Road map for hiring top talent

Readiness, an open mind and flexibility should lead to best candidates for the job
By Genevieve Lalande
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/05/2012

All employers want engaged employees who stick around for the long haul. That’s hardly surprising, given the high cost of turnover and the frustration that comes with being understaffed.

But how do you find these star employees? It’s not easy — if it were, every firm would be overflowing with them — but there are a number of critical junctures where getting it right can make a big difference.

It starts well before the job posting goes up. The recruitment process should include a clear understanding of what makes a position what it is. The tasks, functions and responsibilities are obviously important but the context, team, company dynamic and managing style will have much more of an impact on employees’ interest levels, tenure, success or failure.

Knowing which strengths and personality traits are necessary for a position, and which weaknesses are acceptable, will allow for a thorough evaluation and increase the chance of a successful hire.

Job description

With the initial analysis, the job description should be reviewed to reflect current needs. Otherwise, time is being wasted — you might hire a candidate fitting the job description to a T but still miss the point. Hiring that doesn’t take into account an employer’s current situation will lead to failure and frustrations for both the employee and supervisor.

For example, a small company looking for a manager may emphasize experience in team and budget management in its job posting. But as the company grows and tasks and responsibilities change, the job posting for a new manager should reflect this evolution, otherwise the wrong person might be hired for the role.

The hiring manager and recruiter need to ask the right questions. Are the “must haves” for the job relevant or just “nice to have”? Are tasks and responsibilities properly assigned? This way, when resumés start coming in, the parties involved will have a clear understanding of the context and position and be able to recognize, evaluate and recommend candidates.

Job posting

Once the profile is complete, a posting can be created. It should be attractive and reflect the company’s personality, featuring specifics of the environment or position, while also being as unique as possible. The key is to be specific enough to attract only the right candidates, but leave enough room for candidates to feel they can apply. An overly specific list of requirements may be discouraging.

From there, the means used for advertising the position depend on the budget, time that can be allocated, urgency of the hire, rarity of the ideal candidate and where the proper audience can be found.

Between specialized publications, professional associations, job fairs, recruitment agencies, resumé mining and social networks, the choices are numerous.

Creating corporate visibility aimed at the people you are trying to attract, as customers and candidates, can also add value. Look for the right candidates but make sure they are looking for you, too. I once contacted the HR director of a company about a job after reading an article he had written — I was so impressed with how he had adapted his human resources approach.

And recruiters should be open to any and all possibilities. I engaged in a recruitment process on a flight between Montreal and Halifax one time with the person sitting next to me. He was in sales and I needed someone. On another occasion, I invited the server at a restaurant to a formal interview. Her ability to offer solutions and her sense of urgency made me want to know more. After a quick assessment, I left her my card and took her contact information to follow up with a posting and interview invitation.

Evaluations

When the evaluation process begins, many recruiters combine their skill set with complementary tests. There are thousands of tests on the market — including profile testing, comprehension and logic tests. But tests will only be useful if they measure what you intended to measure. They should allow flexibility so potential candidates are not dismissed on details and be structured enough so inappropriate candidates do not make it in the process.

After the initial assessment, the interview offers a more in-depth evaluation. In general, recruiters will either go formal and corporate with structured questions or informal and casual, based on a behavioural assessment. The “make yourself comfortable” approach invites candidates to relax and develop a sense of security. It makes them more likely to let their guard down and share details that, in turn, offer insights about both experience and personality.

Experienced interviewers who use this approach have seen it all — from the candidate who throws a fit reminiscing about a situation that did not go her way to a candidate behaving as if he was at a bar with an old friend. Behavioural interviews provide a base for predicting future behaviour and performance based on past behaviours.

This model can also prove useful when considering more junior candidates. Because they may lack some of the experience required, adjusting the questions to their level can help a recruiter make a predictive assessment on potential behaviour and allow for the consideration of strong candidates who require a longer learning curve in some aspects of the job.

For example, an experienced project manager wanting to move into an implementation role would have experience in project planning and risk assessment, but may have limited experience in people management. Properly structured questions should bring candidates to transpose their experiences into a different context.

Once the right individuals are identified, they still need to be brought — and kept — on board. Solid collaboration with HR to develop attraction and retention programs will ease the recruitment process and serve the efficiency and profitability of the company. Promises made and hopes built during the recruitment process had better reflect reality for a happily ever after conclusion.

Genevieve Lalande is a Montreal-based senior human resources consultant at Drakkar, which specializes in strategic consulting and operations management. She can be reached at genevieve.lalande@drakkar.ca or for more information, visit www.drakkar.ca.

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