The recruitment dilemma

Why most projects fall short before starting

Most organisations have a set of policies and processes for recruitment. Many of these are highly comprehensive and very effective at assessing candidates to ensure the best person is selected for the position, through interviewing, analysis and other evaluation and selection tools. The problem is that most only start at this point and fail to implement a proper process in the first place to ensure that suitable candidates are actually reviewed.

They might advertise the position, consider previous applicants, list with or accept “candidates” from “recruiters” for consideration, but these efforts rarely result in a high quality short list. Many times the best of an average group is selected, some times a good candidate is chosen, but rarely is an exceptional one given the job. Often those who are considered will satisfy some of the criteria, and even most of the technical requirements. But usually the missing bits are to do with the candidates’ personalities, intellects and motivations. For most key positions these are the most important attributes to ensure good culture fit, performance and employee retention.

In reality the best people for the job are usually not actively looking. They are unlikely to be scouring through job advertisements, or dealing with a “recruiter” to help them find a new job. They are very unlikely to be “on the books” of only one agency. Unfortunately many hiring Managers and HR professionals responsible for recruitment fail to recognise this, or trust that a non retained recruiter is actually undertaking a process. Their comprehensive assessment processes usually only consider mediocrity, by failing to implement a proper process at the front end. The best available people may not even be considered, let alone selected.

The use of the word candidate to describe all those who might get the job is also misleading. A candidate is, by definition, an individual being considered for a specific position by the employer. Otherwise they are an applicant, a job seeker or a target (in the case of a search). At best they are a potential candidate. Understanding this will go a long way to achieving an appropriate focus on the front end of the recruitment process, prior to assessment of actual candidates (short list).

For many positions it may be appropriate to implement this front end process by advertising directly or by seeking potential candidates from agencies. Usually this is when it is a low level position which needs to be filled quickly. The analogy is like fishing with a net – cast it out and select the best from the haul.

However, when the position is more vital to the organisation, and the difference between a “good” and an “exceptional” person in that role makes a clear difference to its competitiveness, productivity and bottom line, then it becomes very important to ensure that a comprehensive front end process is applied. This is like fishing with a rod – pick the right place, time, bait and tackle, and carefully and patiently keep fishing until you catch exactly what you are looking for.

Except for some technical roles, finding the right skills, experience and knowledge is actually not the hardest part of the process. Attracting people who also have the right personal qualities for both the position and the organisation (cultural fit), is the key. This requires a delicate and professional approach to first gain interest in the specific position and organisation, and then a comprehensive interview process to confirm specific competencies and evaluate personal attributes.

Engaging a professional search and selection consultancy is likely to achieve this. A consultant who has been professionally and exclusively retained is fully responsible and accountable throughout and beyond the recruitment process, and provides a professional service with the interests predominantly of the client in mind, rather than the candidate. Exceptional candidates are invariably already employed and many will deal only with a reputable consultant, where third party representation, confidentiality, and professional mediation are valued.