5 Secrets to Successful Recruiting

Over the years many people have told me that they “hate” recruitment, which I can never understand.  As one of my favourite professional pastimes, here are my 5 top tips to make your campaigns successful, based on my own extensive experiencehiring of recruitment and assessment activities.

Step 1 – Planning

I would argue that this is THE most important part of the process and frequently the stage which is overlooked or rushed.  So, when a vacancy arises, ensure you allow sufficient time to consider the requirements of the organisation and role.  Often every day pressures force employers into hiring someone quickly, therefore simply re-using a former document or advert, or calling the same recruitment agency.  This may not necessarily get the results the organisation needs.  So, before you charge ahead, give some thought to the following:

  • Think about your existing team – what skills do you have and what do you need?
  • Future needs of the organisation – think wider/broader, what do you really need?
  • The true role and responsibilities of the new hire – avoid over or under-selling the role
  • Timescales – including allocating time for sifting and selection
  • Whether any interim resource is required until you find your ideal employee
  • Budget for the campaign
  • Resource for managing the recruitment campaign effectively


Step 2 – Documentation

Once you have defined your needs, the next step is to ensure this is supported in your documentation – the job description, person specification and any chosen means of advertising.  Be as clear as possible when trying to attract new employees.  This is an opportunity to promote your business and the role on offer, so do so honestly and clearly (which in my humble opinion includes the salary).   This will help you to attract suitable candidates, rather than wading through reams of unsuitable ones.  Or worse still, getting to the end with your ideal candidate then they refuse because the salary is too low…

So, how can you be clear?  Set out the skills, experience and attributes you are looking for in your person specification.  Ensure that your requirements do not directly or indirectly discriminate in any way.  This document should then underpin the rest of the recruitment process and in the interests of fairness and best practice, should not be changed after you have advertised.

Sometimes, there can be a real temptation to turn this into a “fishing trip” once the CV’s land and you see skills you think are interesting.  However if you have covered the planning stage effectively, hopefully any such skills will be in addition to your requirements.


Step 3 – Attracting Applicants

Think carefully about how to reach your target audience, as often the best candidates are not necessarily looking.  Consider using a variety of methods ie. social media, use of your website, networks, specialist media, recruitment consultants etc. Some of my clients have seen great success using social media.  It provides a great cost-effective way of attracting people and sometimes finding those passive candidates, who may not be looking until your cleverly-worded message sparks their attention.  Remember it is a two-way process, so think about what you are offering to any new employee and what may appeal to the job-seeker.

Always offer candidates at least two alternative methods of submitting their application and again think carefully about application methods to avoid discrimination.  Application forms can offer a consistent way of gaining information.


Step 4 – Selection

Consider the best way of testing the criteria you asked for in the person specification and ensure any sift is documented thoroughly.  In the unfortunate event that any decisions made are challenged, it is important that you can objectively justify why you have selected one applicant over another.

Use of assessment centres has grown significantly in popularity and can be a good way of testing particular skills and behaviour through role plays, presentations, written activities and so on (and can be a lot of fun!)  In the past, organisations have presented me with “fantastic” candidates, who have interviewed well, but when faced with practical activities have turned out to be quite far removed from what the organisation needs, or indeed thought they may be getting!  Statistics show that assessment centres are a more reliable predictor of behaviour than interviews alone (source BPS).  However they are not right for every role, so whatever you decide, make the activities relevant and proportional to the role.  If using interviews, best practice suggests that structured competency based interview questions will test evidence of behaviours and performance more comprehensively than others (ie. hypothetical “what if” questions).  You should also have two interviewers.  If you are trying to improve diversity, think about how this is reflected on your interview panel.  Independent Assessors can be a good additional resource at this point and bring an extra level of impartiality.

With any methods, ensure that all candidates are subject to the same process.  With interview questions, prepare some core questions which will allow you to explore the relevant competencies.  However, you will also need to take into account the applicant’s experience, therefore be prepared to ask supplementary or probing questions to explore their responses in more detail.  Good listening skills are vital!

Practically, also think about the finer detail, such as interview confirmation letters, information sent to candidates, who will greet them at the venue and how will you professionally put candidates at ease on the day.


Step 5 – Making the Offer

Once you’ve found your ideal candidate, don’t become complacent.  Accepting a new role can often be daunting, so put yourself in the candidate’s shoes to reduce the risk of losing them at this late stage in the process.  Issue the paperwork promptly and accurately and if there are likely to be delays for any reasons, keep them informed.  Communication is key, make them feel important and welcome and give some thought to how you will plan their induction when they join your organisation.

Also communicate to unsuccessful applicants.  This promotes a positive image of you as an employer and also leaves you with options should your ideal candidate not join for any reason.  Don’t fall into the trap of leaving them until after the successful candidate has joined.  Time permitting, consider offering feedback, maybe to the stronger candidates.  Whilst this can be time consuming, again it creates a positive feeling with candidates and may leave you with potential future employees should something more suitable arise.


And Finally…

Above all, recruitment can offer a great opportunity to promote your organisation positively and needn’t be a chore when planned properly.  It should always be a two-way process, allowing the candidate to find out more about your organisation, alongside portraying your requirements to help you to gain the best “fit”.  As mentioned, the initial investment in planning can pay dividends further along in the process.

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