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As the number of applicants responding to each advertised role increases the art of hiring the best must be revisited.
The Covid-19 pandemic has sent a shock wave through the job market to an extent we will not truly realise for some time. Everyone has had to adapt to working differently with the most obvious change being remote working, distanced from colleagues we usually rely on to keep us motivated and at times sane! But also, there are inevitably a growing number of people who are fearful for their jobs and through no fault of their own are finding themselves unemployed. A consequence of job loses on such a scale is that the number of good people available to fill each advertised role is escalating quickly. This makes the job of the hiring manager more complicated and time-consuming. The sheer number of (strong) applicants for any given role can be overwhelming and it is common now to see roles closing before the advertised date. The opportunity for the hiring manager lies in being able to select effectively and efficiently only those who are right for the job and who should be called forward to interview. This can be a daunting and time-consuming challenge for the departmental manager with little experience in recruiting. Sound preparation and planning are therefore essential to ensure time is put to good use and applications can be sifted, candidates selected and professionally interviewed. Interview Skills Clinic offers interviewer training to help effectively manage the process.
Clear recruitment & sift process
Being invited to attend an interview as a candidate is both exciting and at the same time a little nerve-racking. A feeling of excitement is tempered by anxiety about who will be on the interview panel and what questions they will ask. Candidates understand they will not be in control of the process and will assume the interview panel will have thought through what they are looking to achieve and what they are looking for in a candidate. Sound preparation, research and practice will go a long way to preparing any candidate for the rigors of an interview and this goes for the interview panel members who must also prepare very carefully to ensure they select and make an offer to the very best candidate.
With the number of applicants increasing, it will be even more important to be clear on the approach to each phase of the recruitment process, from the job description and person specification to application requirements and latterly profiling exercises and interview. If any of these crucial elements are not given the time and thought that they deserve the outcome could be costly, in terms of management time, lost revenue and costs. We will examine each part of the recruitment process in an attempt to understand how we can be professional, efficient and effective in our campaign.
Detailed job description and person specification is essential
The Job Description (JD) and Person Specification (PS) must be a true and accurate reflection of the opportunity. The contents of these documents provide the foundation and fundamentals from which the rest will follow. A simple cut and paste from past examples or other departments work are not good enough. We must be clear on why this role is required, how it fits and supports the objectives of the organisation and what exactly we want the person to be doing. The experience the applicant sets out in their CV and the examples used in the cover letter or statement will create a picture of their suitability and ability to carry out the job as set out in the JD. The PS lists exactly what Skills and Knowledge they must be able to demonstrate. For example, a salesperson may need to be a skilful negotiator, they may also need to have specific knowledge of a particular industry. Between these two sections the key skills, knowledge and experience must be accurately listed, and it is on this information that the application, any specific tests and interview will be conducted.
Clarify the criteria for the application sift
Asking for an application statement or cover letter is going to be critical because you will need to have a way of sifting applications which is not solely reliant on a CV. A strong CV will set out where the person was, when and how they measured success whilst also providing a complete timeline. A strong cover letter will present a personal view as to why the applicant believes they are a good fit for the company and role, it demonstrates they have thought about the role and why this supports their career plan. The sifting manager ideally needs to have prepared a checklist drawn from the JD and PS against which applications can be scored which will help to ensure applicants are compared fairly and without bias.
Clarify the style of interview & assessment process
Planning interviews takes time and focus. It is obvious to candidates when a panel is simply making up questions as the interview progresses, seemingly with little structure and no obvious way of scoring the answers. In such cases, it can appear as if the panel is relying on ‘gut feel’ to reach their verdict.
Approaching the interview in a structured way makes it possible to compare interviewees fairly and without bias. A range of question formats should be considered to include: Behaviour Competency, Strength-Based, Situational and Opening Questions.
By listing the core competencies (or skills) the candidate needs to demonstrate it is possible to consider how a competency-based question could be asked and how the answer will be assessed and scored. For example, if it is considered essential that the post holder is a strong communicator a question such as “Tell us about a time when you had to communicate complex information to a wide audience?” could be posed. Competency-based questions are best answered using the STAR or CARE format, candidates should be aware of this common approach and will have prepared examples that demonstrate the required competencies. By having a clear structure to each question, it will be possible to allocate marks with special focus on how the person achieved the task and the actions taken whilst allocating just a single mark to an explanation of the situation.
Strength questions are designed to find out whether a specific personal quality required for the role comes naturally to the candidate, for example, “Do you consider yourself to be adaptable?”. Answers are scored differently to competencies based on positive body language and a short example to support the claim.
If a panel wants to determine how a candidate might respond to a specific and relevant situation they will face in the role, they should prepare a situational question. This ensures the candidate can demonstrate how to cope in a specific situation which is set by the panel, in other words, “How would you approach situation X?”
If the panel is clear and consistent in their approach to which question format will be used to evaluate each specified skill or strength, and how each will be scored, the process will be fair, transparent and has the best chance of delivering a good outcome. Time invested in preparing an accurate JD & PS, asking for a CV and cover letter and scoring them accurately and fairly is a crucial first step. Thinking carefully about the range and number of questions, briefing the interview panel before the day and being clear on the scoring criteria are essential. Relying on great intuition alone when filling a vacancy is akin to selecting the right lottery numbers. Make time and take a positive approach to build a strong team through hiring the best; Remember recruiting should be an enjoyable experience.
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