Recruiting – first impression count

Over the years I’ve interviewed 1000s of candidates and I’ve also been interviewed by many different companies in various industries & countries.  Despite global unemployment levels, the best candidates are actively being sought – so how do you attract the right candidates and avoid loosing them to the competition?

First impressions count – your recruiting strategy, recruitment partners & HR, job spec / description, advertisements and social media presence, interviews, length of process and issuing an offer.  Before a candidate has set a foot in the door, they are judging you as much as you are judging them.  In the rush to”fill a vacancy”, too many businesses have turned this process into a production line, and forgotten the human element that will ensure you’re preferred candidate accepts your offer and joins your company.  If you have the following symptoms, read on:

  • Unexpected loss of star performers
  • Too many internal people / teams involved
  • Too few candidates applying
  • Preferred candidates declining the offer
  • Too many new joiners failing probation
  • Too few referrals from existing employees

Here’s 5 points to consider about what it’s like to join your company or team.

1. You are selling your company as much as the candidate is selling themselves to you. 

When someone decides to start looking for a new role, they create a model of the ideal job and company – funky new start-up, stable mature corporate or anything in between.  What the job entails and how they will be measured need to be included in the job description.  Just as you will mentally tick off the skills and experience you require when reviewing applicant CVs, they will do the same as they look to apply.  Too vague, too funky or too bland means that many will at best, make a half hearted application, but at worst not apply at all.  Make your first impression of your company (careers website, advertisement and job description) engaging to your model candidate.

2. Who does your initial screening?

Whether you use external recruiters or an internal recruitment team, ask yourself, how well they understand the role, the department and your goals?  Do they set the right impression and are they equipped with sufficient information to respond to questions from candidates?  Recruiters are often bonused on filling a role, not with filling a role with the right candidate, so it’s in your interest to take time to educate them properly. Once past a recruiter, many businesses have a screening process, designed to weed out the “wrong” type of candidate.  Time & time again, I see this process run in a mechanical way, poorly representing the company and the team.  Asking senior hires to provide details of their schooling from 20 years ago, or asking inane questions from a tick list will likely put off good candidates.

3. How easy is it to go through your recruiting process?

The actual recruiting process can be the most painful – from too many rounds of interviews, to having to repeat the same information to different people, to interviewers turning up late (or not at all) all give an impression of how you operate as a business.  Many of us have walked away from what appeared to be an interest role because of a horrible, bureaucratic recruiting process.  Re-examine the process – you need to validate skills, experience, competencies and culture fit, but in that process, is everyone clear on the role they perform, and do you have superfluous people involved as a back-up for weak decision-makers? Clean it up and allow candidates to see the “real” you!  Reject failed candidates quickly and openly – just because the person wasn’t the right fit, they still deserve to be treated with respect.

4. How does it feel to go from verbal offer to start date?

So you decide you want the candidate.  How long does it take to issue the offer letter?  Who communicates with the candidate during their notice period?  How do you check that they remain engaged?  If they applied to you, chances are they applied to others.  Don’t drag your feet, and if there is required administration to be done, keep them informed, give them a contact to liaise with and make sure someone from the team checks in with them.  Anybody you loose after you make an offer is a clear indication of a failing in your recruiting process.

5. Create the right impression drives referrals

One business I worked with rejected over 80% of all internal referrals (and never advised the referrer that their nomination was unsuccessful.)  In an another business, a change of management resulted in a 50% drop in referrals, despite an increase in referral bonus.  If you believe your staff are right for the role and you trust them, the rate at which you accept their referrals should be proportionate.  If you don’t know the acceptance rate, you may want to get HR to provide it. It’s a fraction of the cost of recruiters, and comes with a personal seal of approval from people you already employ.  If the referral is not right for the role, help the person who did the referral to understand why so that they might consider doing another referral in future.

As ever, I try to share simple advice, feel free to share the post with your recruiting or HR department.  Together you can hone your recruiting process to get more of the right people sooner!

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