Human Resources

Something that doesn’t get enough attention when thinking about recruitment, is that for the majority of people who attend an interview with your business it will be their only direct interaction with your company.

How they are treated throughout that process, good or bad, will form not only their view of your business but indirectly your ability to attract good people in the future.

The most common complaints candidates make about a recruitment process are:

  • They didn’t receive any feedback from the interview;
  • The process dragged on;
  • If they had known more about the role they wouldn’t have attended the interview and the interview was a waste of time;

All of which are very avoidable if you take some time to effectively plan the recruitment process.

The key areas you need to think about when planning your recruitment include:

  • Time Frame;
  • Recruitment Strategy;
  • Job Description;
  • Interview Process & Feedback;
  • Offer, Contracts and Induction Period;

Time Frame

Setting a time frame is important because it gives everyone a deadline to work towards and it will help you:

  • Differentiate between what is desirable criteria and what is essential criteria;
  • Determine what kind of process you need to run; and
  • Create a sense of urgency;

A simple start point is:

  • State date – X;
  • Offer accepted, and resignation – Allow for 28 days (in most cases for permanent positions);
  • Offer made and contract out to candidate – Allow for 2 days;
  • Final Interview – Allow for 1 day;
  • Each interview prior to that – Allow for up to a week;
  • Short list – Allow for up to a week between short list and first interview;
  • Search stage – Allow for 2 weeks;
  • Brief agency / internal recruitment team;

As you can see, assuming a 2 interview process and not allowing for any adjustments in the search parameters or testing, you are looking at 8 weeks between when you brief an agency to when the new hire starts.

Some easy ways to reduce this time is:

  • Agree interview times for each interview stage – If you do this the recruiter will prepare each candidate that they need to keep times free to attend future interviews;
  • Use a specialist recruiter – Most specialist recruiters will have short lists of 3 ready to go for positions they regularly recruit. Meaning you can ask to meet there best 3 while they undertake a search specific for your role;
  • If there is a risk that you will need to adjust the search criteria, you can run 2 processes at once, that is meet candidates that fit the ideal candidate profile and those that fit just the essential criteria of the role;

Making the above adjustment to run an efficient process will reduce the time it takes for you to fill a given position and creates a real sense of urgency which candidates and recruiter alike respond well to.

Recruitment Strategy

Assuming you decide to use a recruiter there are, broadly speaking, 3 ways of engaging with an agency:

  • Contingent search;
  • Exclusive search;
  • Retained search;

Contingent Search:

A contingent search is when you agree with a recruitment agency that a fee will only be paid should said agency introduce a candidate you hire.

Contingent recruitment is by far the most widely used method because it allows businesses the advantage of using the network of multiple agencies without any initial financial commitment.

Beware though, there are a few problems with using multiple agencies, including:

  • Lack of consistency. By that I mean you are less likely to see change or continuous improvement in candidates presented if 5 first round interviews are through 5 different recruiters, than if they are through the 1 recruiter, because you can only provide feedback on an individual rather than the group;
  • Time lost giving feedback to multiple agencies, less likely to give constructive feedback leading to lower satisfaction of those who participated in the process;
  • Candidates are often approached by multiple agencies for the same role, leading to confusion and often lower levels of engagement;
  • Low level of engagement from recruiters, a recruiter is far less likely to invest time because they will have other jobs that are more likely to see a return on that investment.

Exclusive search:

An exclusive search is, as far as a client’s financial commitment is concerned, a contingent search. The main difference being the client agrees to give an agency X amount of time to fill a position before they will accept applications from anyone else.

The most important thing from a recruiter’s point of view is that there is a high level of engagement from the client, which usually means:

  • Meeting with the hiring manager and HR where applicable;
  • Commitment from the business to meet X amount of candidates through them before making a hiring decision;
  • Agreed interview times and days;

Exclusive agreements are a good strategy for the majority of positions, including high volume positions because:

  • High level of engagement and accountability – The recruiter will feel as though they are a very realistic chance of filling the position so will prioritise exclusive positions over contingent.
  • Continuous improvement – Feedback on CV’s and interviews are going through the one person, so you are more likely to get continuous improvement rather than repetition of mistakes as you might when dealing with multiple agencies;
  • Candidate engagement – You will you be more likely to give useful feedback to everyone who participates in the process. In addition to this candidates actually respond better if they believe a position is exclusive to an agency because it creates a sense of scarcity, by that I mean better to be 1 of 5 on a short list than 1 of 5 of 5 shortlists;
  • Time efficient – Using a single agency will mean fewer interviews, fewer phone calls and as a consequence of this a quicker turn around;

Retained Search:

A retained agreement is when you agree to pay an agency part of the fee up front, part on deliver of short list and part on placement of candidates.

The more specialised the role, or the fewer candidates that exist who could do the job, the better off you are using a retained search because:

  • Specialised positions require a significant investment of time from a recruiter and, as a recruiter; if I can’t place this person somewhere else then it becomes a question of whether this is a worthwhile investment of time;

Retainers carry more initial financial risk than contingent and exclusive searches, however will deliver better results for the same reasons as an exclusive search with the additional benefit:

  • The recruiter knows they will get paid, they will prioritise filling a retained search over every other job they are recruiting for that reason;

If you have used a recruiter before and trust that they will be able to fill a job, retained search is without a doubt the most effective recruitment strategy.

Job Description

Despite having the ability to add a significant amount of value to the recruitment process, job descriptions are often at worst neglected and at best generic.

While it is probably the last thing you want to allocate time to, especially if someone has just resigned, taking the time to prepare a detailed job description will allow you to effectively:

  • Evaluate what is absolutely essential criteria for a position and what is desirable;
  • Help differentiate your job from the 100’s of similar positions on the market;
  • Minimise the risk someone will either interview for, or worse, accept a position with your business that they otherwise wouldn’t have had they known more;
  • Give candidates and the recruiter reference material to work off when preparing for an interview or submitting candidates on a short list;

As part of the process of putting together a job description, if you do decide to use a recruiter, it is a good idea to sit down with them to get a feel for:

  • What talent is currently available in the market and how realistic your expectations are with respect to time frame and salary;
  • What compromises on the job description and desirable experience you can make to make to secure someone in a shorter amount of time or for lower salary;
  • Options regarding temporary and contract staff to afford you more time to find the perfect candidate;

Interview Process & Feedback

Regardless of if you want 1 interview or 10 interviews the key points you need to address to run a successful interview process include:

  • Setting clear expectations of exactly what each candidate will need to complete prior to receiving an offer and in what order, i.e. X amount of interviews, technical test, references offer etc;
  • When and where each stage will take place;
  • What information you want to get out of each candidate at each stage, as well as what information you want to give each candidate and at each stage;
  • When feedback will be given to candidates either directly, via a recruiter or HR;

Candidates set aside a considerable amount of time to both prepare for and attend an interview, not to mention often arranging time off work to do so.  For that reason it is no surprise that the most common complaint recruiters will get from candidates who attend an interview is that they didn’t receive feedback.

Providing constructive feedback to candidates (as well as recruiters) will ensure:

  • Regardless of the outcome candidates will, including unsuccessful ones, exit the process with a positive impression of the business;
  • Candidates that are progressing are able to address any areas of concern in future interviews, giving you more information to make a decision;
  • Provide the recruiter with valuable feedback on the candidates they have presented to the business improving their performance on the current and future roles they recruit for you;

Offer, Contracts and Induction Period

The most common mistakes that lead to candidates turning down an offer:

  • Salary is less than what they wanted;
  • Candidate’s personal situation changes including being offered a job they are more interested in;
  • Business takes too long to either offer the position or get a contract out to the candidate;

If you confirm a candidate’s salary expectations and interest in a position, either directly or through the recruiter, at each stage of the recruitment process the first two mistakes are easily avoidable.

If you are in a situation where circumstances have changed and you are simply unable to offer the salary a candidate wants, they are going to feel short changed. Some options to help in this situation include:

  • Agreeing to a salary review after 6 months;
  • Bringing forward participation in bonus pool to first year of employment;
  • Signing bonus;

Once you have got the candidate’s verbal acceptance on the offer, you really need to get the contract out to them as quickly as possible.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • A candidate will not resign until they have received a written contract, delaying the start date;
  • Until a candidate has a written contract, the offer is just a promise and you leave the door open for other businesses to swoop in;
  • Every day that passes candidates will start questioning if the offer is actually coming;

I’ve recruited for some of Australia’s largest businesses, some of which, as crazy as it sounds, will never have a contract out in under a week.

Candidates can do funny things at offer if they don’t receive a contract quickly, so if you know it is going to take longer than 24 hours you need to organise to contact the candidate directly and explain the situation. It is one thing to hear it from a recruiter it is another to hear it from a hiring manager.

Once the offer is accepted, the candidate has resigned the only other tasks remaining to be done are:

  • Call the candidate, let them know you are excited that they are going to be starting with the business;
  • Make sure they have a computer, logins etc ready for day one;
  • Set clear expectations for the probation period;
  • Provide feedback throughout the probation period, even if it is as simple as, “I think you are doing a good job, we will catch up in more detail at the end of the month”

I’ll be going into more detail on each stage of the process in future posts so if there is anything that you want further clarification on or have specific examples worth addressing please feel free to get in contact and I’ll do my best to cover them in those posts.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Peter Kibble

Peter Kibble studied Organisational Psychology and Commerce at the Australian National University and is the Director of Ford Peterson, a specialist accounting and finance recruitment business in Sydney. Prior to starting Ford Peterson he was one of the highest performing consultants for an international recruitment business, successfully recruiting executive level positions for some of Australia’s leading organisations.

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