A few unusual yet simple & effective guidelines for recruiting staff

A few unusual yet simple & effective guidelines for recruiting staff

Recently I’ve come across a number of businesses that are in the process of recruiting. So here are some pointers for getting a better outcome with less effort.

Start by writing out the “outcomes” or results you want from this role (the job description). In essence, you’re answering the question, “This person will be on the payroll to produce…”

From the job description, decide what skills (aptitude) and behaviours/values (attitude) are needed to produce these outcomes.  Both are important, but attitude is more important. If you sat down and described your best people, I guarantee you’d be describing their behaviours: loyalty, industry, enthusiasm, persistence, open-mindedness, willingness to “go the extra mile” etc. Finding the evidence for, and testing for, the right behaviour is hard but worth the effort.

Write an honest advert in plain English that states the required outcomes, lists the behaviours and indicates the skills required whilst portraying the opportunity in an exciting way. The aim is to attract the right people and repel the wrong people.

Don’t ask for CVs. Everyone can produce a good-looking CV. You’ll end up wasting your time by interviewing some no-hopers.

Ask interested people to call in. You can arrange for someone to take the call or have a number that goes through to a recorded service. I like the recorded option. Ask people to leave their contact details and answer a few simple questions: Why are you interested in this role? What qualifies you for the role? and so on. This step alone will shake out the people who are going through the motions and who aren’t really interested.

Invite the ones you like the sound of to a telephone interview. You’ll know at the end of a couple of minutes if they’re suitable enough to meet. And you’ll know how they handle themselves on the phone – what job doesn’t require some phone work?

By all means, ask people to fill in an application form and send in a cover letter. You’ll also discover how well they write – what job doesn’t involve some form of written communication.

Involve your team in the selection process for two reasons. Firstly, they’ll genuinely know which individuals will fit in. Secondly, if they’re involved in the decision then they’ll take on the responsibility of making the appointment work. They’ll love the fact that you’re involving them in shaping the future of the business. You’ll have to agree with them what the selection criteria are going to be.

Make the selection process mirror the day-to-day role as closely as possible. If the person has to take many customer calls, give them a batch of mocked-up calls to handle. If they have to create spreadsheets, get them creating spreadsheets. You get the idea.

Get all your shortlisted candidates to come in at the same time. You don’t have to tell them they’ll all be there together. You can run the session before or after normal business hours if you want. This is very time efficient. You learn much from how they interact with your team when they arrive. You can tell everyone the story of, and vision for, your business at the same time. It’s good that your team will also hear you enthusiastically presenting your business vision again. Get the candidates doing the selection exercises you’ve created. Tell the candidates that after a break they’ll be spending a couple of minutes talking to the group about a topic of their choice: the time they overcame a major challenge, or something similar. This is a tough task but you want to put them under pressure and see who really wants the job. Give them an opportunity to ask questions. The questions people ask tells you a lot about them.

From this group you will probably invite two or three people back for a final interview. When asking questions at an interview, leave as much latitude as possible for the candidate to answer. Preface your questions with, “Tell me about a time when… you solved a problem” – if problem-solving is a quality you’re looking for. What you want is spontaneous, unprepared and relevant responses. “Funnily enough, on the way here today I…” rather than “Ughhh, last year I…” There are no right and wrong answers, so give the candidates the opportunity to talk.

Use a behavioural-profile tool as part of your selection process. They’re revealing and a good, low-cost investment.

Always take up references.

When they start, make sure they understand what’s expected of them and ensure they have the right tools – and training – to do their job well. Monitor and support them closely in the early days.

No recruitment system is foolproof but I’ve found this refined process both efficient and effective.

If it turns out you made a bad hiring decision, act swiftly and for everyone’s sake reverse it.


Mark Dyble