Posted on 29/08/2019 by Will Tilley
Recruitment and Resourcing, it's the task that is always at the bottom of the list; until its at the top. It's very rarely in between.
No one disputes that hiring (and retaining) the right people is key to a business' success, yet the process is often the neglected child of the business world. Only given attention when it's critical.
As a recruiter, I’m constantly talking to a range of clients and candidates about their hiring experiences. With clients about what their process is and what challenges they are finding, and with candidates about their experience through this process. There are some common themes that emerge from both candidates and clients, and it is clear that some companies are their own biggest enemy when it comes to being able to consistently gain access to A-Grade talent in the market place.
I describe A-Grade talent as the top 10% in a given role. They are consistently high performers and people who are culture builders, not culture killers. People who are incredibly talented assholes do not generally fit my idea of what constitutes an A-Grader (though, like most things, there are exceptions).
A great hiring or recruitment process attracts A-Grade talent and keeps them engaged throughout their process, ensuring you have the best field of candidates possible to select from when making your final hiring decision. Too often, there is a disconnect somewhere along the line which sees candidates fall out of the process, or reject an offer. But why is that?
It's easy to blame the candidate, and even easier to blame a recruiter if you're using one. It's not uncommon to hear "If they can't see what we can offer them, they're probably not the right person for us anyway." Really? Did you show them? Did they even get a chance to see how much you can offer them, or how much your organisation values its people? Does your hiring process reflect this?
Of course, sometimes you have done everything you could have; but you won't know this for sure if you're not critical. A wise woman (Sophie Robertson) taught me to reflect on what actions I had taken, what actions I hadn't taken, and learn from this. The best way to have success moving forward is to learn from your mistakes.
"What could I have done differently?"
In any market, particularly a candidate short market, you're competing with other organisations for the top talent, and believe it or not, the organisation with the best* opportunity doesn't always come out ahead. If your hiring process is protracted, whether through having too many stages, slow feedback, or lengthy approval processes, you're opening yourself up to miss out on your preferred candidates.
There are a few changes you can make to your hiring process to ensure that you're keeping more A-Grade candidates engaged in your process. Some of these are quite simple and seem common sense but get left behind when you're busy and juggling multiple priorities. Others may take a little more effort to streamline, modify or improve your existing processes, but will almost certainly pay dividends.
Far too many companies don't respond to candidates who apply for their roles in a timely manner, or at all if they're not shortlisted. I have seen organisations take up to a month to provide feedback to candidates that they would like to interview. To me, this seems crazy. You've advertised a role and/or engaged a recruiter to search for you, you have candidates interested in the role, and then *crickets*.
Given you're usually going to decide within a couple of minutes of looking at their CV whether you'd like to interview the candidate, there is no reason to take anymore than a week to provide feedback. Get them booked in, or they'll assume you're not interested and potentially head elsewhere.
Often, when a candidate is not shortlisted for an interview they will say "I never heard anything back from [insert company here]." Given many companies aren't getting back to these candidates at all, a quick email (you can even automate these) letting them know they've been unsuccessful is a pretty easy way to set your business apart from the crowd!
You've identified candidates you want to interview, book them in to meet with you ASAP. As a general rule, this should be within a two-week timeframe as a maximum. Keep things moving, and keep the candidates you're interested in, engaged in your process.
Over my time in recruitment I have learnt that whilst a candidate may not be actively looking when I reach out to them on a client's behalf, once they are "activated" or open themselves to look at an opportunity, they are much more likely to look at a second.
There is no hard and fast right or wrong way to conduct your interviews but If you plan to hammer tough, technical questions at candidates for an hour, it would be best to give them a bit of a heads up that they should come prepared.
Make sure you have set aside time in your interview to give a good explanation of the role and your organisation, and that you allow the candidate to ask any questions they may have. An interview should not be a one-way street. Please, whatever you do, don’t ask the candidate "why should we hire you?"
Interview Feedback & Next Stages:
As ridiculous as it sounds, it is amazing how often a company interviews someone and the candidate hears NOTHING AT ALL after leaving the interview for 6-8 weeks, before being called back for a second interview or with a verbal offer for a position.
Best practice would be to give the candidate an idea as to what the next steps are at the end of an interview, even if that is just letting them know when they can expect to hear more (obviously, you need to then follow through on that). If you like them, but you have a second round of interviews, get the interview scheduled ASAP and ideally conduct it within the following week.
Whether the feedback is good news or bad news, deliver it to the candidate in a timely manner. Ideally within 24 hours, and definitely within 48 hours (special exception for Friday interviews) of the interview. It's not at all uncommon for companies to take a week or more to give any feedback. This is too long to leave someone wondering how they went. If you have more interviews still to conduct and the candidate is still in consideration, let them know. If you've ruled them out, let them know. That way they can move on.
Bonus points (though I think it should be standard) for offering one or two sentences of constructive feedback for these candidates to work on moving forward. You would be amazed at how much appreciation candidates have for this, and how far that goodwill can carry.
Making An Offer:
This is where it can become a bit trickier to fix the inefficiencies. You may have systems and processes which require specific people to sign off before a formal offer can be made to a candidate. The medium-sized businesses seem to be in the sweet spot here, whereby they have a process in place, but it may only involve two or three people. Many large organisations I have dealt with have a process in place that can require upwards of 7 touchpoints to get an offer out to a candidate - from the hiring manager to senior management to HR then back again.
This process frequently takes between two to four weeks. The communication in this period is often lacking, or entirely non-existent. The best-case scenario would be to expedite this process and move to have an offer in front of a candidate within 5 working days.
If you know this isn't going to be possible, at least be upfront with the candidate about what the internal process is and how long it will realistically take. If you can invite them for a drink, or to meet some of the team during that time, it may help you keep them away from exploring any other opportunities.
Finally… When you make the official offer, don't rush the candidate to make a decision within 24 or 48 hours. Your process to decide they were the one took more than 48 hours, give them time to consider. This (at least to them) is a big decision impacting the trajectory/direction of their career.
One thing I know for sure is that "time can kill all deals."
*Best opportunity is subjective - but in this instance, I mean the best opportunity for each individual.