Get an edge in recruiting
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Get an edge in recruiting

Intense competition for skilled candidates is creating a need for more efficient hiring practices.

By Ken Tysiac

There may never be a better time for organisations to carefully scrutinise their hiring processes to make sure they are optimised for delivering the best hires. The global job market is tilted towards candidates right now, and many candidates are not eager to wait long for a job offer.

Almost half (47%) of 239 recruiters in a global survey conducted in May by recruiting firm MRINetwork said the leading reason that candidates turn down a job offer is that they have accepted another offer elsewhere. Recruiters interviewed for the survey said many employers are hurting themselves with a slow, arduous interview process.

Nearly three-quarters (71%) of offers are made within three to six weeks after the initial interview, according to the survey report. Job offers extended within one to two weeks dropped from 20% in 2014 to 12% in 2016, representing a shift to a longer period of waiting that the survey report says fails to consider recruiters' advice to expedite the interviewing and hiring process and makes it more likely that candidates will take another job. (See Figure 1, "Are Hiring Processes Too Long?" for the top reasons recruiters attribute to managers' not making hires.)

Are hiring processes too long?

Companies and firms with lengthy hiring processes are losing skilled finance and accounting talent to competitors who are willing to work more quickly, according to Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources. This problem also exists for skilled jobs outside finance and accounting.

"It's for any job," said David Wu, CPA, founder, CEO, and managing partner of executive search and HR advisory services firm GMPTALENT International in Shanghai City, China. "If this is a good talent, everybody wants it. And if your process is very lengthy and becomes too political and too much of a process, the candidate will lose interest."

The possibility that candidates might lose interest or get hired elsewhere adds another hurdle to recruiting efforts that already were challenging because of a lack of skilled job-seekers (see Figure 2, "Talent Shortage by the Numbers").

sp-figure-2-talent-shortage

"In Africa, and in Ghana in particular, it's quite difficult getting the right kind of skills," said Andy Mensah, ACMA, CGMA, a human resources partner with IBM Ghana Ltd. in Accra, Ghana.

More than ever, employers need to make sure that processes screen out unqualified candidates and recruit new employees with skills to excel in their positions. But at the same time, they don't want to lose the most talented candidates to competitors who make offers more quickly.

"Those companies that take longer to make decisions and have multiple rounds of interviews are the ones that are losing the candidates because there are companies out there that are moving faster," Hird said. "That doesn't mean that they shortcut the quality of the hiring process or the due diligence in it, but it's just more efficient."

Finding the right fit

Beth Berk, CPA, CGMA, an independent recruiter based in the US state of Maryland, acknowledges the need for efficiency but said focusing on the right fit should be the primary objective of the employer and the candidate. She said that one way a hiring manager can guard against losing a coveted candidate is to ask for the courtesy of being informed if the candidate gets another offer. Other practices employers may wish to consider include:

Keep it simple. The application process shouldn't be so labourious that it prevents candidates from submitting their name for consideration. "You need a transparent application process," Mensah said. "The candidate must know what is required of them, and ... they must know how to apply. And it must be easy for them to do so."

Set expectations and be forthcoming. From the start, be candid with the job candidate about your expectations, requirements, and what the process will entail. If you are going to require skills testing, personality testing, or sample work, let the candidate know at the beginning of the process. And keep the candidate updated on how many people you are interviewing, the time frame, and your selection criteria.

Informally assess fit. Before scheduling formal interviews, Mensah likes to have an informal session with a candidate to make sure the person will mesh with the organisation's culture. "When you apply, I will call you in and have an informal chat with you, just to talk with you, see where you are and what you're doing, and see how you would fit in with the team," he said. This can be done over the phone or with a video chat as well.

Send information to the candidate before the interview. Part of Wu's process as a recruiter involves sending the candidate a detailed packet of information about the employer and the position, plus his contact information. Company hiring managers and human resources personnel can do the same. "The more information you can get to a candidate, the better conversation you can actually have when you meet them to do the interview," Wu said. "You can save your time so you can jump into questions right away rather than going into all the details with them."

Perform reference and background checks early. Getting an early start on reference and background checks can streamline the hiring process, Wu said. And some employers aren't even checking references anymore. Berk said many employers recognise that the references the candidate provides generally are only going to give a glowing assessment of them. Therefore, Berk advised that if you are going to call references, try to speak to two or three professional references (supervisors, owners, etc.); ask them all the same questions, including if they would rehire/hire them if in a position to do so (which can be very telling); and determine if the responses are consistent (if not, that may be very telling, too).

Assign a peer-type employee to meet the candidate. If the candidate is scheduled to meet with their immediate supervisor and higher-level personnel, they may be intimidated and guarded with answers to questions. During time with an employee who would be their peer, the candidate may be more candid and will have a chance to ask questions they might be afraid to ask of a high-level person.

Be willing to train for soft skills. Some of the candidates Mensah evaluates may have the right technical skills but lack the ability to communicate well and make presentations. In some cases, it may be necessary for the organisation to train them. "What you find at the entry level is that people don't have all these skills, so they are having to learn them," Mensah said. "You're having to teach them to do these kinds of things."

Ask for feedback from candidates. Whether or not they ultimately are hired, candidates can provide valuable feedback on an organisation's job selection process. Employers can ask candidates about their perception of the organisation throughout the process, their expectations versus the reality of what was assessed, and their perspective on the fairness and utility of each task, according to A Head for Hiring, a 2015 report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Re-evaluate regularly

Ultimately, it's important to realise that hiring processes must vary based on many factors, including the type of organisation and the level of the role, Berk said.

Depending on the position, a four-week process may be necessary to adequately evaluate the candidate, or it may cause you to lose the candidate to a competitor. That's why it's important to regularly re-evaluate your hiring practices to make sure they are still delivering the best people to your organisation.

That's ultimately the biggest test.

"Go back six months, a year later, two years later, three years later, and ask, "˜How did that hire work for you?' " Berk said. "You may be doing quick hiring, but is that person staying? Was that a good hire when it's all said and done?"