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How to drive up recruitment skills. 

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger

Do you think you are a good driver? We all do don’t we! But would your passengers agree? How do you think you would do if you had to resit your driving test tomorrow? Managers think they are good at interviewing but HR are not so sure and think a refresher course to update knowledge and skill would improve things.

You know the argument about whether drivers should have to retake their driving test at regular intervals well the same reasoning applies to recruitment interviews. The roads have got a lot busier since you passed your test and over time all of us pick up some bad driving habits. Well some managers never had any recruitment training they have just done it ever since they became a manager. Others did it years ago when equal opportunities was not asking young women if they had any plans to start a family. But few people would volunteer for resitting their driving test so let’s call it an advanced driving test for the experienced driver and let’s give a significant insurance discount to those who undertake it.  HR need to offer the equivalent to experienced managers/interviewers.

The advanced recruitment course is not for newly appointed managers but experienced recruiters wishing to update their knowledge and skills. (It doesn’t hurt that senior management have made it know that in the future all chairs of interview panels must have attended the advanced course).  The first stage of this refresher course is short listing. This is an area where bad habits may have crept in over the years and some short cuts become standard practice. All those who are going to be on the interview panel should participate in the short listing exercise, not only does this add rigour it ensures all members of the interview process are familiar with the person specification (PS) and the competence detailed with in it. This will be important when setting the interview questions and most important agreeing in advance what constitutes a good answer.

Application forms or CV’s with supporting additional information need to be assessed against the essential criteria on the PS . As the course progresses the importance of the PS will become increasingly obvious to participants. At this point it is useful to revisit the PS and discuss how it could have been improved and whether it is helpful or even necessary to have “ desirable” criteria. Changing a PS halfway through a recruitment process would be another example of a bad habit.

Having agreed questions and  answers no doubt the subject of scoring will come up. Scorning often takes on a pseudoscientific role in feedback to unsuccessful candidates as if telling them what they scored was explanation enough for the panels decision. ( more about interview feedback later) As long as every one is using the same scoring system it doesn’t matter whether answers are scored 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 or a presentation is scored out of 1 to 20. What is crucial is the notes the interviewer takes by way of explaining their score. This is another area where bad habits may have crept in.
It is tempting in a long days interviewing candidates to scribble the briefest of remarks along side the allocation of a score but whilst this might be enough to  jog your memory come the discussion of who to appoint it won’t give you the detail you need to provide helpful feedback to an unsuccessful candidate or an internal candidate you wish to encourage. It may not be enough to jog your memory if the panel over runs and the chair wants to get together later in the week to make the decision. A thin, hard to read set of  notes could be an embarrassment if a candidate makes a  formerly complain and HR audit the process.
Not enough attention is given by interviewers to feedback to unsuccessful candidates. This is certainly an area where experienced interviewers can have developed some bad habits. Clearly it’s a pleasure to inform the successful candidate that they are being offered the post but it can seem a chore to inform the the others they have been unsuccessful. So having told the candidates you will make a decision today and inform them of the outcome before the weekend you really need to tell the unsuccessful candidates as soon as possible after telephoning the successful candidate. This means booking time in the diary to do this rather than trying to squeeze it in between meetings and risking not getting hold of some one until latter than promised. If you have ever had to wait for such a call you will appreciate just how unsettling the delay can be.
Booking plenty of space in the diary is also necessary in order to give detailed, helpful feedback. Not everyone asks for it but it should always be offered and it much easier to give feedback if you can say which questions were well answered and why some missed the mark. In my experience if people feel they have got something from the interview that means they could do better next time they feel more positive about the experience and more positive about the organisation.
Interview panels are often guilty of thinking the task is simply to recruit the best candidate but in fact that’s just part of the task which includes promoting the organisation, enhancing its reputation and creating interest around future vacancies.

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