There's no moment or process more important in a company than the recruiting process. Especially when we talk about a small company, where a newcomer - an employee - will constitute 20, 30, or maybe 50% of the "crew". The recruiting process is the key while building a new team.
Start-ups, basically their founders, are often going down the same blind alleys, making the same mistakes, having similar doubts and dilemmas.
The following chapter surely won't be comprehensive, but without doubt it will be connected to the issues that I've encountered while working as a trainer and as a consultant.
Where to start from? "At first chaos came to be", that is recruitment mythology
However trivial it may sound - a human being is the most important investment of every enterprise. But when we look closer at human capital management in an organization, we may come to the conclusion that it starts from the moment of recruitment.
A lot of company processes depend on whether we choose the right employee - a colleagues motivation to work, team development and changes, often times also brand and company image or customer satisfaction.
Even novice managers know about this and still the recruitment processes in many companies are coincidental, there are some unbelievable ideas to "crack the candidate" or some unprofessional actions taken during the interview. What's more, unfortunately, the recruitment process often ends after the interview - the newcomer is left alone with the onboarding team or maybe some colleagues will help.
Regarding the fact that I am a Human Resources Management and Talent Management trainer and consultant, and that among the jobs that I do there are a lot of recruitment projects, I hear different versions of the following questions countless times: "what do I do to present myself well during the interview?" and "how do I know if the candidate is good enough?".
I very often see recruitment practices as a theatrical act. If a candidate is intelligent and has already participated in a certain amount of interviews, he/she will know how to behave. In such circumstances, the interview is just a play where the candidate plays a role and the recruiter evaluates that role. The effects are easy to predict. It's not about blaming somebody. If a candidate really wants the job and realises that the only way to get it is through a sequence of behaviour, he/she most probably will learn such a sequence. If a professional recruiter encounters such a candidate a couple of times — that is a person "trained by the market of other recruiters" — he/she starts to doubt that it is possible to find people who will show who they really are during the interview. This is a vicious circle. Let's try to investigate what kind of mechanisms are behind it.
Intuition and spontaneity — recruiter with paranormal skills
Some recruiters are the kind of people who, after a second of contact with another human being, are able to tell (with a probability that is near certainty) if the candidate is a fit for the job or not. They don't follow any recruitment models — they just know the secrets of intuitive recruiting. Even though they aren't conducting effectiveness analysis or analysis for the rotation of candidates who were employed by this technique, they claim that it works best.
Such a recruiter in a company is a treasure. We can extend the scope of his duties to foreseeing the currency exchange rates and the results of the Warsaw Stock Exchange.
The superiority of Leos over Libras
Another interesting trend in the process of recruitment is finding the inspiration in horoscope, numerology, tarot, etc. They say that it is worth checking what the stars have to say about a candidate. Of course, you can look up his private photos on Facebook, but it won't be the same level of reliability that astrology guarantees.
There may be more beliefs and mini-theories, for example, that the only way to discover the candidate's personality is through reading about their hobbies; that he/she's a fraud because they made a typo; that the font that they've chosen in their CV has a meaning and indicates the type of personality, and that if, 15 years ago, there was a gap in his/her employment history, he/she must be a "slacker".
For those who didn't get the irony, I must add that I'm happy that there's no simple answer in psychology and in human beings, fortunately, because the transparency stemming from our zodiac signs would be unbearable.
Human experiments and how to effectively ruin the brand
When a serious candidate comes to an interview and sees that the person that was supposed to talk to him/her talks over the phone, he/ she may simply feel uncomfortable or just wait politely. And that's how he/she may not "pass the test" — because the recruiter was "evaluating" the assertiveness of the candidate (waited for the candidate to say something). Another scene: there's no chair in a room where the interview is about to begin, but there's a camera. Behind a two-way mirror there are the recruiters — hidden and waiting to see what the candidate is going to do in order to interpret this and make a diagnosis of his/her personality.
It's often the case that the recruiters don't know who they are talking to (it's hard to say whether it's not just another "psychological trick"), what position this interview is for and what criteria were stated in the recruitment advert — they forget about such "trivial" rules as diplomacy and respect. One excellent project manager once told me what he heard during an interview with one of Warsaw's advertising agencies — they told him that if he's not a programmer he shouldn't have come (by the way there was no such requirement in the recruitment advert, he'd been invited and driven a couple of hundred kilometres for an interview that lasted 15 minutes). The recruiter asked him questions that had nothing to do with the requirements for the position and was shocked when the candidate said thank you politely and left, after realising that "they have nothing to talk about".
Instead of expressing my thoughts, I will leave you with a rhetorical question — what does the candidate, and a prospective customer, think of a company after such a meeting?
The recruitmentprocess means branding.
It can also be the other way around. Occasionally, the recruiters are preoccupied with the belief that they have to promote their organization with PR actions. The brand's image is polished, idealized, and the candidate gets promises, promises and... promises. The aim is to lure him. After the contract has been signed, he's confronted with how it really is — often his duties have nothing to do with what has been established. The company thinks that the method of "irrevocable facts" will motivate the new employee to engage.
I'll give an example. One of my customers told me that after she had signed a contract and started working, she was gradually learning about changes regarding her position (including the scope of duties and responsibilities), the location of work (different city), salary and management possibilities (it's turned out that as a manager she could only and implicitly carry out the management tasks of her superior regarding her team: reducing, transferring, etc.)
"What would you do if you caught a goldfish?", "Why don't penguins' feet freeze?", "What do you associate with a tree?", "And if its roots are huge?", "Who would you take to a desert island?" — they say that on the basis of that kind of question, some recruiters are able to draw certain conclusions regarding the type of candidate (personality, competences, values) they are dealing with.
This is a paradigm that even Kuhn wasn't aware of, so I also don't dare relate to these recruitment techniques...
Hipster, hustler or hacker?
Of course common values and attitudes are important, but remember, it should be one of the recruitment criteria but not the only one...
That difficult Generation Y
There's a clear message in the song by a Polish band, Kombi.
In Wikipedia it's even clearer when we read about the profile of Generation Y, that is people who:
Want to work but not for their entire life - they think about retiring in the future, they have long-term plans, they willingly run their own businesses;
They don't value job stability for a longer period of time, therefore they are often perceived as disloyal employees;
Their attention is strongly focused on their private life, they expect to have a lot of freedom and flexible working time; they have a large appetite for life and don't want to be limited - their work can't limit them;
They treat superiors as equals but with more power;
They expect the employers to set goals and control them they want to be "led by hand".
Meanwhile, we have to remember that it's good to know about the existence of this trend, but we also have to be careful not to sink into this stereotypical way of thinking and judging.
Seeking the Philosopher's stone
From time to time the recruiters get carried away with the dream of finding the one, never-failing, almost magical technique, which would indicate "who the candidate really is" and how well he or she's going to work. It's hard to argue that great dreams and resisting reality aren't a perfect ground for inventions. Once, we didn't believe that we would be able to fly, communicate over distance, cure most diseases. As for now, there's no 100% effective strategy for finding the right candidate. The most important thing here is, funnily enough, and so popular in recruitment adverts, creativity. What I have in mind is the recruiter's creativity, alongside knowledge, finding new solutions and trends, and resistance to stereotypical beliefs.
Alone or with specialists?
Of course, the advantages of outsourcing the recruitment processes are the same as with outsourcing any other service to specialists. It's similar when it comes to disadvantages. That's why we won't dwell on them, assuming that every start-upper has its own opinion in the field, for example on the basis of renovation experiences, when he/she has "evaluated" the "experts" regarding the work done.
Although, regardless of whether you are going to entrust an expert recruitment company (or head hunters) with finding people for your team, or you'll do it yourself— it's important to have the methodological awareness.
HR processes are not just for corporations; it's the opposite —the smaller your company is, the less you can afford a lack of knowledge in that field.
Who are you looking for?
A very important action is to create a list of criteria, that is, the characteristics of the candidate you are looking for. Prepare it while brain storming, just like you'd be writing a letter to Santa and you had the ability to find out whether a certain candidate has a randomly indicated parameter (it's about not limiting oneself with questions like: "and how are we going to check/evaluate if the candidate has this feature?").
When you already have the list of criteria, you can create questions and/or tasks, which will evaluate the candidate in the scope of the desired parameters.
Also, go further - precisely define your expected answers. Otherwise, you run the risk that you'll evaluate your candidate only on the basis of emotions, that you'll choose the one for whom something went well or had a distinguishing feature, instead of the one who fits the "optimal candidate pattern" of your team.
In brief we say that it is the use of the KPO method (Figure 1).
Figure 1. The KPO method
The technique of questioning is important - use behavioural questioning
Because often we have to evade the impression management techniques used by candidates, more and more recruiters decide to introduce the interview based on competencies in the conversation with a candidate - it's called a behavioural event interview. As the name suggests, the behavioural event interview concerns the behaviour of an employee. It consists of conducting a success and failure history analysis of a candidate that is essential regarding his/her career history. Generally speaking, you don't ask a candidate questions like "what would you do in order to motivate your co-workers?" but "how did you motivate your co-workers?".
The main task of the recruiter is to question a candidate in detail, and the main task of the candidate is to describe how he/she acted in specific situations (facts, what he/she was thinking, feeling, and why).
The methodology of behavioural questions is characterized by a greater validity than hypothetical questions (questions like what would you do...?). In the case of hypothetical questions, an intelligent candidate may produce a witty answer that will be satisfying for the recruiter. The behavioural interview also limits the influence of the candidate's self-evaluation factor regarding the answers he/she is giving. What's more, it allows you to discover recurring behavioural patterns in a certain candidate.
There are two models for conductntg the conipetency = based Intelview (Figure 2):
Figure 2. Two models for conducting the competency-based interview
STAR technique: S (situation) - questions about a specific situation which had taken place during the candidate's career history, T (task) - questions about specific tasks, A (action) - describing what specific actions were taken by a candidate, R (result) - a request for a candidate to evaluate the decisions that they made from the perspective of time (Figure 3);
Figure 3. STAR technique
Funnelling technique, in which the recruiter starts from asking open questions and then asks for more and more detail. At the and, in order to make the acquired information more detailed, he/she can ask a closed or comparative question (Figure 4).
Figure 4. Funneling technique
While preparing the KPO method for a recruitment process, create the questions and an answer bank. During the conversation, you'll focus on what the candidate says and not "drift away" trying to figure out what question to ask next; you'll also notice digressions and irrelevant answers.
Team-building doesn't end with the interview...
Basically, the recruitment process doesn't end with the interview.
"Spetsnaz" or "observe"
The forgotten truth about the recruitment processes is the fact that it doesn't end after the interview with a candidate. It also doesn't end with tests or tasks in an Assessment Centre.
An integral part of the recruitment processes is the onboarding of a candidate to introduce him/her to the new job, tasks, and goals of an organization. Unfortunately, very often, onboarding is assigned to a technique I take the liberty to call "the spetsnaz technique". The candidate is "thrown in at the deep end" — if he/she makes it through, it means that he/she is great for that job.
Often, such a candidate is presented with a two-module training course:
"Here's your desk",
"Here's your laptop and your phone".
The second popular form of naming onboarding something that definitely is not onboarding is a strategy I call "observe". A newcomer must observe the work of his/her colleagues. He/she must watch closely for a couple of days or, preferably, weeks. All in all, no one knows what the outcome of this close watching is supposed to be. But almost always the "added value" appears — frustration.
An effective recruitment process?
The most effective recruitment strategies that we've got in the Polish HR market are the Assessment Centre and the behavioural event interview techniques. Their effectiveness mostly consists in reliable reference to the recruitment model that forms their basis.
The first step is to clearly state the type of person that I am looking for, and the way I'm going to know that the candidate fits the criteria. I also determine the validity, reliability, and risk of errors regarding the collected data.
I observe the candidate perform in specific situations in the Assessment Centre and interpret the observations according to a developed key. During the behavioural event interview, I ask the candidate about his/her former experience (how do you motivate your team?), and not about hypothetical experience (what would you do to motivate the team?), and I don't ask impression-management-related, obvious questions (are you an honest person?).
An effective recruitment process is both short-term, connected to the process of onboarding a candidate, as well as long-term, connected to the employer branding.
Good companies attract excellent candidates. Therefore, they become even better. This is the good news.
There's also the bad news. It is possible that before you find the right people and create your team, you will go through thousands of interviews, hundreds of onboardings (arduous training courses, in which you have to be the last person that lacks faith and enthusiasm), you will meet tens of promising candidates, who won't tie themselves with your organization... And all of this for a couple of "diamonds" that will stay in your team.
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