A Guide to Recruitment

Totem-Recruitment 400x265Where To Start When Recruiting

Whilst we don’t want to teach you how to suck eggs – whatever that means, we do often get asked what simple steps can be taken to make a more robust hiring decision. So here they are.

Great performance at work comes from the three components of What, How and Why.  Whether we are recruiting a new colleague or managing an existing one – we will need to review all three aspects to develop a great performer.  To start with, put yourself in the position of the new recruit and ask yourself these questions.


What do I need to do?  What am I expected to do?  What are the objectives, measures, KPIs?  What is most important?

If I had been doing this role for 12 months and was getting great feedback, what would I have achieved?  How would I know I had achieved those things?

What about after 3 years?  What would I hope to achieve by then?  How would I know I had achieved those things?


How do I need to be?  How do I fit in with the culture here?  How do I connect with the values here?  How am I expected to behave?


Why do I need to do it – and why in that way?  Why does this role exist?  What part do I play?  Why is that important?

Next you’ll need to write a Job Description that works.  Most often job descriptions end up being dusty documents in a drawer – yet we can get far better use from them for recruitment, performance management and development – it might be useful to have a peak at this PDF.


What Selection Method(s) should I use?

Years of research into selection methods used across all sorts of businesses and job roles has revealed that the more structured the assessment process, the better we can predict how well someone will perform in a job.  The highest prediction comes from combining a few key methods and we strongly recommend a structured interview and a work sample test.

A personality profile can also be extremely insightful when identifying someone who is the right fit for your business.

Work Sample Tests

The idea of a work sample test is wonderfully simple: “The greatest test of how well someone might do in a job is the test of seeing them do the job.”

What aspects of the role you are recruiting for could you test – in a real situation or perhaps in a role play or desk-based exercise?  Ideas could include:

  • Giving the candidate a customer or client role play to perform in
  • An in tray exercise that requires candidates to sort and prioritise a workload
  • Asking the candidate to prove their claimed experience by using software or IT system

The best work sample tests feature as much reality as possible – so add in the kind of questions people usually ask and the challenges faced – cover the What, How and even the Why by asking questions afterwards – “why did you choose that approach?”

You should have in mind what a good performer will look like from the job description questions – so that ideally you can objectively rate candidates against these criteria (rather than just deciding who you liked).

Overall you will have a ‘gut feel’ for who may be right for you – which is fine as long as you back that up or challenge it with evidence.  Great recruitment practices are about sense-checking and challenging that intuition with more objective information – so that you know you’ve made a good quality decision for your business.

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Burning Questions

Kettenreaktion - Konzept mit ZündhölzernWhat questions your hiring managers are failing to ask at interview and how that burns through your bottom line.

How do you encourage hiring managers to interview more effectively?  Where do you start?  What skills do they need?  How will they know what questions to ask?  And once they’ve learned the skills, how can you be sure they’ll use them?!

Bringing in external consultants to interview and assess candidates can be highly beneficial for large volume and senior level appointments.  It can certainly be expensive and after that external person gives you a recommendation, what next? And what about all the other roles you recruit for?

When we ask managers to use a new system or process, we provide guidance or training.  Sadly, as with many people management skills, this tends to get missed for interviewing and hiring candidates.  So if you’re considering doing something about this, where can you start? What challenges might you face and how can you overcome them?

Getting Started

Gaining buy in to the time out of a busy workload can be a challenge, so managers will need a good reason to be doing this, seeing both personal and commercial benefits.

Companies we work with have used various combinations of the following to explain the need for change;

We need to be consistent – we don’t have a consistent view on what good looks like, so we risk making decisions that aren’t right for the whole business.

You haven’t had any support and we want to change that. We feel we’re letting you down if we don’t give you the core skills required to interview and select candidates.

We’re losing money, wasting time, making work harder and upsetting the rest of the team. Making a bad hire takes up management time, lowers morale and costs hundreds of thousands. Let’s avoid these pains by making more robust decisions – it will make your life easier.

Prepare for the future. Few other decisions we make as managers can affect the business for five, ten or twenty years. If we’re bringing someone in who might stay a long time, let’s make sure they’re the right person.

Totem Lollipops

Back up what you already know and build your skills for your future.  If you’ve been interviewing for 10 years already, you’ve probably got a way you like you do it and habits that work for you. Let’s learn from each other, find out the science behind what works and all become better interviewers, a key skill for future careers.

Learning Content

Once you have a group of people to work with, what will you cover on a skills workshop?

Two key principles are critical with this content. Firstly, make sure it is a facilitated, adult conversation. It’s easy to sound patronising without ever intending to, simply because this content can be assumed to be something we all already know.  Ask people what already works for them and what they find challenging.

Secondly, make sure the focus is on more objectively agreeing criteria and more objectively assessing candidates against that.  This is the single most important learning point, yet workshops on this topic often end up stuck on debates about whether we should put candidates under pressure or not, how we should avoid too many CVs, what to do when you know in the first two minutes the candidate is no good etc.

Whilst those questions are valid, the focus should be on the criteria for the role.

And that’s what is usually missed before and during interview – which causes bad hiring decisions and burns through your bottom line: A full understanding and assessment of the needs for the role.

Encourage hiring managers to ask questions amongst themselves before advertising a role like:

  • Why does this job exist?
  • What value will it add to my team / department / business?
  • What might be some success measures of the role?  How would I know after say 12 months that someone is doing well in this job?
  • What skills, knowledge and previous experience would be essential for someone to fulfil all of the above in my team / department / business?

And then the interview questions are written for you.  Let’s say for example that answers to the final two questions brought up things like “increase sales by 10%, so I need to see they have a track record in sales – particularly in a saturated market.”  So the interview question can be written: “when have you delivered sales increases in a saturated market?  What was the context?  What did you do?  How did you achieve growth through those challenges?”  And so on.

Or the questions raise people management needs like “turn around team performance to deliver better results (as measured through KPIs).”  The interview question could start along the lines of… “when have you turned around a team’s performance?  How did you go about it?  What was your understanding of why the team was not performing at their best?  How did the team respond to your approach?”

For fear of stating the obvious (but since when is common sense common action as we always hear?!) the simplest way to interview most effectively is to clarify what the role really needs – and ask questions against those criteria.

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