From time to time I work with house builders who have a senior level vacancy but get caught in the trap of an ad hoc recruitment process.
Typically, they are receiving CVs of potential candidates from multiple sources on a drip feed basis. When someone catches their eye they will interview them. When that candidate proves not to be the right person for the job they go back to reviewing CVs as and when and from wherever they emerge.
The problem is ad hoc recruitment processes aren’t really a process at all.
Here’s why doing it this way feels like a good idea:
- It’s not taking up too much time. If you just review the odd CV and perform the occasional interview it’s not a distraction from the day job.
- If multiple recruiters are working on it then all prospective candidates will be covered and you will get the right person.
Here’s why, in reality, it’s a bad idea:
- Before you know it months will have drifted by and you still haven’t appointed. You will constantly be going back to square one. Each time you interview a candidate and they are not right you are back to hoping the next CV you receive is a good one.
- You aren’t making any meaningful comparisons between possible candidates. If there is more than a couple of days between interviews your ability to make objective comparisons becomes significantly reduced. Do you end up picking the best candidate?
- As the weeks slip by, you subconsciously lower the bar in a bid to get the position filled. Your expectations change with time. There’s a very real chance you employ a candidate who is not as good as someone you discounted a couple of months ago.
So, in summary, decide which recruiter you are engaging with, set timeframes for CVs and interviews, all of which will enable you to hire the best candidate in a sensible amount of time.
Good recruitment gets a reasonable performer into the business in a timescale that was probably a little longer than expected.
Great recruitment gets a top performer in a specific time frame.
So how do you go from good to great?
Here is a checklist for you to use. You need 100% if you are going to run a great process!
- You have clearly identified the key traits of a high performer in your vacant job. You will need these to structure your interview questions.
- You have thought carefully about why your company is a more attractive employer than others in your sector. You will need to articulate this to candidates during the interview process.
- You have properly benchmarked your target salary. Is it sufficient to get the skills and experience you want?
- You have prioritised this recruitment process. In other words, you don’t allow other commitments to result in cancelled interviews, slow feedback and poor communication.
- You have already consulted colleagues who may be involved in interviewing about their availability over the course of the process. Are you familiar with the internal sign off process on a job offer?
- You understand that good candidates have other employment options including staying where they are. You are ready to sell the benefits of your opportunity.
- You take personal responsibility for negotiating the offer with the candidate and gaining their commitment to accept.
- Your working relationship with the candidate starts the moment they accept your offer. Ensure you invest in that relationship before they start through regular contact.
In summary, get yourself prepared for every stage, become an ambassador for your company and don’t let your core job derail the process.
The reward is a better employee joining in a quicker time frame and that always reflects well on you.
When interviewing several candidates for a job there is often a bias towards one candidate. In fact, there should be! After all, you need to pick just one person to offer the position to at the end of the process. But it’s those last few words that get can be overlooked and prove costly: “…at the end of the process”
On numerous occasions, I have seen recruiting companies try to shortcut the process to reach a conclusion more quickly. Feeling that recruiting someone is a distraction from the day to day activity and needing to get someone in quickly, the hiring manager decides who their preferred candidate is at first interview and only brings back that person for a second meeting usually caveated with something along the lines of “we’ll just keep candidate B warm in case things don’t work out with candidate A”
This is a poorly judged gamble. If the company isn’t successful in hiring candidate A and they want to go back to B they will encounter the following problems:
- Delay of appointment: Having spent aborted time with candidate A they now have to go back to candidate B and will add at least a couple of weeks by restarting the second interview with B.
- Back to square one: Feeling second best, candidate B has withdrawn their interest or been offered a job elsewhere. The company may be looking at starting their recruitment from scratch with no viable candidates in the pipeline.
- Increased salary cost: Candidate B now knows that their negotiating position re salary has considerably strengthened given the hiring company’s lack of alternatives and possibly B having established an alternative job offer in the interim period.
So what is the cost of mitigating all of this risk?
An hour of your time.
That’s all it takes to bring candidate B in for a second interview at the same time as A and make sure your process is completed before making a decision. If you need to revert to candidate B you won’t face the difficulties outlined above if you have moved swiftly in switching your job offer from A to B.
It amazes me how many companies still think giving vacancy exclusivity to a recruitment consultant is to their detriment and only benefits the recruiter.
Their thinking typically goes along the line of ‘more recruiters means more candidate coverage equals a better shortlist’.
In a vast candidate market where industry-specific skills are not being sought that logic would be fairly robust, for example, if the business was seeking an Admin Manager.
However, house building recruitment is diametrically opposite in its characteristics. Supply of experienced candidates is very limited and industry experience is normally a prerequisite.
So here’s what happens when multiple recruiters get instructed on the same vacancy in house building:
- The recruiters know there are only a handful of potentially suitable and interested candidates so it becomes a race to get to them first and claim the introduction. This will always be at the cost of a thorough search of the candidate market and a full explanation of the house builder’s vacancy requirements to any prospective candidates.
- Inevitably in a tight-knit industry, the recruiters will cross paths by calling the same candidates. Those candidates will be put off by recruiters competing for their attention on the same job. The last thing you want to do in a ‘skills short’ market is create barriers to potential candidates.
- The recruiters will prioritise work they have exclusively over vacancies where they are competing at their own risk for a fee. The impact is time slips by as recruiters focus on another house builder’s vacancy first, leaving you with little or no progress on your recruitment.
So if you want to get the best from a recruiter, to fully search the market and maximise candidate interest, invest the time in selecting and engaging a consultant you really believe in. Then give them the work exclusively.
Let me be clear from the outset – there is a balance to be struck here.
However, in my twenty years of recruitment experience, the tendency is for hiring managers not to see candidates they have any doubts about based on their CV rather than meet them to investigate further.
Those doubts typically come in one of the following forms:
Not enough perceived experience at a given level
Regular changes of employer
Some time spent outside of the specific industry sector
Sometimes these concerns are well founded and the candidates are unsuitable. However, meeting them is rarely a waste of time.
Meeting ‘borderline’ candidates can provide a good benchmark to other interviewees. It helps a hiring manager to do their due diligence on the candidate marketplace and feel comfortable that they have explored other potential employees. This, in turn, gives more confidence to go ahead and hire their favoured candidate.
But don’t assume that we are just talking about stalking horses. Sometimes, a great candidate is hidden behind a disjointed work history. Or perhaps they have had far greater responsibility than their job title suggests. There are certainly plenty of examples of my clients being reluctant to even interview a candidate only for them to be hugely impressed and recruit that person.
If you still don’t feel comfortable about formally interviewing a borderline candidate lower the stakes. Arrange to meet them off-site for a coffee. Or arrange a phone interview. A 30-minute chat will be more than sufficient to determine if someone is suitable to bring in to a more structured interview process.
I am not suggesting that you should interview anyone and everyone. Your time is valuable. Just be wary of dismissing someone with potential based on a single concern arising from the CV.
The Value of Interview Timings
It is normal and expected that a hiring manager wants to interview several candidates for their vacancy. It helps them explore the candidate market and gives them a choice to best match technical skills and cultural fit.
But where there is more than one candidate being interviewed it’s really important to get the interviews very close together.
There are two main benefits:
Firstly, it’s much easier to be objective about the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates and draw comparisons whilst it’s all fresh in your mind. You are more likely to make the best selection of which candidate to offer.
Secondly, you don’t lose the interest of candidates interviewed early on. For example if you have four candidates to interview and you arrange the interviews over a three week period, the first candidate’s interest is likely to have cooled significantly without any progress for three weeks. What if the first candidate proved to be the best? You now have an uphill battle to regain their interest. Maybe it’s too late and they have accepted a job with a competitor.
Make sure you arrange interviews as close together as possible even if that means seeing candidates out of office hours or at an offsite location. This will help you make the right choice and avoid losing the interest of your preferred candidate.
Most housebuilders want to plug a gap in their team sooner rather than later. That’s obvious.
But how fast you move not only affects when you have someone in a post but the quality of that individual.
Think of the recruitment process as a funnel with a shortlist of candidates going in at the top and after the interview and selection process the successful candidate emerging at the bottom. The more candidates that go into the top, the more choice you have as the hiring company and the better quality appointment you will make.
But what if your funnel springs a leak?
In other words, shortlisted candidates remove themselves from the process rather than being deselected. In simple terms, they lose interest before you have made a decision.
The number one reason for this? You’ve guessed it: delays!
Through surveying 100 candidates we gained some fascinating insights into a job seekers point of view on recruitment process timescales.
These three stats came from our survey and show the level of impact of delays or a drawn-out recruitment process.
A massive 88% of candidates will disengage from the hiring process if they do not have any interview feedback within one week
Over half of candidates think two weeks is the maximum acceptable time frame between first and second interview
70% of candidates will tolerate a maximum of three interviews for a management grade position before becoming frustrated.
So in a market where good candidates are hard to find, make sure you don’t lose part of your shortlist through lack of momentum in the recruitment process.
It is often helpful to think back to when you were a candidate for a job and how you reacted (for better or worse) to the pace of process and use that as a benchmark now you are recruiting.