I started the research for this article by doing a review of the research on how to recruit the right people for your business. I found approximately 1,090,000 research papers connected to this topic.
So, there has been a lot of research interest in the topic finding and recruiting the right and best people. As is my normal approach to this, I would scan the research findings a build up a bullet point list of the main research results. I then weigh up the research in terms of how good it appears to be and then from what’s left, I look for the patterns. This analysis then forms the basis of the article.
Things, however, turned out a bit differently for this article. When I reviewed the literature I found a few commonalities like:
- Drawing up a job and person specification
- Work out the competencies and skills needed for the job
- Work out what knowledge the individual will need
- What experience would you like the person to have
- Work out what sort of person will fit with the culture of the organisation
- Use personality profiling
- Use this matrix or that
And so on.
My overall impression is that finding the perfect method for finding the right or best person for your business is a little like fishing.
You can spend a lot of time, money and effort and have all the fishing gear in the world and catch lots of fish. But you can’t tell how any of the fish will taste just from looking at them in your basket.
The problem with most of the research, particularly of recruitment methods, is that every new method, matrix, tool or instrument is declared a success. The other problem is, because organisations usually only recruit one candidate per job, declaring a success is problematical because you never get to see how the other candidates would have performed over the first 6 months to a year. So it is very rare that any direct comparison can be made as to the effectiveness of any particular method.
I interviewed a business owner and the story she told me was really informative…
“We recruited someone as office manager last year. We advertised and received over 300 applicants. We cut this number down to 6 for interview. At the interview one candidate stood out and we hired her. She was good, but after 6 moths she left to go to a bigger job.
So, rather than go through the whole process again we rang the runner up but he had already found a job. We kept going until we reached number 5. This candidate was still available and could start immediately. I had huge reservations about doing this but we were in a really busy period and just needed someone fast. This reject, our 5th place candidate has turned out to be one of our best ever employees. She is just fabulous. She is the kind of person you would set a company up for just so you can employ her.
If I now had the choice I would choose her over our first placed candidate without question. That really got me thinking about how we are recruiting and the fact that you can’t really tell. You can get indicators, but there is really only one way to find out if they are good for you.
As a result, we have started to give applicants tasks to complete that mirror what they would have to do here. They actually get to do the tasks in situ and we ask the other people in the office what they think of each applicant.”
There is also evidence that rather than engaging people for ‘fit’, recruiting people for diversity can improve things like creativity and decision-making for example. There is no one overall process for getting the right person. It is highly context dependant.
However, the evidence from the research suggests that it is a good idea to give people ‘live’ tasks to complete as part of the interviewing process that reflects the work they will be doing. For example, Google gives IT applicants a coding task to complete as part of their ‘interview’ and in Pret, the crew select their new work colleagues.
A study published by US researchers in 1997 found that a series of characteristics of the recruiter changed the effectiveness of the recruiting process. For example things like how informative a recruiter is, or their status can significantly effect the outcome of the recruiting process.
Connerley, M. L., & Rynes, S. L. (1997). The influence of recruiter characteristics and organizational recruitment support on perceived recruiter effectiveness: Views from applicants and recruiters. Human Relations, 50(12), 1563-1586.
Recent studies are showing that recruiting for diversity, people from background and with experiences outside of the normal recruiting capture pool for that industry or organisation brings really powerful benefits (creativity, thinking differently, different learning and experience etc.) for the organisation concerned.
Dewey, B., & Keally, J. (2008). Recruiting for diversity: strategies for twenty-first century research librarianship. Library Hi Tech, 26(4), 622-629. Freeman, C. (2003). Recruiting for diversity. Women in Management Review, 18(1/2), 68-76. Knouse, S. B. (2009). Targeted recruiting for diversity: Strategy, impression management, realistic expectations, and diversity climate. International Journal of Management, 26(3), 347.