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Twelve top tips for recruitment


HR Zone member and chartered occupational psychologist Denise Taylor offers some insider tips on the recruitment process.

Many organisations still rely on interviews for selection, but interviews can be very unreliable, particularly when undertaken by untrained interviewers. Getting the right person for a vacancy is obviously important; get it wrong and you not only have the costs of having to advertise again, but also the lost opportunity costs incurred by someone not being as effective as a better candidate. Follow these 12 top tips to get the right person in place.

1. Be clear on what you want
Have you defined what the successful applicant will need to do? The job needs to be defined to include purpose, duties and responsibilities and a person spec. You should split the criteria into essential and desirable.

2. Create an advertisement
Target the people who are most likely to be interested. Will it be national or local press, professional journals or the internet? Your money is wasted if your target audience are unlikely to look where your ad is placed.

3. Prepare the job description and person spec
Have them ready to be sent to all applicants, so that those who do not meet your minimum criteria do not apply. When choosing essential criterion, check how important they really are. Could some of the skills be quickly developed on the job?

4. Collect the information you want to provide to candidates
Company literature, job and person spec, contact name for informal discussions, and so on. Get them ready in advance so you can send them out promptly.

5. Decide on the date of the assessment
You will want to ensure that the people to be involved in the assessment process are available and suitable interview rooms are free. Decide whether you will hold the assessment on your company premises or in a local hotel.

6. Place the advert
Allow sufficient time for applications to be received, a short list drawn up and letters sent out. It can be helpful to applicants if the assessment date is included in the advert so they can keep the day free.

7. Decide on the format of the assessment
This will be based on your agreed competences. It is from this that you choose the elements of assessment, don’t start by choosing a numerical test and a presentation; they might not be relevant. From the competences you can choose the most appropriate assessment method. Some but not all can be assessed via interview, but if, for example, a presentation or influencing skills are important, then you need the candidates to present, not just talk about it.

8. Decide whether to introduce psychometrics (timed ability tests)
These can introduce some objectivity, and there are definite right and wrong answers. Care needs to be taken over the choice of tests, as numerous ones are available. The choice has to be made on what is relevant to the assessment. Are the tests at the right level? (You do not want to set a test designed for a senior executive if your target group is junior managerial level). Checks also need to be made as to whether relevant norms are available. This is the group that you compare the candidate’s response with. If you are recruiting for senior managers in the public sector, is a norm group of engineering students appropriate?

9. Is a personality questionnaire going to be used?
Benefits to the organisation are an in-depth understanding of a persons personal qualities. Care needs to be taken that the questionnaire is designed for recruitment (some, like the MBTI, are not to be used for this purpose). You also need to allow time in the process for the questions to be discussed with the candidate. It is good practice to do this, and it will validate their responses. Candidates also see this as a very positive aspect of the assessment process.

10. Who will form the assessment team?
It will usually include a HR manager; line manager and often an external consultant who has been involved in designing the assessment elements. Often a panel interview is included because it enables all assessors to see candidates and have first hand evidence on how the candidate behaves. Decisions need to be made on how to divide up the questions, who will take notes etc.

All assessors should be trained in interview techniques to ensure they: plan questions that relate to the competences; ask questions which are open and probing rather than closed and leading; accurately record the responses; leave the evaluation to the end. If a panel member has not been trained they need to be supported through the process to ensure all good practice interview guidelines are adhered to.

11. After the assessments
Once all the candidates have been seen, it is time to review all the evidence and make a decision. This is the time to go back to the initial job analysis and compare each candidate against your key criteria; this ensures you are not overly influenced by one specific piece of evidence and that you will be able to justify your decision should any candidate decide to appeal against the decision. At the end of this round up session you should collect all the notes taken on each candidate and save them in case they need to be referred to again. Letters should be sent to all unsuccessful candidates and an offer letter and perhaps a phone call to the successful applicant.

12. What if none of the candidates meet all your requirements?
You then need to decide if any of the applicants will be acceptable with development. You also need to consider the impact on the team and line manager if you decide to appoint someone who does not rate highly on, for instance, leadership qualities. Sometimes it is better to start the process again rather than to appoint someone who is not acceptable.

Before everyone departs it may be timely to consider how you worked together. What worked, what didn’t, and how can you develop for next time.

Denise Taylor is director of Amazing People, which specialises in career counselling, guidance and coaching for individuals, and career management, recruitment and assessments for organisations. For more information, please visit

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