READ Part 2: How to Avoid Expensive Recruitment Mistakes

Most companies will spend a considerable amount of time, effort and money marketing their products and services. Yet they consistently fail to invest in marketing job vacancies. In the current tight labour market you need to be creative to attract the most suitable candidates for your business. Whether you are using a traditional job advertisement in a newspaper, online job boards or agencies, you need to carefully craft the wording so it will catch the attention of your ideal candidates.

Know who you are looking for

This can only be done if you are absolutely clear about the sort of person you want to attract:

  • What are the motivational preferences of your ideal candidate?
  • What do they need to be interested in?
  • What sort of tasks and thinking styles do they need to enjoy most?

It is easy to answer these questions once you have analysed the role and developed a well-crafted Job Success Formula. To find out more about this, have a look at Part 1 of this series of articles. You can find it here.

Once you have identified the key characteristics of your ideal candidate you can use words and phrases that will be highly attractive to them. This will make your job adverts stand out or catch their attention. If you use Recruitment Agencies it will help them to identify and select the best candidates to put forward.For example, if you need someone to help you become more structured in your business they need to be very organised, systematic and precise. You could say something like “We are looking for a meticulous person with an eye for detail to help us to organise our business procedures.” However if your business is still in an entrepreneurial phase and needs someone who likes a challenge, is innovative and able to work on their own with few rules and structures, mention phrases like “This challenging role will give you plenty of autonomy and exciting opportunities to innovate and develop new ways of working”.

Are you enticing enough?     

Most high performers and diligent people know they have something to offer and want to work with successful businesses where they can shine and make a contribution. They will research job opportunities, company performance and the key people before applying. These days it is very easy to research someone on the company website and then on Linked In. What does your website say about your business and the top team? What does your Linked In profile say about you and your business? Are you enticing enough to attract the best?

Don’t rely on the interview       

Have a look at the table below which shows a comparative summary of selection methods, where 1.0 is certain prediction and 0.0 is pure chance (you might as well flip a coin). Most typical interviews are unstructured and have only a 0.3 likelihood of selecting the best candidate, but even with a skilful and structured interview you are not likely to get it 100% right. So how do you manage the risk?

Comparative Summary of Selection Methods(Corbridge & Philbeam 2006)
1.0 –Certain Prediction
0.7 –AssessmentCentre (for development)
0.6 –Skilful and structured Interviews
0.4–AssessmentCentres (for performance)Personality / Behavioural Assessment
0.3 –Typical unstructured interviews
0.0 –Pure chance
0.1 Chance prediction, Graphology, Astrology             
As well as the interview there are a number of other methods you can use? While are very thorough, Assessment centres are very expensive and time consuming to set up especially for small or medium sized businesses. Work sampling or ability tests need a lot of planning and are not always practical, but they can give you an indication of what the candidate is capable of and will be like on the job. However, take care when designing them and avoid them being too complex. My brother Ben recently checked out a company for a job opportunity and he was given a test which would have taken about 16hrsto complete. It looked like the person doing the recruitment was trying to get some free consultancy work and Ben let them know he was not interested.

Predicting job success

Profiling is becoming increasingly popular because it can provide useful insights about the candidate, but you need to be very careful about the profiling tool you use and ensure that you are fully trained or have a skilled practitioner develop and explain the profile. Any profiling tool you use should only be taken as part of the process and not the definitive answer, as you can see they are only 0.4 on the chart above.

The profiling that is becoming very popular with our clients is called Harrison Assessments. It is based on Enjoyment Performance Theory and has been in use for over 30 years. It has an average of 2 million users per year including a number of global businesses, universities and public sector bodies.
Our clients like it because it is not just a profile. The system has 175 factors that can be built into customised job assessments or Job Success Formula. The customised assessment can then be used to automatically shortlist candidates according to their Eligibility and Suitability and cultural fit. It will assess their individual working preferences against the formula and give you a detailed analysis predicting their likelihood of enjoyment of the role and success in the job.
The Harrison approach is also underpinned by Paradox Theory. This identifies ‘genuine strengths’ that come from pairs of seemingly opposite traits. If only one of the traits in the pair is strong and the other weak, you can identify imbalances and derailers. This unique approach raises the key areas to question in an interview and the system provides a helpful Interview Guide based on the candidate’s responses.

Interviewing Pitfalls

While the interview is still the most common and popular form of selection, you can see in the comparisons above that there is a big difference between the typical unstructured form and the skilful structured form that uses insightful behavioural competency questions.

If interviewing is your primary selection process it is important to be aware of the traps that an interviewer can fall into. For example the researchers Anderson and Shackletondraw on a wide variety of studies to summarise the reasons why interviews have been criticised. These include:

  • The self-fulfilling prophecy effect. Interviewers are likely to ask questions designed to confirm initial impressions of candidates gained either before the interview or in its early stages.
  • The stereotyping effect. Interviewers sometimes assume that particular characteristics are typical of members of a particular group. In the case of sex, race, disability, marital status or ex-offenders, decisions made on this basis are often illegal. However, the effect occurs in the case of all kinds of social groups.
  • The halo and horns effect. Interviewers sometimes rate candidates as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ across the board and thus reach very unbalanced decisions.
  • The contrast effect. Interviewers can allow the experience of interviewing one candidate to affect the way they interview others who are seen later in the selection process. This creates an inconsistent and unreliable approach.
  • The similar-to-me effect. Interviewers sometimes give preference to candidates they perceive as having a similar background, career history, personality or attitudes to themselves.
  • The personal liking effect. Interviewers may make decisions on the basis of whether they personally like or dislike the candidate.
For more on Unconscious Bias see our Series of Blogs or just request a copy of our eBook.

Improving your chances and Managing Risk

You can massively improve your chances of selecting the right person for the role and their fit with the culture you want to develop by using a combination for the approaches mentioned above without incurring the costs of a full assessment centre. For example, using a profiling tool that includes a customised assessment for the role, as well as giving you structured in-depth behavioural competency questions. This changes the interview from trying to figure out who will be able to do the job to a more meaningful conversation that explores mutual benefit and quickly gets to the core issues.
Another layer to consider is how to attract the best candidate to work for you. Good candidates will probably have a number of offers. We can provide you with a unique report that will highlight the candidate’s key motivational and engagement drivers so you can explain how your organisation will meet them. Mind you, it is important that you are honest here and that you use this report with integrity or you will seriously damage trust and your employer brand.
Nobody is perfect and when you have chosen the best candidate the Harrison approach will inform you about the key areas that the candidate will need to work on during their probation. It provides you with very specific development reports that can be used to coach the new employee to be the best they can be in the role. It can also provide you with detailed information about their engagement expectations so you can ensure they are fully engaged from the outset. There will be more about this in the last article in this series.
If you would like to discuss developing a Job Success Formula or see some samples of the reports mentioned above please get in touch.
Remember . . . Stay Curious!
With best regards
David Klaasen

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©David Klaasen – 2014