Recruiting good people is not easy, they are usually gainfully employed.  However, when they are available many businesses squander the opportunity to get them on board due to lack of structure and organisation. Applying a few simple techniques can make you highly attractive to the best candidates.

Sadly, many Small and Medium sized businesses (and a surprising number of bigger corporates) lack effective recruitment and selection processes.  Many Directors and Managers just want a mini-me, someone who can duplicate their workload and do the things they no longer want to do or don’t have the time to do.  They rarely put enough thought into a new role, what it needs to deliver and the best type of person to deliver it.  This means they simply advertise a post using some bland wording with the hope of a really good person coming along to fill it.

Are you attractive enough?
What wording are you using in your job adverts to make your business and the role highly attractive to the type of candidate you are looking for?  We often help clients to assess the key characteristics and motivational patterns required in the role and then craft a Job Advert using words that are eye-catching and engaging for the type of people we want to attract.   For example, if you need someone who is highly structured and pays attention to details, say something like “We need a meticulous person to help us to organise our business procedures.”  If your business is still in an entrepreneurial phase and needs someone who is able to work on their own with few rules and structures mention phrases like “You will have lots of autonomy and exciting opportunities develop in the role”.

Most high performers and diligent people know they have something to offer and want to work with high performing businesses where they can make a contribution.  They will research job opportunities, company performance and the key people before applying. These days it is very easy to research someone on the company website and then on Linked In.  What does your website say about your business and the top team? What does your Linked In profile say about you and your business?  Are you attractive enough?

Who’s interviewing whom?
Once they have been invited for interview, good candidates will probably have a list of questions to ask you before choosing whether to commit to working for you or not.  How well prepared are you for the interview?  Do you have a clear list of questions to ask?  Have you scrutinised the Job Description for the role to define the experience and characteristics that will be required to succeed in the job?  Do you have a list of questions that will tease out whether the candidate has these characteristics and experience or not?  Have you researched them on Linked In (or Facebook)?  Have you scrutinised their CV for experience that will be useful, counter-productive or perhaps show inconsistencies that may need to be questioned. 

Don’t rely on the interview
Have a look at the table below which shows a comparative summary of selection methods, where 1.0 is certain prediction and 0.0 is pure chance (you might as well flip a coin).  Most typical interviews are unstructured and have only a 0.3 likelihood of selecting the best candidate but even with a skilful and structured interview you are not likely to get it 100% right. 

Comparative Summary of Selection Methods  (Corbridge & Philbeam 2006)
1.0 – Certain Prediction
0.7 – Assessment Centre (for development)
0.6 – Skilful and structured Interviews
0.5 – Work sampling
         Ability tests
0.4 – Assessment Centres (for performance)
         Personality Assessment
0.3 – Typical unstructured interviews
0.1 – References
0.0 – Pure chance
         Chance prediction, Graphology, Astrology

So what other methods can you use?  Assessment centres are very expensive and time consuming to set up, especially for SMEs.  Work sampling or ability tests need a lot of planning and are not always practical but they can give you an indication of what the candidate is capable of and will be like on the job.  However, take care when designing them and avoid them being too complex. My brother recently checked out a company for a job opportunity and he was given a test which would have taken 16hrs to complete.  It looked like the person doing the recruitment was trying to get some free consultancy work and he let them know he was not interested.

Profiling is becoming increasingly popular because it can give you some useful insights about the candidate, but you need to be very careful about the profiling tool you use and ensure that you are fully trained or have a skilled practitioner explain the profile.  Any profiling tool you use should be taken as part of the process and not the definitive answer, as you can see they are only 0.4 on the chart above.  The profiling tool we use is the iWAM Profile  (inventory of Work Attitude and Motivation).  It produces a fingerprint of the key motivational drivers of behaviour so you can identify if there is a good match with the requirements of the job.  It also raises some key areas to question in an interview.

But if you must . . .
While the interview is still the most common and popular form of selection, you can see in the comparisons above that there is a big difference between the typical unstructured form and the skilful structured form.

So if it is your primary selection process it is important to be aware of the traps that an interviewer can fall into.  For example the researchers Anderson and Shackleton draw on a wide variety of studies to summarise the reasons why interviews have been criticised. These include:

The self-fulfilling prophecy effect. Interviewers are likely to ask questions designed to confirm initial impressions of candidates gained either before the interview or in its early stages.
The stereotyping effect. Interviewers sometimes assume that particular characteristics are typical of members of a particular group. In the case of sex, race, disability, marital status or ex-offenders, decisions made on this basis are often illegal. However, the effect occurs in the case of all kinds of social groups.
The halo and horns effect. Interviewers sometimes rate candidates as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ across the board and thus reach very unbalanced decisions.
The contrast effect. Interviewers can allow the experience of interviewing one candidate to affect the way they interview others who are seen later in the selection process. This creates an inconsistent and unreliable approach.
The similar-to-me effect. Interviewers sometimes give preference to candidates they perceive as having a similar background, career history, personality or attitudes to themselves.
The personal liking effect. Interviewers may make decisions on the basis of whether they personally like or dislike the candidate.

Developing a list of generic Questions
It is good to develop a list of key interview questions that you can adapt for the different roles you need to fill.  Over the years we have developed a bank of generic Interview questions that can be used as a starting point for a variety of roles and Management levels. 

If you would like a copy please click here.

There are quite a few in the list but you only need to pick the most appropriate ones.

I’d be very interested to hear some of your thoughts, opinions and ideas about how you attract the best candidates and get the best results in interviews.

Remember . . . Stay Curious!

With best regards
David Klaasen

David Klaasen is director and owner of the niche HR consultancy, Inspired Working Ltd.  (
We now have a new website packed full of learning resources for managers for more info see
If you have a communication or performance problem and would like some objective advice drop him a line at
[email protected]