make it possible for this to be done by a junior as a process step. The best way to approach this is to put all applications in to categories and deal with them on that basis. Every application tells a story about the applicant beyond their work history and qualifications. A lot can be gleaned from the context of the application
Applications will fall into the following categories:
|The ‘clicker’||Hoping to get an interview so that they can feel like they are making progress||Bland if any covering letter that does not stand out or grab your interest. Poor resumé||Quite likely not a fit. Will not respond to your emails or calls with any real enthusiasm. Hard work!|
|The lazy applicant||A sloppy covering letter if there is one at all.||Non-specific covering letter. Resumé is not very impressive and may not be relevant.||Communication may leave a lot to be desired. Does not show enthusiasm. Hard to figure them out.|
|The ‘gusher’||Very enthusiastic and keen. Says all the right things and appears excited||Great covering letter that shows interest and excitement. Let down by the resumé which is not necessarily a clear fit for the job||Trying hard to sell themselves. Job skills may be lacking.|
|The ‘real deal’||Measured and genuine.||Covering letter addresses the advert. Resumé is clear and shows a clear fit.||They will come across as capable and competent.|
To be quick and efficient, you need an effective, pre-prepared process. The main task at this point is to establish your shortlist. As the applications come through, apply the process and line your shortlist up for screening calls. If you are not quick, you may find that your best candidates have already found jobs by the time they get your response.
Ideally the handling of responses should be delegated to a junior, who does not really care about the applicants. Their focus needs to be to just apply the process and get it all done quick-sharp.
This is an essential step to qualify the candidates. It comes down to these three questions:
- What makes you the ideal candidate for this role
- What are your salary expectations
- If offered the job, how soon could you start
Anyone who does not fit these three criteria, simply does not move forward in the process. Again, this is easily delegated.
The interview is obviously crucial and this is usually the most poorly handled piece of the process. Conducting a good interview is difficult and most are quite ignorant as to how to go about it effectively. The worst outcome is that you hire someone, you invest in their on-boarding and training and then discover that they are not well suited to the role. The interview is the best tool you have to avoid that situation.
These are the common interviewing mistakes
Takes too much time: Each interview will take a minimum of one hour, sometimes longer. So getting through all of the interviews takes up a big chunk of time.
Talking too much: A common trap. You get to tell your story and they have to listen! You run out of time before you have fully assessed each candidate.
Lack of consistency: Once the interviews are over you need to make a choice. For that to be a good choice, the information you have gleaned from each candidate must be consistent. If your questions were not the same, your information will be different and you will find it harder to come to a result that you feel comfortable with.
Not probing enough: According to HireRight’s 2017 global employment screening benchmark report, 85% of candidates lie on their resumés. So you need to be able to effectively cut through to the real information. You simply cannot hire someone on the basis of misrepresentation, that would be a disaster.This takes some skill and confidence.
Lack of objectivity: Perhaps the most serious mistake. If you take a personal liking to a candidate, you will be in danger of losing some objectivity. When an interviewer talks about an interviewee using words like ‘I liked him/her’ you are in danger of losing your objectivity.
So how can you improve interviewing?
Conducting interviews so that you can make a good decision is far better handled by splitting it into stages. This then transforms a difficult task into a process. Stage1 is used to get down to a choice of the two best candidates. Stage 2 is to make the final decision.
Getting to the finalists
In many cases you will have a shortlist of 4-6 candidates that you need to cut down to 2. To save time and to increase effectiveness use group interviews. As unconventional as this sounds this is an excellent technique in a number of respects.
If you think about it, at least half of the time in an interview is spent talking about the company and the role. Repeated 4-6 times!
If you get all the candidates in the same room at the same time for that section you could save almost half the total time. What’s more the person conducting this part need not even be the actual interviewer!
Immediately after that you have a 10 minute one-on-one interviews where you ask each candidate a set of pre-prepared questions and record your results and impressions on a results table for easy comparison. Your two finalists will clearly emerge from this process because the questions and the situation is very consistent.
The final interviews
The real advantage of this process that makes choosing the best candidate very easily is the fact that you have brought it down to a straightforward comparison. In these interviews you will use mostly situational questions and judge the responses. Always have a panel of two interviewers so that you can collaborate on the decision.
For most roles there is not much ‘negotiating’. This will simply be a question about their salary expectations so that you can make a clear offer. There should be no surprises here as this question was used to qualify them right at the start.
For senior roles, this could be more involved. The kind of negotiation that you may have to perform is beyond the scope of this article.
Making the offer
By this stage, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge and you need to bring your successful candidate on board as expeditiously as possible. Yet it is quite common for them to ‘get away’ at this stage. This is something that you need to take particular responsibility for. If in the end you candidate vanishes, unless you are happy with your runner up candidate and can still get a hold of them, you have to start from scratch again!
So what goes wrong?
- The process drags on for too long and they get a more timely offer from someone else
- Their personal circumstances change. For example the original motivation for finding or changing jobs changes
- They lose interest in you business or learn something about it that they don’t like
So how can you get you offer accepted
In most cases the key remedy is to move quickly and use the right approach.
At the final interview
- Complete your salary negotiation
- Discuss a start date
- Inform them that you intend to make an offer by email
What’s in the offer?
The offer is simply a letter, broadly outlining the position you are offering, the salary and the starting date. You confirm that you will be providing them with an employment agreement within 7 days of starting. Make sure to put a 24 hour time limit on the offer. Do not include the employment agreement with the offer. They could get confused and delay accepting, subject to them and/or their advisors scrutinising it.
What makes this an easy way to recruit?
Let’s not kid ourselves, recruiting is not the easiest thing in your business. But the approach and the systems that we have developed make it a lot simpler and easier. Once this process is systemised , you can delegate large portions of it with confidence.