Why do we make recruitment such hard work?

It can’t just be me, but every time I log on to LinkedIn, I see a post by someone who is ☹️about a recruitment process that they have been involved in. Whether it’s a candidate that has been managed poorly, an employer criticising the quality of CVs received or an external supplier who has not been given the required information to do their job properly.

How you bring new people into your business is an important task, but we seem to make it very hard work sometimes. Often there is conflict internally as to who has responsibility for recruiting, which can result in it drifting along with the hope that it will somehow sort itself out. This is not particularly strategic and unlikely to produce effective results.

The reality is that everyone needs to take some ownership for it. From the CEO down, getting the right people into your business and then keeping hold of them is core to commercial success. If HR are the nominated guardians of recruitment, then hiring managers need to do their bit to support the process and ensure that decisions are made quickly, and that candidate engagement is always respected. For this to work, those responsible for recruitment need to ensure that robust and relevant processes are in place and importantly that they have the capability and back up to challenge those that do not follow them.

In my experience there are 2 areas where small improvements can make a big impact. I spend most of my time looking at mid to senior level HR assignments, but also work with a number of businesses on assignments across the wider commercial functions. I appreciate there may be some instances where a different approach may be more appropriate, but ultimately a strong process should be in place for every hire, as if that hire is not important for your business then you probably shouldn’t be making it.

How you take your job to market?

Ultimately you want to ensure that the person responsible for managing your recruitment assignment is well informed and able to communicate this effectively to your target audience. This means that they need to be well briefed by the hiring manager, able to write engaging advert copy and have the ability to make credible direct approach to target candidates.

If your person is an internal recruiter, then they need to be experienced enough to make all of this happen otherwise the investment in them can become a false economy. If you decide to use an external supplier, then you need to look at how you engage with them to ensure that you get the most out of your arrangement.

When we consider this, we need to look at the question – “In current conditions, what is the actual skill of recruitment?” It is not just finding people, as this has never been easier. LinkedIn has pretty much eradicated the competitive advantage of big agencies who have for many years dined out on the size of their database. There are more ways to advertise your job than ever, as are there CV databases full of candidates.

The real skill therefore is the ability to understand the role and the ability to engage with relevant candidates and present the opportunity in an appropriate manner. An experienced recruiter working within a specialism is likely to have this ability. Those that are simply forwarding the results of a cut/paste job spec advert are less likely to and in reality, don’t offer you any more than what you could do yourself.

With this in mind, you want to take seriously how you engage with your suppliers. It is widely accepted that the multi-agency contingency model is at fault for a lot of the frustrations within the recruitment sector. Lack of feedback, poor quality advertising, irrelevant CVs sent and poorly informed recruiters are all common complaints.

Yet it is still so popular!

You may think that creating a 15 person PSL at 10% fee represents great commercial value. If you take a step back however, you can see how this will potentially create more problems that it does solutions. For every agency that you properly brief it takes time and so the more you engage, the more difficult it is to do this in the manner that you need to. The recruiter, whether internal or external, needs good channels of communication. Whether this is answers to technical questions or feedback on candidates. The more parties engaged, the less likely that this will be achieved.

The obvious answer to this is to reduce the number of people involved in the process. My personal view is that if you spend time finding a strong recruiter that you don’t need more than one, however if you do hedge your bets with a couple of options you just have to ensure that you are willing and able to afford them the time to ensure they have all of the information they need to do a proper job.

This is also where you can achieve a deal on fee! There are many experienced recruiters now working within smaller businesses that are much more flexible on fee structure than when the market was dominated by the big recruitment firms. I don’t think that there are many recruiters that would not trade a bit of fee % to work in a proper exclusive partnership.

The advantages are significant and explained in more detail in an earlier post

If we can improve how employers choose to buy, and recruitment companies choose to sell their recruitment services then we could go far in eradicating a lot of the frustrations experienced by candidates and client alike.

Now that we have identified who is going to manage our process for us, we can look at the second key area of consideration

How you manage your recruitment timetable?

When we submit a proposal for an assignment, we map out a transparent recruitment timetable. Clearly things can change in real time, however it is good practice to have something to work towards and helps to identify potential dates for interviews and number of stages which can be communicated to candidates from the start. If there are likely to be gaps between each stage then, although not ideal, is often unavoidable and so to communicate this from the starts helps to maintain candidate engagement.

There is a tendency for employers to think, whether consciously or not, that they are the one with the job and that everyone else can dance to their tune. In candidate driven markets this will have a negative impact. Where there are many parties competing for talent, a well thought out and slick process can give significant advantage in terms of closing candidate offers.

Another key point is to be conscious of candidate’s time. How many times do you really need to see them? If they need to see multiple people, then try and group these meetings together so that they are not having to make duplicate visits. In my opinion, a reasonably informal first stage to ascertain fit from both sides, followed up by a more formal second stage is often more than adequate. Depending on seniority of the role you may need an additional stage for final sign off from a senior stakeholder but any more than this and it is starting to become a bit long winded. Neither side wants to rush a decision, but equally you don’t want to start duplicating parts of the process and losing candidate engagement.

The final point is don’t be afraid to hire! If someone says to me “Hi Paul, I am really struggling to fill this 45k HR BP role. I’ve seen 24 people and none of them are right”, then I have to question what exactly they are looking for. It’s unlikely that out of all of those candidates there wasn’t options in there that could do the job. More likely that they are looking for something that may not exist.

To be clear, I am not advocating a just hire anyone mentality! What I am saying is that, if you meet someone with good experience and the right personality that just misses on some small points, then it is often better to make a hire and put a development plan in place. The few months it may take them to improve in these areas, can easily be lost in trying to find that perfect candidate that may not even materialise.

If you are going to offer, then get on with it! The more time that goes by, the more chance there is of a candidate going elsewhere or starting to lose interest. Delays in the sign-off process happen, but it makes sense to do what you can before a final stage interview to get things in place so you can make a speedy decision and keep the candidate fully invested in the opportunity.

In conclusion, if you make sure your Recruiter is well briefed, move your shortlist swiftly through the interview stages and are not afraid to make an offer then it is actually quite a straight-forward process! If you don’t, then that is when it becomes much more difficult to predict a successful outcome.

Written by Paul Withers from RAD Europe


Written by: Paul Withers

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