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The 12 pillars of an effective recruitment process (and 3 mistakes to avoid)

A rock solid recruitment process is the first step to building a high performing team.

Whether you are overseeing the recruitment process for your entire company or starting a new job as a recruiter, finding the right candidates for your team can be stressful, especially in a world facing unprecedented public health and economic challenges.

Like anything, if you break it down to its essential components, the process is not nearly as daunting.

Here’s a list of key elements to incorporate into your recruitment process:

Develop a comprehensive strategy for your recruitment process

The most effective and efficient projects begin with strategy sessions. Take a little time now to potentially save you a great deal of time and effort later.

  • Identify needs – experienced hire vs entry level and college recruitment process
  • Are these new positions, or backfills? If someone left, why?
  • What is your retention rate and how has it changed over time?
  • Plan to be proactive rather than reactionary
  • Develop contingency plans for temporary absences if people are out sick
  • Considering economic headwinds with global recession and implications to your supply chain – possible shifting of priorities and hiring needs
  • How does this recruitment process align with the department's strategic plan and company’s mission?

Assemble a team of top-notch recruiters

Although most people would rather be the interviewer vs the interviewee any day of the week, it's important that both the recruiter and the candidate prepare for an interview. 

Companies need to make a good impression on applicants and recognize that the candidate experience with the recruitment team will play a major role when job seekers weigh competing offers. Recruiters are brand ambassadors for the company as a whole, not just its products.

Top candidates have options; many consider the way they are treated as candidates as indicative of how a company values its employees. Offer decisions are based on a myriad of factors beyond salary/benefits and the candidate experience matters.

Be sure that you are: 

  • Taking the time to identify the right people to represent your company to candidates
  • Training recruiters and ensuring recruitment process is well orchestrated and lean

Create a detailed, descriptive job description

It’s hard to attract the right candidate if you cannot articulate what you want. The job description is a key building block of your recruitment process and care should be taken when writing this document. 

You want to paint a picture of exactly what you need, while stopping short of creating a laundry list of wishes that no candidate would possess or at least not for the compensation attached to the description. 

Compelling descriptions:

  • Offer a brief snapshot of the company
  • Present a detailed outline of job functions
  • Include some indications of the impact this role will have
  • Incorporate relevant keywords for the industry and the job function
  • Are realistic – need versus like to have
  • Explain how the job fits into the big picture of your company
  • List the background and skills of the person ideally suited for this job – which competencies are needed?

Advertising the job

Diversify your approach so you are more likely to get a solid candidate pool and keep the position open for a month if possible to give applicants time to prepare materials.

Some of my best hires were candidates who happened upon the position just before we took it down from the job boards. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Internal candidates – your own employees looking for a change or promotion
  • Referrals from your employees (perhaps a bonus as incentive if their referral gets hired)
  • Job boards: LinkedIn Jobs tab (my personal favorite), Glassdoor, Indeed, etc.
  • Your company website
  • Professional Associations
  • Industry sites
  • Conferences
  • Career Fairs (check out virtual ones during the era of social distancing)
  • Additional recruiting events
  • Networking with your connections 
  • Former employees

Screening the resumes as part of the recruitment process

Many large and medium-sized companies utilize applicant tracking systems, which are software programs that parse through resumes based on keywords and look for a match between resumes and the job description. 

Resumes are assigned a match score and ones over a certain percentage (perhaps an 80% match) are more likely to be forwarded into the hands of a decision maker. 

If your company has the means, an ATS can be a highly efficient way of quickly reviewing hundreds or thousands of resumes. Of course, keep in mind that you could be overlooking an amazing candidate who was not aware of the tips and tricks for creating an ATS optimized resume through sites like Jobscan.co. This person may have the skills you need, yet not market those skills in a way that would score well with the ATS.

Evaluate the volume of resumes you receive, number of positions you have to fill and other metrics for your recruitment process to see if an ATS makes sense for your company. In some cases, these are part of larger client relationship management (CRM) packages.

Interviewing as part of your recruitment process

As you narrow down your candidate pool, be sure that you keep things as standardized as possible and ask all the candidates the same questions, so you have an even playing field and are evaluating them on the same criteria. 

Have your search team meet at the beginning to discuss your strategy and have checkpoints to come together and discuss impressions throughout the process. 

Keep notes in a secure place – without these, all the interviews could start to run together if you are meeting with several candidates. 

In the age of social distancing, explore your options for video conferencing – there several platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, BlueJeans, Facetime and more for you to meet with candidates.

Remember that even if there’s a power differential in the selection process, this is ultimately going to be a partnership with your hire. You want to create a positive experience.

Think of your best interview experiences. What made those interviews stand out for the right reasons? How can you emulate that for your candidates?

Selecting the right person

Have multiple interview rounds so you can meet your candidate a few times and not rely solely on one impression. Make sure you are selecting someone with both the experience and skills/competencies needed for the role, but be careful not to let any unconscious biases get in the way.

Keep in mind that cognitive diversity is crucial on teams (studies have shown cognitively diverse teams are much faster at problem solving) so steer clear of hiring someone because they are similar to you.

Also, ditch the old fashioned career test and personality tests — they don’t work and you risk pigeon-holing a high performing, complex individual into a ‘type’ that is laden with assumptions and unhelpful labels.

The best way to do this is to use a people analytics tool, like F4S, to map your team’s culture and measure each individual’s talents and blind spots. Then, you can consider the gaps in your team and how will this person address those and complement everyone, so your team can reach new heights.

Background checks as part of the recruitment process

After a long recruitment process that yields the candidate you have been waiting for, be sure you don’t jump ahead to the offer before conducting a thorough background check. 

Call multiple references and pay attention to red flags. If something is off and you are catching lies on the resume or other issues, take the time to investigate your concerns. 

Perhaps there was a runner up candidate? If not, it’s better to start your search again. Waiting may be tough for the team, but it’s better than making a hasty decision without all the facts. Don’t rush!

Onboarding

Remember how you felt the first day at a new school, well it's not much different when you're an adult on the first day of a new job. 

After all the trouble you've gone to find this amazing candidate and get them through the hiring process, now is not the time to let up on the gas. You want to make sure that you have a strategy for integrating them into their team, the department, and the company as a whole. 

  • Let them know any specific paperwork or identification they will need to bring and sign the first day. 
  • Provide a tour of the office including water cooler, restrooms, and other important places they will need. 
  • Remember details such as giving them access to the parking garage and getting their workstation, laptop and email set up as soon as possible.
  • Take them around and introduce them to the people in their division, especially their immediate supervisor (if they haven't met them already) as well as their primary team members.
  • Connect them with one specific person who can be their go to source for questions in the first month.
  • Provide an agenda for the day and include the names of people they will be meeting to help them keep everything straight. 
  • Have a checklist of some things they can do to get started since it can often be awkward the first day or two, especially if email and certain technical permissions are pending. 
  • Outline what their training will consist of - is it an afternoon, a week, or a month? Let them know if it is self-directed or part of a group.
  • Give them a few insider tips such as the best place to grab a salad nearby for lunch or a great cup of coffee in the vicinity. 
  • Take them to lunch and pay if you can or find another person who can take them so they will not be eating alone at their desk that first day.
  • Remind them that it's OK to ask questions and you're really glad they have joined the team.

Pipelining

Inevitably, the day after I made an offer for a search that took me months, I would get an amazing candidate inquiring about a position that I was about to remove from a job board. In those cases, I would keep the resumes in a file and let the candidate know that while I had just filled that position, I often recruited for similar roles and would get back in touch with them if something opened up. 

I once had an opening sooner than expected and was able to fill a role by going back to this file and finding a great candidate. Timing really is everything and sometimes the stars align. 

Be sure that you're always looking six months or more ahead as you try and anticipate your hiring needs. This will give you time to secure the funding for the position and create an onboarding strategy. 

Planning ahead is especially important with college recruiting since many firms extend offers months in advance. When recruiting on campuses, connect with the Career Center staff who will explain key dates, events and walk you through an array of options to help you connect with students and advertise your opportunities. 

For experienced hires, you may need to account for extra time for cross-country moves and for them to give adequate notice at their current companies, especially if they are in high-level roles.

Networking

Just as networking is essential for candidates conducting a job search, don’t discount its value for your recruitment process. During my recruiting days, I found that Philadelphia seemed like more of a small town and there were a bunch of us recruiters competing for some of the same talent with hard to find skills. As a recruiter, you had an edge if you had connected with candidates in other ways – perhaps networking at local tech events or competitions. 

Their key was to connect with them at the human level, so it didn’t feel transactional like you were merely trying to find a body for a role and check off your to do list.

While candidates ultimately had to select jobs that fit their unique priorities for that particular time in their lives, expanding my network as a recruiter helped me make some great matches. It took some time, but was worth the effort. 

Benchmarking and continual adaptation

Data analytics is everywhere these days and for good reason – it’s comforting to have some information to guide your decision making. You don’t want a haphazard approach to your recruitment process. Throughout your recruiting journey, track your efforts. 

Whether it’s recruiting software or Customer Relationship Management tools with all the bells and whistles or a simple excel spreadsheet, record your actions from advertising to candidate touchpoints and offer acceptance rates. Gain insights into which efforts are working and shift your strategy if certain avenues of advertising are not as fruitful as you had hoped. 

Benchmark yourself against competitor companies and connect with colleagues at professional associations to learn about best practices. Read the latest on recruitment strategy to ensure you are doing everything possible to attract and retain the right candidates for your company.

Three things to avoid when mapping out your Recruitment Process

1 - Don’t abandon your recruitment process when the economy shifts

During 2008, I was working at Vanderbilt Career Services and connecting with Fortune 500 recruiters every day looking to fill their next cohort of entry-level hires. When Lehman Brothers collapsed and the economy abruptly contracted, it affected every level of hiring, especially campus recruitment. Unfortunately, employers started rescinding full-time offers and canceling internship programs. 

Over the decade that followed the Great Recession in the US, the employers that bounced back and started recruiting again encountered mixed results that directly correlated with their actions during the height of the economic crisis. The companies that retained some semblance of a recruiting strategy (even if drastically downsized) attracted new hires much more easily a few years later than companies that disappeared from campuses for a time. 

It may seem counterintuitive during a time of hiring freezes, but companies must get creative to keep their brand recognition strong, even for household names. It’s not an accident that some of the most recognizable brands in the world continually advertise. 

When the economy eventually recovers, job seekers will look to see how a company treated its workforce during the time of crisis. For companies laying off workers, that could mean having the recruitment staff shift gears and help laid off workers with outplacement services. Your branding and reputation are as important as ever in these turbulent times.

For companies now facing questions about current internship or new hire programs, it’s important to try everything to keep some semblance of these alive, even if that means shortening the internship, going remote if possible in the age of social distancing, or even turning the program into a month long series of remote professional development sessions and a project that can provide some experience. 

Everyone gets that life as we know it has changed, and efforts to meet new and experienced hires halfway go a long way. Whether it's finding ways to avoid layoffs or launching creative and cost-effective ways to provide value, make every effort to include some semblance of recruiting in both your short- and long-term strategy. After all, you need a strong team to help you rebuild and reinvent yourself in the aftermath of the crisis. 

2 - Don’t underestimate how COVID-19 will forever change your recruitment process

A few months ago, companies may have incorporated a phone screening or video chat in the early stages of the interview process, yet most planned to invite candidates to interview at a physical office at some point in the process. 

Now with the global pandemic, strategies for your recruitment process must incorporate an emphasis on public health and risk management. Even when a vaccine is developed, many of these changes will remain in some form. The combination of the public health crisis and ensuing economic fallout has served as a tipping point that will accelerate many recruiting trends already in motion. 

For the past few years, more employers have turned to online video interviews (both live and asynchronous) to help them whittle down the candidate pool. Many candidates and others in the field derided these as impersonal (especially the ones without a live person on the other side), yet the adoption rate increased as more companies found them to be money and time savers that allowed them to be more efficient in their quest for the right candidates. 

Now, with public safety at stake, video interviews have become lifesavers in a literal sense.

Back in 2013, I had 10 interviews for my recruiting job with an international staffing firm and all of them were through Skype or other video conferencing systems. I did not meet the team in person until my first day of work. 

At the time, it was a bit foreign to me, but I appreciated being able to conduct interviews on my lunch hour and not having to worry about flying across the country since I was living in Nashville, Tennessee and trying to move to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It saved the company money and it made sense since much of the work for that recruiting role would be with clients across the nation through videoconferencing. 

This shift to video interviewing makes sense if many of these jobs will be remote for at least part of this year, if not longer until a vaccine is developed. Why have an in-person interview for a remote position? 

That’s not to say that in person interviews will disappear, for they add a richness of experience for both the employer and the candidate. As a perspective employee you learn a lot going to a company and getting a feel for their culture and space. 

Yet, if companies can save money for themselves and make things more convenient for the job seeker, completely remote interviewing processes will become more commonplace even after this crisis passes. 

Incorporating remote Interviewing into your Recruitment Process

If remote interviewing sticks and even overtakes in person meetings, as a recruiter it’s essential that you look for ways to make this remote recruitment process as engaging as possible. 

You need the right technical tools and equipment, as well as your team trained in the nuances of evaluating candidates in this manner. Plus, you will have to explore ways to convey your unique culture over a video interview that (on the surface) looks like every other video interview the candidate has had. 

Attention to detail and preparation will be more important than ever for making a good impression. 

Even when it’s safe for everyone to return to work again, companies will be incorporating pandemic plans for years to come and begin reconfiguring offices away from the open floor plans that had dominated many workspaces the past decade. 

Now that both companies and workers have experienced remote working, it could be much more common for offices to have half their team in person and the other half remote. Prepare your recruitment process now so you are proactive rather than reactive (like we all have had to be these past few months).

3 - Don’t fall into the culture trap

When you find a strong hire who is intelligent, works well with others, takes initiative, and is dependable, it can be tempting to want to fill your team with more members like that person. Who doesn’t want a person that fits well into the culture of the team and makes life easier for a manager? 

While this is understandable and depending upon the volume of your hiring needs, it makes sense to follow fruitful hiring sources, you have to be careful and diversify your hiring practices by finding diverse candidates and utilizing an array of different pipelines to find them. 

For example, don’t hire all candidates from the same university for your internship and new hire programs. 

If your CEO is from a certain university, you may feel pressure as a hiring manager to extend the majority of your offers to new grads and alumni from that university, but this is a mistake. Each university has certain strengths and you don’t want all of your new hires to reflect one mold, especially if you are a tech company and hiring primarily from one school’s computer science program.

Be sure to diversify your team

If you have a team that looks and thinks alike, it can stifle your team’s creativity and impede your innovation. It’s important to cultivate an environment of both diversity and inclusion, where team members of different races, genders, sexual orientations, ages, gender identities, religious affiliations, socioeconomic status/background, and abilities come together and strengthen your team with their various perspectives. 

It’s not enough to bring them on board and say I have a diverse team, but all staff really need to feel they are part of a safe environment and welcomed – no cliques allowed. 

Partner with your diversity and inclusion department (if you have one) for guidance or consult with an expert in that domain if you don’t.

In a global marketplace, you can’t make assumptions about your customers. By having a diverse team, you will better equip your company to remain in touch with your customer base and evolve with them.

Some of the world’s top performing companies like Canva, Atlassian and Techsauce use F4S to select and develop their top talent. Add F4S to your recruitment process for free today.

Tiffany has been a career coach since 1998, guiding over 6,000 job seekers of all levels and industries through the finer points of a job search. She worked as a recruiter for an international staffing company and has spent the past five years as Associate Director of Career Services at an Ivy League university, where she helps freshmen through master’s students and alumni with all aspects of their career search.

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