Wake Up to Recruitment

Winning the war for talent is more challenging than ever. Here are the strategies you need for effectively recruiting staff and encouraging them to stay

Recruiting and retaining the crème de la crème is a challenge for most businesses. Firms seeking to attract high-calibre personnel need to apply coherent, consistent policies to achieve their own human-resourcing goals.

Whether you want trainees at the start of their careers or experienced personnel for more senior positions, following best practice in recruiting will maximise your success rate. To recruit excellence, you must display excellence in your recruitment processes.

Being skilled in recruitment is more important today than ever, given that the modern employee has evolved into what could be described as a ‘career mercenary’ – someone who will compare the advantages of different organisations and who is willing to move frequently in search of better opportunities.

A key step towards developing improved, effective recruitment (and retention) is to develop a strong employer brand. It encompasses your organisation’s values, systems, policies and behaviours with a view to attracting, motivating and retaining current and potential employees. It also tries to convey the personality and character of the organisation so potential external candidates develop a sense of what working there might be like.

Strengthening your employer brand involves presenting positive messages about life inside your organisation. These messages need to be consistent, whether they appear in job adverts, recruitment presentations, brochures and applicant literature, during interviews or anywhere else within the recruitment process. So if your firm claims to be a dynamic place, your recruitment process must reflect that – it must be efficient, slick and involve interviewers and assessors who present a suitably dynamic image and style of working.

Try to understand what individuals in your target candidate pool seek from their working lives. Older workers may be focused on pension contributions and financial security, whereas younger employees may be more concerned about personal development, a healthy work/life balance and the organisation’s external image. Your organisational structures, advertising, and pay and benefits packages should reflect your target group’s needs.

If you advertise a vacancy, you must select the most appropriate media for your target candidate pool. The advert should build on your employer brand, and include the key information such as job title, salary, location and the recruiting organisation’s name.

Provide candidates with the maximum number of ways to apply, giving fax numbers and an email address as well as a postal address. If advertising online, adjust the advert style: online ads are typically 25% shorter than paper-based ones.

Once you reach the interview stage, don’t just expect your candidates to have to impress you; it is essential that your organisation makes a good impression on the interviewees.

There are three things in life that people generally refuse to admit they are bad at: driving, making love and conducting an interview. A good interviewing technique involves putting candidates at ease, effective listening, making an effort not to talk too much, and offering to answer any questions. Interviewers should receive training to help them develop effective interviewing skills.

Preparation is important, particularly reviewing CVs and application forms, and identifying questions that can get at the heart of the candidate’s experience and working style. Competency-based interviewing techniques – questions that focus on examples of how a candidate behaved in a real-life situation – can be helpful. This tends to give a better picture than simply asking the interviewee’s opinion of how they might act in an imaginary situation.

Assessment techniques such as personality questionnaires and aptitude and skills tests provide additional information, but the assessment you choose should be appropriate for the vacancy. For example, asking short-listed candidates to prepare a presentation on a key issue facing the organisation can give you information about their ability to research a topic and their communication skills.

Once you have selected your candidate and they have accepted your offer, your attention needs to move to retention. If you cannot keep them within your organisation for a reasonable period, you have wasted your efforts.

You can reinforce your new recruit’s positive impressions of your organisation by helping them to feel involved straight away. Keep in touch with them in any interim period before they join and respond swiftly to any queries.

An effective induction process is essential to help new recruits settle in fast. If assessments used in the recruitment process identified any immediate training needs, these should be built into the induction programme.

The induction plan should also address issues such as who greets the new joiner on day one, where they will sit, who will brief them on departmental practices and processes, what initial work they will be given, how their progress will be monitored and what their key priorities are, including any specific objectives and early deadlines they will face.

Appointing a ‘buddy’ can assist the settling-in process, as can assigning the new joiner a project to be completed during the induction period. This gives them authority to approach other members of staff, an immediate sense of purpose and the feeling they can make an impact on organisational performance.

The induction is a good opportunity to seek feedback from the new joiner on the recruitment process.

Similarly, three months after joining, they could be asked for feedback on the induction process. These actions reinforce the message that your organisation cares about its recruitment and employment practices, creating a positive impression early on in the employer-employee relationship.

High-quality candidates are attracted to organisations that reward talent and don’t tolerate under-performance, so it is essential that your recruitment process is seen as part of a human-resource strategy that encourages performance. That strategy should include a rigorous selection process for new applicants and an objective, transparent and on-going appraisal mechanism giving regular feedback.

Performance-related pay and structures to deal with under-performance all emphasise that your firm is a high-quality organisation, and one where talented individuals will be rewarded for their efforts.

Jeff Grout and Sarah Perrin are authors of Recruiting excellence: An insider’s guide to sourcing top talent, McGraw-Hill

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