A team of good people is the heart of any successful business, but it can be a real challenge to find and hire the best person for any given role.
The market for talent is often intensely competitive and the recruitment process is a series of steps subject to many variables, from ensuring your job ad hits the mark and attracts attention, to picking the top applicants from a stack of CVs, then interviewing, checking references, and selecting your preferred candidate and making the job offer.
Get it right and you will have a valuable asset: a person who excels in the position and helps drive and build the company. Get it wrong and you’ll have a new employee who turns out to not fit the role or the environment, and you’ll either be spending lots of time training and supervising or be working out how best to move the newbie on so you can try again.
Obviously, no employer wants to find themselves in the latter camp, so how can you minimise the errors and ensure your recruitment processes produce dependable results?
This white paper takes a comprehensive look at recruitment, including the reasoning for doing it well and how to succeed in securing (and keeping) the cream of the crop while avoiding the many pitfalls. We’ll also look at adapting to changes in the market and examine how modern tools like social media can make recruitment more efficient and effective.
It seems fairly obvious that every company wants to hire the best people it can. A high-calibre team all performing individually and collectively is what makes a business really hum.
Recruitment is the first step in that process. If you can consistently bring in the person with the right knowledge, skills, and attitude for a job, you are setting your organisation up for success (and longevity).
A benchmark study by the Boston Consulting Group found that companies adept at recruiting had profit margins were twice as high as those that were less capable, and their revenue growth was 3.5 times greater.
That’s the upside. The flipside is investing all the hours and capital in attracting, selecting, and blooding a new hire only to have the person misfire.
There’s a lot that goes into successful recruitment (more on that soon), and no business can afford to regularly miss the mark in its hiring practices. Quite apart from dealing with the impact of individual poor performance and employee turnover, there are effects on the wider team, from increased instability and stress to the resources management spends on mitigation and oversight; effort that would be more profitably spent on developing the business.
Rigorous, transparent recruitment procedures also help reduce the risk of disputes or legal issues by ensuring the company’s hiring practices aren’t swayed by discrimination or bias, and don’t contravene employment, privacy, and human rights regulations.
On top of the reduced legal risk, effective recruitment helps create a work environment where not only talent, but a diversity of skills and attitudes are identified, employed, and rewarded, which further enhances business performance and improves staff engagement and retention.
You’ll also boost the organisation’s reputation, making it easier to attract quality employees every time you need to.
To get the most adept person for any role, you need to take a strategic approach that equally emphasises and integrates each stage of the recruitment process.
You also need to be realistic: recruitment takes time and effort. You might get lucky once or twice throwing a recycled vacancy listing on an online job board, but to be consistently successful in attracting and selecting quality people, you need to put in the mahi.
We call this adopting a “recruitment mindset”. It starts by getting a clear understanding of what the business requires by defining the work that needs to be done, now and into the future, and what an ideal employee would look like. Make sure the job description reflects this ongoing reality.
From this comes the job ad, which should stand out, be concise, and speak clearly to the quality candidates you have in mind. Aim for the widest possible audience by placing it in a variety of places - e.g. traditional recruitment avenues, websites, and social media.
Once you have applicants, you need to work methodically to sift the wheat from the chaff. Reading through a pile of cover letters and CVs can be daunting, so stay focussed on what you’re looking for. A simple checklist can help.
When it’s time for interviews, try to create a relaxed yet professional atmosphere. You want the candidates to get beyond any nerves or politeness so they can express themselves, while you are able to objectively compare people’s responses. Use an application form to save time on small but essential details and throw in some unexpected questions to encourage reflection and on-the-spot thinking.
Once you have whittled the list down to one or two preferred applicants, use referees to supplement the information you already have. Ask about any weaknesses or development needs so you get a fuller picture of the candidate.
If all goes well, you’ll be able to make the job offer quickly and your new hire will be ready to join you. Be sure to organise all the paperwork - including a robust employment agreement (with the job description) - before the person starts, and plan their onboarding programme.
Don’t panic if you don’t uncover the dream applicant in the first pass. It’s much better to keep a job open a little longer than to hire somebody who isn’t right. But there is a balance to be struck; keeping the vacancy open indefinitely can place undue strain on you and your team.
And don’t only look for people when you need them. Always keep a look-out for talent, internal as well as external. Reach out to build connections and networks. Then when you do have a vacancy, you should have a store of good candidates ready to apply.
It would be a little simplistic to go on without mentioning recent changes in the labour market. At the start of 2020, unemployment was relatively low, New Zealand had a small local talent pool and many companies were looking overseas for skilled people. Talented Kiwis could feel reasonably sure in their positions and that they could shift jobs if they wanted to.
But COVID-19 has changed all that. Nothing is as secure. Some sectors have been hit hard while others are experiencing a boom. For now, overseas recruitment is on hold (other than returning expats and some targeted exceptions) but there is still a lot of mobility in the labour market as companies adapt to the disruption and reassess the size and shape of their workforce.
Being flexible and looking at creative employment solutions is key for both employers and employees. Many talented, experienced people are looking for opportunities in new industries as their regular work has dried up. Your business may not feel confident enough to hire more full-time employees right now, but you may be able to bring in some great people on a part-time, casual, or contract basis. It’s a good time to explore all possible employment arrangements.
Staying flexible also means being smart about keeping your organisation’s goals and strategy current, to use this planning to determine if there are any gaps in your workforce, and to always be on the lookout for talent.
The disruption to the economy doesn’t mean employers can overlook their legal obligations, though. All employment laws about acting in good faith, being fair and reasonable, and ensuring all employees have an employment agreement - whether they are full-time or casual - still apply.
Recruitment isn’t an exact science. We all want to hire the best people, but there are many steps in the process and no single step guarantees you’ll attract and select the right one.
Perhaps the most basic and common mistake we see is companies approaching recruitment haphazardly. You may have a great role that would interest many amazing people, but if you don’t perform each part of the process with appropriate diligence, you may not attract them or you might overlook or endorse someone incorrectly.
There are pros and cons to each step which you need to be aware of so you don’t place too much weight on any single one, whether it is screening CVs, or doing interviews, or checking references. Each step is important in building up an accurate picture of the candidates and their ability to do the job.
Don’t begin recruiting until you have a job description that is up-to-date and accurately defines the reality of the role. Plenty of businesses omit doing this up-front work and then let the recruitment process shape the position. But without a clear view of the role, tasks, and your expectations, there’s every chance you won’t know why you’re recruiting, what you’re offering, or what skills, experience, and personality the ideal person has.
Another basic error is overpromising on the role or aggrandising the job. It’s natural to want to attract top talent, but think about how your new employee will react when they find out (as they inevitably will) that there’s a large gap between what they expected and the actual reality of the position. Similarly, don’t exaggerate the potential for career advancement or extra rewards. Honesty and being able to deliver what you promise is always the best policy.
It can be tempting to make hiring decisions based on first impressions or gut feelings. These intuitive feelings can be convincing, but they are often informed by things like individual preferences, unconscious biases, and social conditioning. Question any gut feelings and look to have more than one person perform interviews or to get second opinions on selection choices.
Remember, too, that you don’t immediately have to look outside the business to find the best candidate; they may already be working for you. If you can fill roles internally, you’ll save money and effort by speeding up recruitment and by shortening the time it takes for the person to perform in the role. You’ll also improve employee loyalty and company morale.
If the business regularly has trouble finding the right people or you’re losing people within the first 90 days, it’s a clear sign you need to revise your recruitment practices.
Plenty of companies are happy handling recruitment themselves and approach it in quite a traditional way: advertise the role, shortlist candidates, then interview and reference check before selecting the new hire.
This may get good results, but it’s time-consuming, and there are a lot of tools and support out there to streamline and hone the process.
Engaging a recruitment consultant is one obvious option. While small business owners might rule it out on cost, a good recruitment professional will provide value for money, save you time and hassle, as well reaching a wider pool of candidates.
Software and other cloud-based technology can bring many benefits by automating administration tasks, and speeding up the screening, interview, and response processes.
Using social media is becoming increasingly common, as it helps organisations reach more people (the majority across age groups are active users), aid screening, and facilitates timely interaction.
“Social recruiting” (as it’s often known) offers many benefits and efficiencies:
Technology also needs to work seamlessly with your other people processes. You want to bring good candidates in, provide a painless recruitment experience that leaves the successful applicant, and unsuccessful candidates, with a good impression.