Our clients frequently come to us with recruitment horror stories.
Senior candidates they thought would be a perfect fit for their role at interview who turn out to be completely wrong for the position in reality.
Earlier this year a client parted ways with a Director who they hired, via another search firm, to grow a key business unit for them in the infrastructure sector. The individual had 25 plus years’ industry experience and claimed they had built up a similar business previously for a competitor. It became apparent quite soon that he wasn’t an accomplished business developer in the sector, and when our client happened to meet an ex-colleague of the candidate it transpired many of their claims made at interview were fabricated. The individual subsequently departed and we found a successor.
Recruitment will always carry a certain amount of risk. No amount of pre-employment screening can 100% guarantee that expectations will line up and unfortunately, new recruits can’t be exchanged with a 30 day warranty.
Part of our job as an executive search consultancy is to ensure that the recruitment risk is minimised for our clients.
So what can be done to reduce the risk of executive recruitment in transport and infrastructure?
The Transport and Infrastructure markets are very close knit, and the chances are, you may know someone who knows the candidate well.
Since the introduction of the Data Protection act many companies have completely changed their referencing policies, as the candidate must give you consent prior to taking a reference. Common practice is very different; with some hiring managers using off-the-record phone calls to contacts to provide insight into the candidates past performance. If you are going to make use of your network for informal references, maintaining the candidate’s confidentiality is of utmost importance.
When taking a reference do consider the nature of their relationship to the candidate, how long ago they worked with them and the role in question. Is there a reason the contact would be biased against the candidate? Likewise, if they worked with them 8 years ago when the candidate was in a more junior position or different function, you aren’t going to get a fair reflection of their capability now.
The most reliable source for a reference is someone who has directly managed them recently. This can only be done once the candidate has resigned and given their permission. If they suggest someone other than their line manager, this should trigger alarm bells.
Far more can be gleaned on a phone call compared to a written reference, which can be so sanitised that it only confirms their most recent job title and employment dates.
Referencing is time consuming, which is why we undertake the process on behalf of many of our clients.
In any interview process a hiring manager is looking to assess three core points; can the candidate do the job, do they have the right motivations and will they be the right cultural fit? The format that you choose for your interview process is critical to gaining a broad understanding of these factors.
While the process should project your company’s culture, it is also important to tailor it to the individual role and candidate. Involving the key people, who will work closely with the successful candidate, in the interview process helps to reduce the culture fit risk.
First interviews consisting entirely of generic competency based interview questions can be a dry experience and favour candidates with lots of recent interview practice.
If you are interviewing someone who has been headhunted and isn’t actively searching for a role, then you are likely to lose their interest if you make the interview process too onerous. A less formal first interview that gives you a good feel for them and allows you to sell the opportunity, followed by a more formal second interview once their interest is piqued can be the best compromise.
The longer your recruitment process is the higher the risk of good candidates losing interest or accepting another opportunity elsewhere.
3. Practical assessment
For roles which will require the candidate to present to clients and other audiences presentations at the final interview can be a useful tool. It’s reasonable to give a weeks’ notice when asking for a presentation, choose the topic carefully and be clear on the time allowed (up to 15 minutes is typical). One topic which can work well is “What would you focus on in the first 100 days?”.
For more specialist roles case studies are useful to assess the candidate’s practical skills and demonstrate how they work under pressure. There are many forms of case study that are popular for technical roles and also management consultants. You can either send the case study prior to the final interview, or give them the case study on the day allow them a set time to think through their solution before presenting it informally.
4. Psychometric Testing
Psychometric testing can cover a wide variety of criteria; personality profiling, numerical and verbal reasoning testing as well as various aptitude and scenario tests to judge how the candidate would react in different situations. Many tests are completed online in 30-50 minutes but for senior leadership roles half day sessions with an occupational psychologist to undertake tests and discuss the outputs are becoming more common.
Well-designed tests take the subjectivity out of the recruitment process and provide you with an objective analysis. When interviewing, many hiring managers will have a “gut feeling” about the candidate – which doesn’t always turn out to be that accurate. Tests, give you something tangible to guide your hiring decisions instead of relying solely on intuition.
Psychometric tests rarely provide the full picture, in order to minimise risk, it’s best to use testing in between interview stages to highlight areas you may wish to find out more about at the next interview.
While we can never guarantee that the recruitment process will be totally fail safe, we can provide the support to make sure that the risk of hiring the wrong person is at a minimum. After 3 years 81% of the candidates we place are still with our clients and 24% of our candidates are promoted within their first 18 months. Click HERE to discuss how we can help you.