I am open about the fact that I find recruitment simultaneously one of the most frustrating and rewarding parts of my role. Rewarding, because when you get the perfect fit between candidate and role, there is nothing more satisfying. Frustrating, because, despite everything you might hear and read, there is no cast iron guaranteed method of getting to that desired outcome.

An unpredictable commodity

People are, by their nature, an unpredictable commodity, and therefore despite the many attempts to do so, there is no one single objective process which, when followed, will guarantee you end up with the perfect candidate appointed. Even attempts to introduce recruitment algorithms into the process have been met with mixed results – the challenge with algorithms being that they struggle with the less quantifiable elements of recruitment such as achieving a strong cultural fit.

Not the person you interviewed

Anyone who has ever recruited will be familiar with that heart sinking moment when the person who turns up on their first day is not the person you interviewed for the role. Oh sure, in theory they’re the same person… but how they act, what they do, and what they deliver is very very different to what they committed to when they were sat on the other side of the desk to you at interview… and can have far reaching consequences as a result.

Given this, surely the title of this blog post is a fallacy. How can you possibly master the dark art of recruitment, when there are so many intangibles involved in the process? And it’s true: as I said at the start, there are no cast iron guarantees or short cuts to recruitment utopia. There are however certain things that, over the years, I’ve learnt give me the best possible chance of finding my perfect match. These are them.

Prioritise Culture

If you do nothing else, do this. Not prioritising your organisational culture when it comes to your recruitment process means it will fail: every, single time. Maybe not immediately. You might find a candidate with the perfect skill set, who you know just doesn’t align culturally, but you persuade yourself that it will all be okay. For a while, it might be. But when the honeymoon period wears off, you are likely to find yourself in a whole heap of trouble. Few things can be more damaging to a team dynamic than a team member who is not culturally on board. Best case scenario: your new recruit agrees it’s not the right environment for them, and they move on. Worst case scenario: you end up with far reaching consequences and lose other valued team members as a result. Here at Benefex, before a candidate even gets to meet the recruiting manager, they undergo our structured culture interview with a member of the HR team. No matter how great their skill set, if they don’t pass this stage of the interview process, that’s the end of the road. Cultural fit should never be compromised upon.

Skills Test

Perhaps you’re recruiting for someone who needs to have advanced Excel skills? Their CV states they’ve been using Excel for years. Their cover letter pulls out some examples of the kind of functionality they’ve created using Excel. At interview, they expand on these examples. All sounds credible, right? The trouble is… anyone can do that. Anyone can claim to have great experience in order to match the role brief. There are no short cuts on this one: you have to test for the critical role specific skills they need to have. We now have a skills test in place at Benefex for every single one of our roles. This will vary, dependent on the nature of the role and the seniority. For example, a junior employee might undertake an in tray task, a member of one of our technical teams would be required to demonstrate their technical skills, and for a senior role, you would likely be asked to present on an area of expertise. In all of these case, it’s not enough for you to simply tell us you know how to do something… you also need to be able to prove it.

Meet The Team

We’ve talked about the fact that people are an unpredictable resource: each of us has our own idiosyncrasies and personality traits. That’s not solely true for candidates, though; it’s also very true of recruiters. If we’re not careful, we will allow our own biases to creep into the process.

To help to minimise that, it stands to reason that the more people who are able to meet the candidate during the recruitment process, the better the possibility that you end up with the right individual appointed. As a minimum, everyone who gets through to the final stage of our process will have met with a member of the HR team, the recruiting manager, a member of the team they will be working within, and a director. Where possible, we’ll expand on this – for example, a recent new joiner to our Sales team spent time with the entire team before they started! This not only helps to counteract personal bias, it also starts to quickly build a more rounded picture of the candidate. When you receive consistently positive feedback from each stage of the process, your confidence increases that the hire will be a successful one. Conversely, when interviewers come back with very different reports, suggesting inconsistencies on the part of the candidate, alarm bells should be ringing.

Keep It Real

Too many recruiters, in my experience, forget that a successful recruitment process has got to be an open and transparent one. You need to know if the candidate is right for the role… but they also need to feel confident that the role they are going to spend the majority of their waking hours in is going to be the right one for them. The problem comes when the picture which is painted for the candidate of the organisation and of the position during the interview process fails to match up with the reality. Expectations have been falsely set, and somewhere along the line, this will come back to bite you. Allow your candidates to make decisions based on fact, not fantasy.

Trust Your Gut

The final point is, for me, arguably the most important. Trust your gut. Sure, it’s not a stage which is going to figure in any recruitment algorithms… but it’s a step that you miss at your peril. In almost 15 years of recruiting, there have been a handful of occasions when I’ve gone against my gut reaction in order to bring someone into the role. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why, but there was something in me screaming out that this was the wrong decision. I ignored it… and those appointments failed, every single time. Trust your gut. That niggle of concern you’re experiencing is there for a reason.