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Managing a recruitment timeline

Andrew Brassleay

Andrew Brassleay on how to successfully manage a recruitment timeline and pick the right person for the role

The recruitment process is finished and you have your chosen employee. Great: You need that strategically-important post filled, so it’s great to have found someone who so suited the job after just a quick chat.

The contract’s signed, they’re in place. Unfortunately, what "computer literate" actually meant was finding the minimise button with lightning speed when you catch the new recruit browsing Facebook - yet again.

If only you had arranged more meetings…

So when another vacancy needs filling, you’re not going to make that mistake again. Interview after interview takes place, until you’ve found your best candidate. They were a perfect fit all along, you wanted to be certain before giving them the good news.

But the candidate can’t take the job. Their head has been turned and they’ve found an alternative role. They’ve also offered constructive feedback about your "somewhat pedantic" carefully-crafted series of meetings. They’re right - if only you had relied on instinct. And that essential position still hasn’t been filled…

So how best to get the balance of getting to know the candidate, without taking too long? Of course, there may not be a one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

Eugene McDaid is the co-founder and director of Paramount Recruitment, a consultancy that works in the healthcare, pharmaceutical and scientific industries. He explains the marketplace can have an impact on timescales in certain circumstances: "In medicine there’s a candidate shortage. In that situation you do have to be quick and sell your company to the candidates. Because if you’re not that person is likely to have other offers within two weeks."

But, he adds, while the prospective employer should stay aware of the pace in the market, there are risks to a quick-fire process. "There may be skeletons in the closet. it’s a bums on seats thing," he says, adding a lack of thoroughness may result in choosing a candidate not right for the role, and higher turnover.

Philippe Gaud, affiliate professor of management and human resources for HEC Paris Business School, says intuition could be a factor in finding the best candidates quickly and effectively, but this approach is best suited towards experienced recruiters who have worked with a company for a long time, and know which personality traits will work for that employer.

However, he adds "You can’t just rely on your own convictions" which must be validated by bringing "evidence to the company why you believe that person is suitable."

Lisa Forrest, head of internal talent acquisition at Alexander Mann Solutions, says technology can help ensure time isn’t wasted: "It’s all too common to see individuals brought in for a meeting based on technical abilities alone, only to discover they do not have the required soft skills nor do they fit with the corporate culture. It is here that the use of technology comes into play. It is entirely possible now to use predictive analytics tools that delve into an individual’s personal attributes, right down to whether or not they are ready to make a career move."

At the other end of the spectrum, time-wise, Eugene says: "Some companies have a very rigid procedure - I’ve known some to take six months to have a series of meetings, to meet all the members of staff and by that point the candidate loses interest.

The flip side of this, says Eugene, is if employers who want candidates who will stay with the company, the best bet is to make the process challenging. "It’ll give them the chance to show their skills and abilities and they’ll buy into the company more."

Jemma Terry is managing partner, Odgers Executive Search in Wales and says timelines can vary between private sector, a more streamlined process, and the public sector, which can involve "more administration", due to the increased potential risk of external criticism. However, she says asking too much of candidates at the start of the process can be "off-putting". She says: "We’re looking for the best people, but they are also the busiest."

She adds that in many cases it is useful to meet the candidates at executive level on two separate occasions in different circumstances useful. "You may have caught them on a good day or a bad day if you meet them only once," and this approach helps ensure there are no questions left hanging."

Eugene says there are pros to a long process "It’s thorough, there are fewer mistakes, there’s the courting of the candidate and the company getting to know each other, and there’s more effort in getting their package is right."

The real trick, says Eugene, is ensuring applicants have had a positive experience. "I would say be thorough," says Eugene. "But it doesn’t matter if it’s a long or short consultation if you manage expectations. If this is a three-month process, tell them that at the start.

Eugene adds that whoever has the final say has "got to be able to make a decision". If a company takes four to five months, "what does that say about them" to the candidate?

Whether people are successful in getting the job or not, Eugene says, despite how "time consuming" it might be, it’s worthwhile for an employer getting back to all candidates with constructive feedback, as "good companies know that if they get a bad reputation, they’re going to struggle to recruit.

"They might not be the right person for that job at this time, but they might be in five years time. But if they have a bad experience then they’re going to be put off applying for you again."

Philippe agrees and says to respond respectfully is "absolutely critical.", warning employers not to take an "arrogant" approach toward jobseekers. He adds: "I’m a professor now, and I meet a lot of young candidates. They have a pretty accurate account of how a company behaves and how it treats people. Companies can underestimate these small things. it’s up to them how they want to conduct it, but they have to be aware that the interview process is a matter of public knowledge."

Jemma, who says not getting back to all candidates is "unforgivable", adds it’s great when a candidate believes a great service has been offered because "you become someone who they want to talk to about their career. it goes beyond a transaction."

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