Hiring a new member to your team or business is a significant decision. When you get it right, the benefits are enormous. But when you get it wrong, you will often have to live with the consequences for a long time. It’s no wonder, then, that interviewing skills are the 10th hottest soft skill in 2018 on the Udemy platform of 24+ million learners.
This has always been the case, but shifts in the labour market mean that candidates are now in a position of power: They have access to more information and opportunities than ever before, and employers must treat them well in order to win them over. According to 2017 research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), 82% of HR managers reported that it’s a highly competitive market for talent and 89% of respondents said they’re working to strengthen their employer brand.
In order to create a recruiting experience that’s positive for candidates and ultimately beneficial to the company, hiring managers must follow a clear process and sharpen their interview and decision-making skills. Here are 10 steps that will help hiring managers improve their approach to recruitment. I cover each of these steps in more detail in my Udemy for Business course Recruitment Interviewing Made Easy: Interview Like a Pro. To equip your employees with the interviewing skills they’ll need to hire top talent for your organization, find out more about a Udemy for Business subscription for your organization.
Before taking any other steps in the recruitment process, it’s important for the hiring manager to understand the role that they’re hiring for. What will the person’s day-to-day work look like? What will their main responsibilities and projects be? Take the time to define this, because every other step relies on what you learn during this stage.
Once you understand the role, you can begin to build out the list of skills, abilities, and attitudes the person will need to be successful in this role, or what I call the “person specification.” If it’s at all possible, I recommend having the hiring manager speak with several people who currently do this job in order to clarify which characteristics are truly essential and which ones are simply nice to have.
It’s important to familiarise yourself with employment law (or seek advice from someone who’s an expert in this field) in the country or countries where you wish to recruit. This process can help you uncover and mitigate potential problems. For example, in the UK, we now have age discrimination legislation which means that we have to be careful about things like requiring a certain number of years of experience. Consult with an expert to make sure you’re not inadvertently breaking any rules like this.
Companies are also becoming increasingly aware of how bias can impact the interview and hiring process, so it’s important to address this and try to create an inclusive hiring process.
Here are three of the most common interviewer biases to watch out for:
Subjective Validation: I call this the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy effect.’ The interviewer interviews simply trying to confirm that their first impressions, often formed in a few seconds, were correct.
Stereotyping: Assuming that particular characteristics you are seeking are actually typical of a certain group, e.g. certain age group, ethnic group, gender group, geographic area group, etc.
Halo and Horns Effect: Rating a candidate as generally very good because of a characteristic we like, or generally very weak because of something we don’t like, rather than rating each individual characteristic separately and then making a decision.
We all have many built-in biases that potentially impact the effectiveness of our recruitment process. Being aware of that fact, constantly challenging our motives, and sticking to our agreed criteria requires a lot of self-discipline and suspension of judgement. You can learn more about training employees to limit unconscious bias in Using Virtual Reality in Unconscious Bias Training to Change Behavior.
This portion of the recruiting process is often handled by the HR or recruiting department through the company website, job boards, and other online forums, but at some companies, hiring managers are also expected to get involved. Whether a hiring manager is sharing job openings with their networks, speaking at local meetups and industry events, or taking prospective candidates out for coffee, they’ll need to be able to sell the role and your company. What makes this an exciting opportunity for candidates?
Once you begin to get applications, the hiring manager will need to shortlist the ones they’d like to interview. My recommendation here is to use the job specifications as your criteria. Only move forward with candidates who meet the minimum requirements. I actually recommend scanning applications with the sole purpose of finding those minimum requirements. Once you’ve determined whether someone has the qualifications (or doesn’t) and made your decision about the next step, my suggestion is to move on quickly. The reason for this is to avoid gathering unnecessary information that may activate your unconscious biases and impact your opinion about the candidate.
I believe that you need to have a structure for your interview, but it doesn’t have to be rigid. It should be led by what you’re trying to discover from the candidate, looking at the information you have from them, and deciding which things you want to talk about that will most likely give you that evidence. This generally means that you don’t need to go through someone’s CV in chronological order. Instead, you’ll want to look for ways to get evidence about the skills, traits, and attitudes you’ve determined are necessary to succeed in this role.
I cannot overstress the importance of improving your questioning technique. Not only is this a critical skill in an interviewing context, but in management and business contexts as well. I recommend learning about different types of questions and the impact they can have. Hiring managers must familiarise themselves with which questions are useful to ask in an interview, which ones are not useful, and how they can improve their questioning technique. As I mentioned in the previous section, I recommend planning out standardised opening questions, but allowing for flexibility and adaptation based on what you hear from the candidate. To learn more about improving your questioning technique, see my Udemy for Business course Ask Better Questions – Build Better Relationships.
There’s no use in asking brilliant questions if you don’t actually pay attention to what the candidate is saying. That’s why it’s essential for hiring managers to develop their listening skills. This is something that doesn’t always come naturally to managers—they tend to be used to telling, and generally need to learn how to adopt a communication style that’s more focussed on listening. In my Recruitment Interviewing Made Easy course on Udemy for Business, I cover tips on how to know what to listen for as well as practise activities so participants can really focus on improving this critical skill. Better listening skills can benefit you in all areas, but especially when it comes to interviewing. Candidates will reveal a lot about themselves if you’re encouraging them to speak and engaging in a genuine conversation.
If you’ve been following along with each of these steps, in theory the decision should be straightforward. You’ve got the list of the skills that are essential. If you find someone who fits your specifications, you can extend an offer. And if you find yourself in a situation where you have a number of people who meet your specifications, you can also look at your list of “nice to haves” and see who also has some of those. Of course, sticking to the criteria when you’re making the decision is the challenge.
This can be especially difficult when you are part of a hiring committee and not everyone agrees. In this instance, it is helpful to get the committee to agree to the criteria in advance, and if possible agree a ranking order for your “nice to have” attributes. When discussing who to hire, keep the conversation focused on evidence collected against the agreed criteria. If there is disagreement, you can fall back on process by ranking candidates against the pre-agreed desirable (“nice to have”) characteristics ranking. Also, listen out for biases, as they are often the cause of disagreements. Give others on the committee clear objective feedback about the evidence and how it supports or weakens the candidates’ rank. Find some feedback tips in my Udemy for Business course Performance Management: How to Give Effective Feedback.
One of the key moments in the recruiting process occurs after someone has accepted an offer and begun working for your company: new hire onboarding. This is the way you help someone become integrated into your organisation and become a productive employee. And onboarding can have a very real impact on business outcomes. One of my clients, a large national retailer in the UK, was experiencing high short-term turnover among their staff, especially at their stores. By training hiring managers in interview skills and developing a structured onboarding program for new hires, we were able to reduce turnover by 50%.
According to CIPD’s Resource and Talent Planning 2017 report, less than 20% of HR professionals measure the return on investment of their recruiting activities. I’d encourage hiring managers and HR departments to think about more sophisticated ways of measuring the ROI of recruiting activities. In the UK, the median cost for hiring is £6000, but I believe it’s much more than that when you consider the lost productivity when a good employee leaves and the time it takes a new person to start.
By taking the time to develop a better recruitment process and improved interviewing skills, hiring managers can make a positive impact on their team, bring down recruiting costs, and deliver more value to their business overall.
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