Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Hiring Process

With the economic downturn, it has become more important than ever for companies to employ the best HR practices possible, whether they are looking to shed excess capacity (lay off workers) or use this opportunity to pick up top talent.

I don't think anything drives this point home more than a recent job fair I went to in Toronto where the line up went out the door and across the floor of a crowded convention hall to meet up with a hand full of employers, only a fraction of which were actually hiring. Although these employers can have their pick of the litter, it becomes very difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff.

The recruitment process, a process like any other, has many metrics which can be used to determine it's success rate. Recruitment and hiring can also be evaluated at different stages to understand the relative performance and contribution of each stage to the overall success of recruitment efforts. First let's take a high level look at the recruitment process:
Recruitment Events:

Although it would be perfect for recruiters to be able to attend all recruitment events with potential candidates, the reality of the situation is usually that there is a limited staff and budget. This in turn means that recruitment teams have to prioritize their attendance based on their recruitment goals and needs. Similar to a targeted marketing campaign, HR recruiters need to advertise to their perspective new hires to get them interested in applying. A valuable metric to evaluate for this stage is how many applicants applied and how did they find out about the posting. While job boards like Monster.com might have a swarm of applicants, the quality and relevance of each applicant might not be of the caliber or fit you are looking for.

Application Process:

The problem with recruitment today (especially in this climate of high unemployment) is that there is usually an insurmountable number of applicants. The application process needs to be able to navigate through the clutter, however, it also must be concerned with disguarding good candidates. Even the best tools in this area will appear as double edged swords. The application process is usually as follows:
  1. Application materials are screened by an automated process (Resume / CV, cover letter, references, transcripts)
  2. Recruiters pick out top candidates for a first round interview. In this interview, the recruiter does a pre-screen for fit within the company, behavioural interviews, and leadership / soft skills assessment etc.
  3. If the candidate passes, they are then passed along for a second interview, usually with the hiring manager or colleagues for competencies and technical skill.
  4. A subsequent interview may follow by a senior executive for long term potential within the company and final approval.

Many companies have referral programs which aim to quickly identify good quality candidates. These pre-existing relationships act as a pre-screen for candidates as current employees vouch for their ability to perform the roles. It has often been said that 80% of all jobs are found through networking. Some companies even provide an incentive for employees by offering a referral fee for candidates who are extended an offer.

At this stage, it is also important for companies to evaluate the process and individuals participating in what Jack Welch calls the Hiring Batting Average. It's essentially a review of the success of your company's recruitment team to ability to identify and hire star employees at each stage. Those who are proficient should continue to be involved (or escalate their involvement) while those who are less successful need to improve their "batting averages" or be taken out of the process.

Candidate Offers:

Hopefully, by this point there are few hiccups in hiring process. However, for highly skilled or demanded candidates, there may still be the need to negotiate terms, benefits and salaries. If you offer competitive salaries, you will not lose as many good candidates to other companies (and retain them for longer also). Looking at your compensation system and ensuring that it is aligned with your needs and value proposition as an employer of choice.


By looking at all of these items independently and as a whole, companies can make the most of the resources they have in order to provide the most benefit for their operational teams. In an environment where more is being demanded with less, it is crutial for all members in a company to operate at their most efficient levels. Especially the component which is responsible for adding more memebers.

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