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Reversing the process of recruitment

By Fritz Pinnock

recruitHuman resource experts such as John Bateson, Jochen Wirtz, Eugene Burke and Carly Vaughan have pointed out that many companies rely on skilled, personable employees to satisfy customers, but finding them can be costly.

Weak labour markets and click-to-apply online applications increase the burden on companies, which may get hundreds of applicants for a single opening.

In 2007, for example, the British call centre industry received 7 million applications for 260,000 jobs. According to these experts, most companies have a standard hiring regime in which recruiters start by reviewing résumés; move on to phone or face-to-face interviews with the most promising candidates; and then draw on various tests, including psychometric tests, to determine which applicants are the best fit.

Researches have also suggested that this approach is backward as many service companies, including retailers, call centres and security firms, can reduce costs and make better hiring decisions by using short, web-based psychometric tests as the first screening step. According to experts, such tests efficiently weed out the least suitable applicants, leaving a smaller, better qualified pool to undergo the more costly personalised aspects of the process.

Experts have also observed that the test-first approach makes sense for several reasons and evidence suggests that many more applicants today – by some estimates, nearly 50 per cent – embellish their CVs than did so in the past, reducing the usefulness of résumés as initial screening tools. At the same time, the advent of web-based psychometric tests has made testing less expensive and more convenient. And recent research across industries shows that these tests are good predictors of performance.

According to Bateson, Wirtz, Burke and Vaughan, other tests also show great promise. For example, a large UK-based supermarket chain recently began using a customised online situational judgment test to screen out the bottom 25 per cent of applicants before reviewing CVs. Because the candidates called in for interviews were therefore better qualified, the average number seen for each successful hire fell from six to two, saving 73,000 hours of managerial time.

Role of psychometric testing

Ben Dattner, in reference to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, points out that roughly 18 per cent of companies currently use personality tests in their hiring process. According to Ben Dattner, many industrial and organisational psychologists, as well as the Association of Test Publishers, have argued that this number is growing at an annual rate of 10 to 15 per cent. According to experts, when used correctly, cognitive and personality tests can increase the chances that new employees will succeed. Since the cost of a bad hire is widely estimated to be at least one year’s pay, there are huge incentives for organisations to get hiring right. Unfortunately, too many organisations use the wrong psychometric assessments in the wrong way. According to experts, in order to minimise potential risks and maximise the predictive accuracy of hiring tests, organisations must: • Know the law • Know the business needs • Reduce the risk of cheating • Share test results with candidates • Test the tests.

Making the right decision

In recruitment, human resource managers evaluate prospective candidates using many different tools, which are not limited to the following: • Résumé review • Phone interview • In-person meetings • Formal or informal reference checks.

Résumé review

A résumé should provide factual information about the candidate and give the hiring manager an initial sense of his or her abilities. It is often the first point of communication and can be used to differentiate qualified applicants from non-qualified applicants. Should a résumé leave you wondering, make a small-time investment and make a call to the candidate. It may become apparent within minutes that the candidate is not a fit; on the other hand, you may discover a solid candidate that you could have missed by screening too heavily.

Phone interview

A phone interview is sometimes done in place of an in-person interview but more often is used to screen candidates before inviting them for an interview. While you evaluate a candidate during a phone interview, remember to make a good first impression so the candidate stays interested in your organisation. Ask yourself if the candidate answered basic questions well, was able to articulate his or her interests and experience, and spoke positively about past jobs and employers. An initial phone interview saves time for both hiring managers and candidates. It can also be used to screen out candidates who are not appropriate for an in-person interview.

To get the most out of phone interviews, the following seven tips may be your guiding angels:

  • Make a good first impression
  • Give unenthusiastic but qualified candidates a second chance
  • Consider all of your organisation’s hiring needs
  • Be patient with applicants who speaks a second language
  • Cue up the in-person interview
  • Leave the door open and leave the applicants happy
  • Get referrals.

In-person meetings

The in-person interview serves many purposes and is really the ‘make or break’ factor in a hiring decision. This process serves as a ‘gut check’ for whether you click with a candidate and feel he or she would fit the culture of your organisation and be able to handle the responsibilities of the position. Get into the details of what the candidate actually accomplished in previous jobs and gather specifics about relationships with peers, subordinates and bosses. Don’t settle for surface-level responses and push for examples that provide you with insight into the candidate’s behaviour and performance. During the interview frequently ask for names, and ask if it is all right if you check with these people as part of the reference process; this approach will serve to keep the candidate more honest. Employers must remember that the interview is not just a chance for you to screen and assess the candidate, but also to sell him or her on the job. It is a golden opportunity for you to show off your organisation and present the position in its best light.

Reference checks

Use your network and speak with someone at the organisation where the candidate worked and who will give information on the candidate. The goal here is not to ‘dig up dirt’ but rather to get a more complete and unbiased picture of the candidate in order to make an informed decision. Be discreet and take care not to create any problems for a candidate who is conducting a confidential search. The challenge, however, is finding a person who will be honest and open about the candidate. It is easy if you know someone at the organisation where the candidate worked (sometimes as referral). If, however, you do not know anyone, social networking may be a final choice. Reference checks are well worth the extra effort since they can prevent bad hires or provide the information that prompts you to make the right hire.

Go as fast as you can. You don’t want to lose your star candidate because while you are setting up the fifth round of interviews, your candidate takes a job with one of your competitors. On the other hand, you want to thoroughly assess the candidate and short-cutting your process is highly risky since bad hires are extremely costly to organisations. As a result, ask candidates about timing and keep asking throughout the interview process. Candidates who are genuinely interested in your company will tell you the status of their job search and when they expect to have a competing offer.

Stay in touch with the candidates. If a number of hiring managers are involved in the recruiting process then make sure communication between them is good. It is a shame to lose an attractive candidate because one manager thought another manager was calling the candidate. Keep communicating even after you have an accepted offer. And prepare the candidate for a counter-offer from his or her current employer and/or from another employer.

Ten key steps to successful hiring:

  1. Understand your organisation’s need – job analysis.
  2. Understand what you want as an employer.
  3. Develop a job description.
  4. Decide on the best selection process and criteria.
  5. Identify sources of applicants and launch search.
  6. Shortlist from a number of candidates.
  7. Make final selection – interview, assessment, reference check and medical.
  8. Make an offer.
  9. Conduct an induction training.
  10. Review the selection process to determine how successful.

According to experts, this process might sound like a long and complicated process, but it just takes a bit of effort. And, yes, you might need the assistance of a professional to set up the process for you or even to implement it; but ultimately, it will go a long way in avoiding those costs of a bad hire and to protecting your business.