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23
Oct

Why interviews fail…

Recruitment – and given that I’ve devoted the last thirteen years of my life to it, you’d expect me to say this – is an art form. Just like any other process, there is a right way and a wrong way to recruit. If your organisation has failed to recruit the right staff, the problem might well have been something that it did or didn’t do, rather than with the candidates you interviewed.

People write whole books about the art of interviewing, and at the end of the day, there is so much opinion out there, that I’m not here to repeat what’s already been said, but instead I’m going to summarise a few key things to think about, to ensure that you maximise your chances of a successful recruitment campaign every time…

It may surprise you, but interviewing success or failure can be attributed all the way back to the beginning of the process, so let’s start from there, and go forward step by step:

  1. The need…

What are you actually looking for, when you are trying to recruit? If ‘Janet’ leaves, you’re not actually looking for another Janet, you’re looking for somebody to fulfil the role that Janet once did, rather than trying to fill Janet’s shoes. Recruitment often starts to go wrong at this stage, because interviewers are often looking for another Janet, and the chances are, they may not find one. De-personalising a vacancy is critical, and as a professional recruiter, I always try to speak to the hiring manager wherever possible, to ensure that they are open-minded and more importantly, realistic about the person they are looking for.

  1. The advert…

What, where and how you advertise are equally crucial when it comes to interview success. Have a look through job-advertising websites, where organisations recruit directly, and ask yourself if you feel that the job title matches the role, and if the experience required matches the salary on offer. All too often, recruitment can fail at this stage, even if the need has been correctly identified, simply because the advert is not enticing enough, is full of jargon, asks for more than it should for the salary on offer, or is advertised in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If you’re responsible for advertising roles, you need to try to find out what chance of success you are likely to have with a specific advert in your customary advertising route. It’s unlikely that general jobsites will yield huge success compared to more specific jobsites – and some vacancies are better left to head-hunters.

Think also of the time of year at which you are trying to recruit. January is traditionally the busiest time – but maybe your advert will get lost. The summer months are traditionally very quiet for recruitment, so June and September would be my preferred options if I had the luxury of being flexible when and how I advertised. Again, a recruitment agency might be a smarter, and often cheaper option at certain times of the year, rather than throwing money into an expensive advert with limited chances of success.

  1. The timelines…

There is no point advertising something for two weeks, and then spending three weeks shortlisting! In order to maximise your interview success the interview dates need to be as close to the application deadlines as possible – even if it means asking a manager to shortlist out-of-hours. Organisations which respond to candidates three weeks after the advert closed are likely to find that the best candidates have been snapped up by another employer…

  1. The application process…

If your role is hard to fill, don’t put up so many barriers that the chances of success are diminished even further. A covering letter and a tailored CV are fine, but I’ve known clients to insist on a 12-page application form, because they’ve ‘always used them before’, even though we all know that the only part of an application form which really gets read is the supporting statement!

If your organisation states that application forms have to be filled in, at least allow candidates the option of submitting a CV for work history and education, professional qualifications and hobbies, etc. You’ll be amazed how many good candidates are put off by unnecessary hurdles, especially when your competitors will allow them to apply with a CV and cover letter.

At the end of the day, it’s better to have twice as many candidates to choose from, and a robust shortlisting procedure, than have to pick the best of a bad bunch because you attracted too few candidates in the first place…

  1. The shortlisting…

As a recruitment consultant, I’m paid to screen candidates, which I can do in a variety of ways; CVs, telephone interviews and face-to-face meetings. I have a distinct advantage, since a CV or application can look incredibly promising, whereas the candidate’s personality or personal skills might not be a good match for the role. However, there is nothing stopping a candidate resourcer / in house recruiter to add a ‘telephone stage’ to an interview process, to ensure that candidates invited to a face-to-face interview have been as well screened as possible.

  1. The build-up…

Briefing candidates as fully as possible allows them to feel prepared and deliver their best. Candidates need to know as much as possible about an organisation, so feel free to send them anything that you don’t mind them knowing about your organisation. This might include information on the organisation’s roots, ethics, mission statement, or notes on the culture, successes and challenges, or even plans for the future.

I’ve recently submitted candidates for a one-stage interview process who were so good that the client has had to include a second stage to the process, to ensure that the very best candidate is appointed. There is nothing wrong with that; a second interview allows you to see whether or not the candidate’s behaviour is consistent with their first-round performance, and also gives the candidate a chance to ask sensible and suitable questions, having had time to reflect on the role and organisation.

  1. The interview itself…

Think carefully in advance about the panel, the questions, the process, the marking and the logistics. Remember that interviews are a two-way process, and if the interview process appears shambolic or unstructured, you might find that your number-one candidate turns you down. I won’t go into details about the actual questions; instead, I’ll save that for another blog…

It’s a fact that candidates often turn down jobs, and the panel might have to sell an organisation and a role to a candidate, in the same way that a candidate has to sell themselves into the role – but be careful not to over-promise. The number one reason why candidates leave a job within the first few months of starting is because they were promised things at interview stage which failed to materialise; in other words, they were over-sold the opportunity. Try to be honest with the candidate; it is better that a candidate will decide upon reflection that the role is not for them, rather than ‘hope that things will work out’, only for them to leave three months into a role.

Finally, and it may sound obvious but ensure that there is no friction on the interview panel itself. Candidates often turn down a chance of a second interview, or even a role itself, simply because they felt uncomfortable with the panel. Again, this happens because organisations forget that an interview is a two-way process…

  1. The after-care…

So you’ve offered the role, but that doesn’t automatically mean recruitment was successful. You might have to negotiate contract, salary, start date, time off for a hand-over, pre-booked holidays or a multitude of other factors. Again, remember that interviews are a two-way process, and recruitment should be seen as a long-term investment in somebody. Before turning down a request, ask yourself how important the request might be for the person asking it, and try to be as flexible as (justifiably) possible.

However, there is a caveat to this: an organisation which bends over backwards to accommodate a new hire risks potentially creating a culture of favouritism as interpreted by existing employees, and if in a worst-case scenario this could lead to potential tribunals – so use caution and sensitivity in equal measure to the flexibility you’d be showing a new potential employee.

  1. The alternative…

Of course, if you’re worried that your organisation lacks the capacity, skills or time to recruit – or you need somebody in a hurry, then consider The I Am Group for your recruitment needs! We’re experts in the field, which means you don’t need to be – so feel free to call 020 7148 6749 and we’ll tell you how we can help! Now, who didn’t see that coming…?

Julian Smith has worked in recruitment since 2001, and also works as both a career coach and mentor. He has advised thousands of clients on small- and large-scale recruitment, restructures, outplacement and interviews. In 2011 he co-founded the I Am Group, as an ethical alternative to standard recruitment, and aspires to raise the standard of the industry. The I Am Group’s blend of consultancy, recruitment, learning and networking events affords them a unique position in the world of recruitment. Visit www.iamenterprises.co.uk for more information.

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