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Recruitment processes! We’ve all been involved in one. Whether it’s as an applicant, a delegate or a panel member, we have all had to experience this process at least once in our adult life. Involvement in a recruitment process is not something anyone really enjoys and maybe this is why, it remains one of the least innovative aspects of human resource management.

From an applicant’s perspective, the prospect of applying for a job and going through an interview process is enough to bring someone out in a cold sweat. Meanwhile, the panel member is dreading trawling through hundreds of pages of applications searching for that gem of an applicant whose demonstrated experience and documented approach to their work jumps off the page at them, only to find at interview that they just don’t make the cut. Last in line is the delegate, the person whose signature decides the fate of many, often having to place complete trust in a process that hasn’t significantly changed in 30 years; that it will deliver the right outcome for the business.

A poor recruitment decision will have lasting ramifications that will be felt through an organisation well after the wrong recruit has moved on. Businesses can experience reduced moral as employees become disaffected by the processes undertaken to engage and promote staff; costs escalate as unnecessary recruitment activity occurs in an attempt to address the last poor decision; performance and productivity falls, and good staff decide to leave. On top of that, good applicants cease to apply, and the business enters into a downward spiral.

The solution is not difficult, but it does require planning and strategic thinking against each and every component of a selection process each and every time. No two people are the same so why would we expect that a one-size-fits-all recruitment process will work for all roles in our organisation? The best recruitment policies provide a framework for tailoring recruitment activity to the specific need of the exercise, they do not dictate the exercise.

  • Selection Material – this should describe the job in sufficient detail, classification, salary range, the qualifications and skills needed, the reporting structure (who the role reports to and the size of the team it is responsible for). It should also describe the values the organisation adheres to; making sure the espoused values are demonstrated throughout all levels of the organisation – particularly at the senior levels. It should also guide an applicant through the approach being taken (considering and including the approach against the various phases below).

    Remember, the selection material and the advertisement are often the first impression a new applicant will get of your organisation. Your goal is to impress whilst making sure not to over-promise.

  • The Application – what purpose is it going to serve in your overall approach? How much weight will you give the application in your overall decision? This is a critical decision to make before commencing and should be communicated to prospective applicants through the selection material.

    An application that is only needed to progress through the entry level gateway will look very different to an application that will be used to inform and underpin your approach to interviewing the applicant.

    You also should include broader considerations that may inform your application requirements, for example; if you are seeking to increase diversity, you may wish to look at a blind selection process where key information is not included such as the age, gender or nationality of an applicant. Of course, this approach only works well for external recruitment decisions and may not deliver the desired outcomes where the bulk of your applicants are internal.

  • First Level Cull – many larger employers will use recruitment agencies to assist in the recruitment processes, particularly for those parts that are administratively demanding, such as reading all applications and separating the genuine applicants from the rest.

    The trap here is where the employer fails to examine the practical front-end implications resulting in duplication, confusion and misinformation for the applicant; the one person you need to ensure a simple, clear and unambiguous pathway to your door.

    Remember, just because you are engaging an agency to assist in your process, does not mean that your overall process will be properly integrated.

  • Selection for Interview – how you approach your interview process links back to your decision regarding the purpose of the application. If the application is intended to be a simple gateway determinant, then it is likely that you will need to invest more heavily in the interviews. However, if the application phase provides greater detail, then you may be able to be more discerning regarding who you select for interview.

    Another important consideration informing this aspect is time. How much time do you intend on dedicating to the interviews? Noting of course that saving time on interviews will require increased time at the application phase and vice-a-versa.

  • The Interview – this phase is critical and carries with it some basic rules:

    i. You must interview applicants. A decision made off the back of an application only is ill informed and high risk.

    ii. The approach to interview must form part of an integrated approach to recruitment. Understand how you are gathering the information you need in order to make the right decision and ensure that each phase is enacted properly.

    iii. Interview questions need to be tailored to the applicant.Too often we see interviews conducted using the same questions for each applicant because this is the easiest way to demonstrate equity. Well, it might be easy, but it won’t get you the best outcome. At the planning phase, you need to have established what you are looking for. The questions for each applicant are centred around this criterion and unless every applicant is a clone of the last, your interview questions will not be the same.

    iv. Empower the applicant. This process should not be a test to see which applicants can read your mind. You will find out a great deal more about the way a person thinks and the experience they have by clearly explaining what you are seeking out of each question and asking them to respond.

  • The Decision - How will you rank the applicants? Will you produce a merit list where you make selections based on the ranking of each person or will you create a merit pool where applicants of relative equal merit may be selected for the opportunity (or opportunities as they arise)? How will you decide between two applicants of equal merit? How do you know that your decision is consistent with a person’s basic protections under the Fair Work Act?

    In addition to these questions, you may find yourself asking whether it is more important to have a person sitting in the job, even if they are not the right person or whether this process would be better concluding with no offer of employment.

    It is true that many of these considerations are subjective, but a well-planned selection process will have incorporated such aspects and potential risks into the overall strategy.

  • Feedback – firstly, feedback should be given to each person you interview, and it goes without saying that this bit is hard. You will be required to inform people that they have not been successful and why. It is a rare person who is unaffected by knowing that the message they must deliver will be a distressing one. Just like the interview, follow a few simple rules and you will deliver the message in a constructive and compassionate way:

    i. Don’t outsource it – take responsibility for the decision. The person involved in the selection process who has asked the questions, listened to the answers and subsequently ranked the applicant is the best person to provide feedback.

    ii. Focus on the facts – in any interaction where you are dealing with people, you will make assumptions and draw conclusions – it’s human nature. So, it is important that when you provide feedback, that you are reflecting facts, not assumptions.

    iii. Keep it short – the longer you spend explaining to someone why they were not successful, the greater the risk of argument and/ or distress.

  • Once the planning is complete, it is time to commence. Not before!

    Once the process is complete, it is then time to implement the decision. But that is a topic for another day.

    If you are looking for new ideas and a different way to get the best from your recruitment processes, contact Gary Champion at HBA Consulting Pty Ltd to make a time to discuss how we can assist in developing and implementing your strategy.


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