Brands that make a telling mark

High quality candidates are attracted to organisations that reward talent and don’t tolerate underperformance – and it is essential that firms which embrace such attitudes reflect this in their recruitment processes, say Jeff Grout and Sarah Perrin, authors of Recruiting Excellence, an insider’s guide to sourcing top talent.

Highly talented people can always find employment, even in an economic slowdown.  This means that organisations wanting to tap into that talent and recruit excellent people must ensure that they too always strive to achieve recruitment excellence.

Employer branding is important.  There is no doubt that job applicants are attracted by strong employer brands – essentially a subset of the general corporate brand that encapsulates an organisation’s values, systems, policies and behaviours with a view to attracting, motivating and retaining current and potential employees.  The brand should convey the personality of the organisation so that external candidates can develop a sense of what it might be like to work there.

Presenting consistent, positive messages and images about life inside the organisation during the recruitment process itself can strengthen the employer brand.  The message should be consistent across job adverts, recruitment presentations, brochures and applicant literature, as well as during interviews and any subsequent meetings.  For example, if your employer brand claims that the organisation is a fun and dynamic place to be, your recruitment process must itself be dynamic – efficient, slick and involving people as interviewers and assessors who present the appropriate image and style of working.

Recruitment excellence also requires a sense of candidate insight.  Try to understand what it is that individuals in the pool of target candidates seek from their working lives.  Older workers may be focused on pension contributions and financial security, but younger employees are likely to be more concerned about softer issues such as the potential for personal development, support fro a healthy work-life balance and the organisation’s external image.  Firms should try to ensure that their advertising, organisational structures and pay and benefits package reflect the target group’s needs.

Understand too that the modern employee has evolved into what could be called a ‘career mercenary’ – someone who will compare the relative advantages of different organisations and who is willing to move relatively frequently in search of new or better opportunities.  Sometimes people may move because their priorities have changed – perhaps because they are seeking a different work-life balance.  Whatever the reasons, the mobility of the modern workforce means that becoming skilled in recruitment is even more important today than ever.

It might sound simple, but given how many organisations will get this wrong, it clearly needs to be said:  it is essential to pick the right method for recruiting particular roles.  For example, advertising in the press is money down the drain unless you know that a sizeable pool of potential candidates exists.  For senior roles or those demanding rare skills, appointing a search and selection consultancy is a better bet.

Younger job hunters will almost certainly make extensive use of the Internet when researching career opportunities, so advertising through an online jobsite or through the recruiting company’s website is a good investment when filling junior positions.

If you do decide that the best option is to advertise a vacancy, select the most appropriate media for the target candidate pool.  Try to design the advert so as to build on the employer brand by involving your marketing team in the process.  Include the key information that candidates look for, such as job title, salary, location and the recruiting organisation’s name.  Provide the maximum number of ways for candidates to apply, including fax numbers and an email address as well as a postal address.

If advertising online, adjust the advert style:  online ads are typically 25 per cent shorter than conventionally printed ads so as to avoid browsers the chore of having to scroll through several PC screens.

Once the recruiting process is underway, keep it moving.  This means responding to applications quickly, and giving prompt decisions after interviews and assessment centre sessions.  Candidates can lose enthusiasm if kept dangling and the best will be snapped up by more efficient recruiters.

The interview remains a key part of most recruitment processes.  Effective interviewing is therefore a key requirement for any organisation seeking to identify and employ the most talented people, and those most likely to succeed within it.  Unfortunately, not everyone has natural interviewing ability.  The problem is that job candidates tend to associate the interviewers they encounter with the organisation itself.  If the interviewer is unprepared and uninspiring, the chances are the interviewee will conclude that the organisation itself is not of the highest rank.

Never forget that when conducting an interview you are not only trying to assess the candidate, but the candidate will also be assessing you.  A professionally conducted interview will create a positive impression on candidates, not only of the interviewer, but also of the organisation.

The good news is that interviewing skills can be developed through training and practice.  Once the skills are learned, they must be maintained.  In general, any interviewer must always prepare in advance by reviewing the candidate’s application and lining up questions designed to get at the heart of the candidate’s real experience and working style.  Competency based interviewing techniques are particularly valuable, enabling you to ask questions that focus in increasing detail on specific examples of how a candidate behaved in a particular situation.  If you subscribe to the notion that a leopard doesn’t readily change its spots, how someone behaved in the past is an excellent indicator of how they are likely to behave in the future.

Assessment techniques such as popularity questionnaires and aptitude and skills tests provide additional information when making a selection decision.  The type of assessment selected should be appropriate for the vacancy.  Even simple options can be effective.  For example, asking short listed candidates to prepare a brief presentation on a key issue currently facing the organisation can give you valuable information about their ability to research a topic, as well as their communication skills.

Note that recruitment excellence is not achieved at the point that the perfect candidate has accepted your job offer.  The most outstanding recruitment activity will come to nothing if your new recruit is disillusioned once he or she joins the firm.

Recruitment and retention are interdependent aspects of maintaining the quantity and quality of personnel your organisation needs.  Effective recruitment can reinforce retention, and vice versa.

You can help to get your new recruit off to a flying start, and reinforce his or her positive view of the organisation, by creating an effective induction process.  Planning for an individual’s successful induction must start early.  For example, if assessments used in the recruitment process identified any immediate training needs, these need to be built into the induction programme.

The induction plan should also make sure that someone has responsibility for greeting the joiner on day one and making sure they have somewhere to sit.  Plans need to be made for giving the new joiner an initial briefing on departmental practices and processes, and outlining initial work schedules.  The induction plan should also clarify how the new recruit’s progress will be monitored, and his or her key priorities in a given timescale.  Appointing a ‘buddy’ or partner whom the new joiner can turn to for help or advice can also assist the induction process.  This buddy could be a colleague doing a similar job in the same department or someone of equivalent status in another department.

At the end of any recruitment exercise it is always worth reviewing what happened.  Could anything have been done better?  Employers can use new recruits’ induction sessions as opportunities fro gaining feedback on their experiences during the recruitment process.  They may well be able to make suggestions for improvement.

High quality candidates are attracted to organisations that reward talent and don’t tolerate underperformance.  It is essential, therefore, that your recruitment process is seen as part of an overall human resource strategy that encourages high calibre personnel.  That strategy should include a rigorous selection process for new applicants and an objective and transparent continuous appraisal mechanism giving regular feedback.  Performance related pay and structures to deal with underperformance (including the termination of employment contracts) all emphasise that your organisation is a high quality organisation, and one where talented individuals will be rewarded for their ability and efforts.Creating a positive impression at interview

  • Little things can make a big impression on candidates
  • Check your facts about the candidate and prepare questions in advance
  • Don't keep the candidates hanging around in reception
  • Choose an interview room where you will not be interrupted
  • Try to relax the candidate before launching into the interview
  • Pay attention to the candidate's responses
  • Don't talk too much about yourself
  • Give a brief, positive description of the organisation and its culture at the end of the interview
  • Offer to answer any questions
  • Be clear about when the candidate can expect to hear from you
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