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James Beevers

Talent Q

Head of Consultancy

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Five steps to take the risk out of recruitment


There’s no such thing as a perfect recruitment process but you can certainly reduce the risk of hiring the wrong people. That can be an expensive mistake. It’s not just the cost of hiring, paying, training and exiting them, there’s also the business opportunities they might miss and the damage they might do to your brand while they’re in the role. Then, there’s the disruption they’ll create, the negative impact they might have on other staff, the cost of replacing them and the loss of productivity while your new recruits get up to speed.

Here are five steps that can help you to make better selection decisions in less time:

  1. Understand the requirements of the role. Conduct a thorough job analysis to uncover the key competencies that predict successful performance. This may involve interviewing staff, running focus groups and conducting quantitative analysis to determine exactly what ‘good’ looks like in the role. Once you’ve pinpointed the skills, competencies and attributes that are likely to lead to success, you’ve ‘removed the blindfold’ and are in a position to run a targeted attraction campaign and a focused selection process.
  2. Show the realities of the job. Give potential applicants an honest account of what the job will entail by using realistic job previews (RJPs) on your careers site. These provide an insight into the kinds of scenarios the post-holder will find themselves in, as well as immediate feedback on their responses to those scenarios. This enables candidates to judge for themselves whether the role and organisation are right for them. It also encourages people to really think about whether they want to apply. If they’re not suited to the role, they’re not likely to succeed in their application, so it is better for them to realise this at the outset, rather than finding out further down the line. Another advantage of RJPs is that they help you to create a good impression and build a rapport with people before you meet them. Research also shows that if you point out the less attractive elements of a role before someone applies, they’ll respond more positively when those elements come up, once they’re in the job. In effect they’ve been inoculated and are ready to deal with the bad bits!
  3. Build predictive assessments that are aligned to the required competencies. To identify the best-fit candidates in your applicant pool, you’ll need to assess them against the key competencies for the role, which you’ve thoroughly researched at analysis phase. Online situational judgement tests (SJTs) offer a robust and effective way of measuring the behaviours that people will show at work and how they would handle typical workplace situations. Most SJTs have fixed scenarios – in other words, every applicant sees the same situations. However, the latest development in psychometric assessment is ‘adaptive’ SJTs, in which the situations evolve, based on the actions selected by the candidate. The benefit of this approach is that you can assess key competencies and hone in on a candidate’s behavioural tendencies in a more engaging and realistic way. These tests take 15-20 minutes to complete. They can be undertaken prior to any interview stage of the selection process and the results can be integrated with your applicant tracking system.
  4. Align your assessments with your employer brand. Where possible, embed your organisation’s terminology, imagery and tone of voice into any assessments that you use, to reinforce your values and your brand. Conduct a pilot with current job holders, to ensure your assessments are effective and aligned to both the requirements of the role and your culture. Used effectively, assessments can showcase your brand and accurately reflect the workplace and life within your organisation.
  5. Provide a consistent, friendly and engaging candidate experience. It is important to provide candidates with a positive recruitment experience, regardless of whether or not you offer them a job. Your applicants could be current or potential customers – and you’ll reject many more of them than you’ll recruit – so it’s important to be sympathetic and tactful, as you don’t want to lose their future custom. Keep candidates informed at all stages of their application. Aim to respond quickly and ensure that the tone of your communication is encouraging and supportive. Make the process interesting to complete, so even if someone decides not to apply, their experience of dealing with you will have been positive. Try to give them feedback so they can take something away that will help them in the future. If you’re a business-to-consumer company, you’ll certainly want to de-risk your assessment process – but you’ll be truly performing if your recruitment process encourages candidates to become customers.

Does this work?

Our experience with home improvement retailer B&Q proves that this process works. They receive over 150,000 applications each year for their customer advisor roles and recruit around 5,000 people. To help them make better screening decisions and provide a better experience for their candidates, we analysed the competencies and success factors for each customer adviser role. We then created interactive realistic job previews to give potential applicants a clearer sense of what each job entails. We also implemented adaptive situational judgement tests to determine how potential applicants would interact with customers. The SJTs not only assess each candidate very quickly, they also provide an entertaining and informative insight into what it’s really like to work in the role. These tests have enabled B&Q to reduce the average time it takes to complete an application by 20 minutes. This is a significant time saving and it means more candidates are now completing their application in one sitting.

A validation study examining the competency-based performance ratings of 1,077 new customer advisors has confirmed that this new process has led to B&Q appointing better calibre recruits who are achieving their targets and who are more competent in the role. The data clearly shows that a high score on the SJT correlates with high performance in the role, as judged by the individual’s line manager. Store managers also say that the new recruits are better suited to the business, have a better understanding of the role, are more customer-orientated and are staying with the company longer.

This proves that the right assessment process not only provides a better candidate experience, it can also help you make better selection decisions by predicting who will be successful in the role. So, follow these five steps and start to reduce the uncertainty in your recruitment process.

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James Beevers

Head of Consultancy

Read more from James Beevers