30 January, 2019 | Category

People unfamiliar with evidence-based hiring methods often consider recruitment a ‘black art’ or a game of chance.

And, unfortunately, most hiring managers and recruiters see recruitment as a transaction, rather than a business strategy. Their mindset is often about getting someone with the appropriate qualifications to ‘do the job’ rather than recruiting the top talent to help take the business forward. This means they tend to be inconsistent in their recruitment approach (including taking shortcuts) and as a result, are more likely to hire B and C players.

There is also a tendency for most hiring managers to think they are great at ‘reading’ people. But if you are not putting every candidate through the same objective interrogation, with the same KPI based questions and assessments, unconscious biases are likely to hijack your process. This leaves you open to being ‘gamed’ by interviewees, turning selection into a personality contest.

We have seen many ‘interesting’ approaches to recruiting talent, but the most common mistakes include:

1. Failure to do the groundwork of building a clear Performance Profile and Information Memorandum (IM)

A comprehensive recruitment strategy helps build a detailed information memorandum (IM) including a performance profile and assessment process that sets clients up for success.

Most job/position descriptions tend to be a laundry list of tasks and responsibilities, without clear and measurable KPIs (information that belongs in an operating manual, rather than in setting performance expectations). A Performance Profile is effectively a scorecard for a role that clearly explains what great performance looks like. It succinctly outlines the purpose, KPIs, core responsibilities and competencies required for success.

An Information Memorandum (IM) is a document designed to provide potential employees with a detailed summary of all the information relevant to your business and the role you are looking for them to play. The advantage of a great IM is that it sets your company apart from competitors who don’t provide the same level of information, hence helping you attract the best candidates.

This process is similar to the one corporate advisers would use when raising funds from investors. A-Grade candidates will choose carefully where they want to spend their time and energy, so it’s important to be on the front foot to respond to all the questions they are likely to ask.

2. Building a role around a person, rather than a strategy

Nothing gives away your control of the process more than the old paradigm of ‘I’ll build the role around the right person’.

As with most things ‘design casts the biggest shadow’ when it comes to recruitment. When recruitment is a business strategy, it is essential that you get the right person in line with the defined requirements for a particular role. It is critical to be able to measure candidates against a clear performance profile, and the cognitive and behavioural competencies that have the greatest effect on success in your company.

On the other hand, defining a role to meet a person’s strengths, that bears no relationship to your business strategy, is unlikely to have the impact you’re looking for.

3. Selections based on unstructured interviews

Relying on gut feel isn’t enough when selecting A Grade candidates. Selection through unstructured interviewing rarely delivers optimal results.

And nothing will scare off a good candidate more than an employer making things up on the fly. This will just make you look disorganised.

Having a structured and objective assessment method will reduce the likelihood of relying on ‘impressions’, unconscious biases and personality and greatly increase the probability of making a better decision.

4. Hypothetical rather than evidence-based questioning and assessments

Structured interviews should focus on evidence-based performance questions, not hypotheticals. Avoid ‘what would you do’ questions in favour of ‘show us how you did this and the measurable results you achieved’.

5. ‘Cover-ups’ and failure to disclose the full story about your business

No executive expects to walk into a perfect world, but they don’t like hidden ‘surprises’ either. You need to be able to present the full story of your business. For example are there any major challenges that exist in the organisation right now? And which of these are most relevant to the incoming person? Do you have a sustainable and attractive business, or is this a turnaround play? If you’re at start-up or pre-revenue, what does funding look like, including key milestones or gateways.

6. Over-reliance on referrals and reference checks

From a risk perspective, it is important to run background checks, which (depending on the role) may include police clearances, ASIC, eligibility, qualification and medical checks. Reference checks have a low predictive validity rating, however, these should also be undertaken with structured questions relative to the role.

That said, don’t let a good or bad reference be the be all and end all. Just because a candidate was successful at a previous company doesn’t guarantee they’ll excel in your business. And likewise, a less than stellar performance elsewhere doesn’t mean they’re not perfect for your role.

7. Over-reliance on personality or personality assessments

Personality testing has low predictive validity (these should be used more in management awareness). Instead, conduct cognitive and skills testing aligned to the role. For executive roles, cognitive ability is a strong predictor of successful job performance in most roles.

Getting executive recruitment right

So what’s the solution? The reality is that to recruit A-Grade talent you need an A-Grade recruitment process to maximise ROI and minimise risk.

By applying a management consulting mindset, we have developed a quality A-Grade Recruitment method. The complete A-Grade Recruitment process includes the following phases (including over 30 sub-steps) 1. Design and Scope 2. Search and Attract 3. Screen and Select 4. Onboard and Retain.

The method itself is not overly complicated, but execution by the right people is key. Managed well, the end-to-end process can take around 100 man-hours to execute for executive roles, but your recruitment efforts will drag on a lot longer (and probably end in tears) without the right strategy in place.

Watch this video blog to find out more about the A Grade recruitment process versus the typical recruitment process.

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