Improving hiring process

The Art of Management: How to Improve Your Hiring Process

Every month, we pick the brains of an industry expert from a different discipline, gleaning some essential insights and advice to help you make the next step of your managerial career.

In this fourth instalment, we’re talking to Steve Rawlingson, the CEO of Samuel Knight International, the leading rail and energy recruitment specialist. Innovative and inventive, their transparent approach to recruitment stands out from other recruitment specialists. Here to demonstrate the open, honest culture they’ve made a name for themselves with, Steve was on hand with plenty of great suggestions with regards to optimising your hiring process.

Increasingly, job seekers want to gain a sense of what it’s like to work for a company. How can you use your employer brand to reflect the company’s culture, values and mission in an attractive way?

Your employer brand has to align with not only your external image but your internal company culture, too. For me, authenticity plays a big part in this; I’ve always been keen to share everything about Samuel Knight, from our hardships to our successes. Whether that’s posting our latest news and activities online or writing blogs and thought leadership pieces that speak to our audiences – I want to give candidates and clients an idea of our close-knit culture and the work we are passionate about.

As employees are at the heart of every business, it’s also important to champion staff advocacy. By getting your team on board to promote your employer brand via their social channels, for instance, you’ll be more likely to engage applicants and reach an even wider audience with similar values

How can a company make sure its job postings are more than just an afterthought? What value is there in making them candidate rather than company-focused?

Posting job adverts solely about your company will make finding the right candidate much harder and more time-consuming. The type of personality traits and experience you are looking for need to be reflected in the job description so that applicants can assess whether they are suited for the role and business itself. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t mention the company at all, but to ensure your advert stands out, it’s key to showcase your culture.

Consider what language you are using, avoid following the standard format and be sure to mention personality fit and the type of soft skills you’re after. By placing an emphasis on the candidate in the ad, you’ll demonstrate the importance you place on employees and company values.

What can a company do to personalise the hiring process? Why is this human touch important and valued by candidates?

Your hiring success will be severely limited if candidates leave feeling like just another job seeker and less like an individual. That’s why communication is key, and for me the hiring process is all about getting to know the candidate, bringing them in to meet the team, showing them around and already making them feel part of the business. We are big on teamwork here and naturally it’s created a family culture that we want more people to be a part of. I’m constantly encouraging candidates to share their passions and individuality – it’s this human element which people value that serves to personalise the traditional recruitment model.

Are there any recruitment-based metrics that can be used to optimise the process?

I have seen a growing trend towards the adoption of recruitment-based metrics and, while they can be effective in improving the screening process, they can’t measure some of the most important attributes: soft skills and passion. We don’t hire to quickly fill a job or measure how fast our candidate acceptance rate is, but we do hire to find the right talent. Metrics aside, the process may take a while but so does finding a great candidate and that’s what matters the most.

Is there anything that can be done to automate the screening of CVs that can reduce the time it takes to view them without compromising on the quality of the candidate?

There’s a host of new software- and applicant-tracking systems on the market that can speed up CV screening and the hiring process itself, but in my mind, nothing beats the human touch. Samuel Knight is a people-centric business and that’s how it will always be, so the idea of completely automating the screening process to save time doesn’t appeal. It may sound overly traditional, but it’s what has helped us to recruit and grow the best talent.

Should interviews be structured in the same way for different candidates? Likewise, is it important to ensure that key elements such as education, certifications, training and experience are accounted in a similar way for each candidate?

Gone are the days of structured interviews based on qualifications and technical expertise. These alone simply won’t build a diverse, talented workforce. When it comes to the recruitment process, each candidate is different and equally brings their own unique strengths to the role – which is why we value everyone the same here, no matter their experience, age or seniority. We recruited a consultant in our early days with no prior experience who is now an Associate Director, which shows spotting the right talent and focusing on personal traits really does pay off.

People sometimes see “magic bullet questions” such as “what animal would you be if you were reincarnated?” as valuable since they show a candidate’s ability to think on the spot? What is your opinion of such questions? Do they reveal important information about the candidate or not?

Magic bullet questions can certainly throw a curveball into standardised interviews and give you the chance to see candidates creatively think on their feet – but I don’t want to trick individuals. Interviews are about getting to know the person, getting the full picture and assessing their other core competencies which reveal important information. Simply adding an unusual question into the mix could end up throwing the candidate off or make them answer something to ‘stand out’ which isn’t actually true to what they think.

Should any other team members be brought into the hiring process? Will this streamline the experience or slow it down in the long run?

I’ve always included team members in the hiring processes and always will. Not only is it a crucial part of identifying cultural fit and giving candidates a feel for our team ethos and attitude, but it also ensures that existing staff feel like valued members of the team. I would be averse to rushing into hiring a candidate who hasn’t met with the team. This runs the risk of new recruits who don’t gel with other employees negatively impacting workplace morale and retention rates. While it may slightly lengthen the process, I definitely believe it’s worth it in the long run.

A huge thank you to Steve for his insightful responses. Don’t forget to check out the other articles from The Art of Management if you’re looking for more managerial tips and advice:

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