Secrets of Recruitment

Henri Matisse: The Conversation // Public domain

Despite the initial signs of crisis, the job market remains a prevailing trend. This means that there are many job offers, making it harder for employers to find the right person to join their company.

Headhunters come to the rescue, using appropriate tools, databases, and portals to find potentially the best candidates. What are the key secrets to effective recruitment? What standards should companies meet in the process of acquiring employees today? What values are most desired in the job market?

How to Conduct Interview?

Acquiring a good candidate through “direct search” is only half the battle. The other half is ensuring, as a recruiter and the other individuals involved in the recruitment process (team leaders, managers), the best “candidate experience,” which reflects the company’s image and the candidate’s well-being in the position.

First and foremost, we must make a good impression on the candidate by being well-prepared in terms of substance—providing characteristics of the department we are recruiting for, the position, team structure, and job specifics. It is important to remember that the recruitment process is also about building the company’s image, for which we recruit employees. The process should be professional and friendly.

The recruiter’s task is to identify the candidate’s strengths from their CV, as well as any red flags that may pose problems in future cooperation. Before each conversation, it is worthwhile to create a personalized list of questions that will organize the meeting and facilitate decision-making. Chaos in asking questions will not work in our favor. Also, let the candidate ask their questions. The type of questions they ask—or if they ask any—provides valuable insights into them.

Also, make sure to ascertain whether the candidate is passive (sourced by the recruiter) or active (one who applied on their own). If it is the former we should emphasize presenting our company and job offer as particularly attractive, as the candidate did not apply to us independently. This means they are simply exploring the market, but it is not guaranteed they want to change jobs.

Therefore, we must convince them that our company is the right direction and the change will be beneficial for them. After a series of questions to the candidate, summarize the meeting and inform them of the next steps. Our interlocutor needs to know when they can expect a response regarding qualification for the next stage, who will conduct the next interview, and what the stage will involve (a regular conversation, competency test, psychological test, foreign language interview).

One of the most important aspects is to create a good atmosphere that will stick in the candidate’s memory. They most likely will not remember at least half of the questions we asked, but they will certainly remember the atmosphere we created during the meeting. Very often, the given reason for rejecting an offer is not financial aspects but rather the atmosphere between the candidate and the recruiter, which predicts future work problems. It is worth keeping this in mind before meeting a potential employee.

Fine Feathers Make Fine Birds

A very important yet often overlooked issue regarding well-conducted interviews is nothing but our appearance and the environment in which we conduct the interview. If the meeting is in person, the matter is much simpler. Usually, we meet in an office where order and tidiness prevail. This also requires appropriate attire and behavior from us.

It is more challenging if the meeting is online. The COVID times have accustomed us to remote or hybrid work models, where even very important meetings are held on internet messengers. A few minutes late, a hoodie instead of a shirt, a pile of laundry on the dryer behind us, and notification sounds on our phone. Sound familiar? This ruins the crucial first impression. It works both ways, of course.

In the case of online recruitment, it is also mandatory for both participating individuals to activate their cameras. This facilitates non-verbal communication and gives an impression of preparedness for an important meeting. Turning on the camera also significantly prevents impersonation by a substitute, which is not uncommon, especially in international recruitment.

Success Lies in Good Questions

Usually, we have a diverse list of questions prepared for the candidate, which serves as our compass and allows us to smoothly steer the conversation and provide a clear answer as to whether the candidate fits our ideal employee image or not. However, there are several aspects we should inquire about to avoid being misled.

Education—this seems banal, but with this question, we can check if the candidate is truthful regarding the start and end dates of their education as often incorrect dates are provided in CVs, so it is worth checking during the interview if the candidate really finished a particular school/university or if it was just a typo. Moreover, it is important whether the candidate chose their field of study in a reasonably thoughtful manner and whether it aligns with their interests.

Motivations for changing jobs is one of the most important questions because candidates have various motivations: taking on new challenges, breaking the routine, problems/dissatisfaction with the previous job (it is worth asking what kind), seeking stability, an annual bonus, higher salary, better benefits package, company car (people can ask for a specific car brand…), fuel card, yoga classes, multisport card, and finally—the opportunity for development and advancement.

The candidate’s answer to simple questions like “Why do you want to change jobs?” or “Why are you interested in this position/company?” can give us an answer as to whether this person fits our team and whether considering their employment makes sense at all. Someone with the right substantive skills but mismatched aspirations will not be a good employee for a specific company. If we have a small team with clearly defined responsibilities, there is hardly room for promotion. We usually will not select a person whose motivation to change jobs is solely for higher earnings or having a company car of a specific brand.

The next stage is competency analysis. It is worth trying to ask at least two competency-based questions that require the candidate to provide examples of specific situations they encountered (of course, in a professional context) along with describing how they handled them, what they learned from them, and what they would do differently in the future. This way, we can most easily assess whether the candidate really knows what they are talking about and whether the information in the CV is reflected in reality.

A thorough analysis of employee competencies is usually not the recruiter’s task during the first stage of the process but the manager’s or specialist’s in the subsequent phases. It is also worth emphasizing that various job positions increasingly require very specialized skills that a person with relevant education only acquires during work in a specific company in a specific position.

At this point, I must mention an extremely important question about values, which an increasing number of companies and managers consider more essential than detailed skills. Skills, especially when the candidate has a specific education, can be acquired during work. However, alignment with the values and work culture prevailing in a particular company is crucial for future success and good teamwork.

We must realize that we can train, teach, or send our future employees for additional training in certain skills. However, in the vast majority of cases, we will not instill in an already-shaped adult person values that are important to us but not shared by them. Therefore, we should not disregard this, as alignment with the team and company in terms of values and personality is crucial. Thus, it is imperative for recruiters, especially external ones working for their clients, to be introduced to and informed about the values shared by their clients.

Non-inclusive Questions

Probably most women have heard at least once during a job interview the question: “Do you plan to have children?” Unfortunately, I am in this group. It annoys me even more because I am not only a woman but also a female recruiter, and I do not need to say that asking such questions is unacceptable in today’s world.

Such a question already suggests to us that employing a woman who will want to have a child in the future will be a problem for the employer and will likely disqualify her from further stages of the process if the answer is “Yes, I plan to have a child in the near future.” So, this is a discriminatory question.

Discriminatory questions also include questions about age, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, political preferences (even in the form of initiating conversation, joking), or ethnic origin.

We also should not ask about salary expectations if we already have this information from the recruiter who conducted the initial screening with the candidate for us. Repeatedly asking about finances may indicate a lack of information flow in the company and carries the risk that the candidate will use this situation to their advantage by stating even higher expectations than during the initial conversation with the recruiter.

Why is it so important for our company to be able to boast the title of an inclusive employer? The recruitment interview is an important moment allowing us to show our attitude towards values, and therefore our good or bad sides. The type of recruitment is a picture of the whole company.

Above all, a pro-inclusive company policy enhances its reputation as one that becomes more attractive in the still competitive job market and attracts diverse talents. Research shows that having diverse talent structures enhances the productivity and innovation of employees. This directly translates into company earnings and contributes to building the organization’s brand as one that cares about diversity in its structures, thereby ensuring fair employment practices.

Power of Constructive Feedback

When I returned to my candidates with feedback regarding a specific recruitment process, they mostly thanked me profusely for reaching out to them at all. I was shocked by this. From the interviews I conducted with the candidates, it was clear that the most negative opinions about recruitment processes in various companies revolved around the lack of feedback.

The ideal practice is to provide feedback to the candidate within 48 hours of the interview. If for various reasons this is not possible, we should strive to provide feedback within one working week. The entire recruitment process needs to have a defined pace. The candidate needs to feel that they are still in the process, and not speculate about what the lack of feedback means; whether he or she has already been rejected, or whether the manager and recruiter are “busy” and don’t have time to talk.

Also, if we delay feedback for too long, during this time, our candidate may receive another offer, and our chance to hire the desired employee will be lost. The ideal form of providing feedback is a telephone conversation, but if we cannot or do not want to do this, we should send an email message. The feedback we provide must be constructive. It should include all the strengths we noticed and the shortcomings that unfortunately led to a negative decision regarding the process.

It is also worth mentioning what the candidate should pay attention to in future recruitment processes. Such a feedback structure will ensure the candidate’s respect and the certainty that they will speak well of our company. Let’s not fool ourselves—word of mouth and the power of the Internet work most effectively. Furthermore, by providing constructive feedback, we don’t burn bridges. Who knows, in future recruitment processes for our company, this person might be the best fit?

Conducting end-to-end recruitment processes is an important and complicated process. The success of any organization depends on the quality and usefulness of the personnel it can attract. Recruitment processes are also difficult and stressful for job seekers, who often urgently need employment or are faced with the decision to change a long-standing career path for an unknown future.

The whole trouble lies in conducting the process with respect for the candidate and in a way that they will remember our company as a friendly, respectful of their time, and dignity, work environment. The recruitment interview should be like a coffee chat. The candidate is a partner in the conversation, not a student at a school desk bombarded with questions read from a sheet of paper. If we want to hire good employees, let’s first take a look at ourselves.

Written by Paulina Lenkowska

The article was originally published in Polish at:

Translated by Natalia Banaś

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