More and more small business owners are doing their own recruitment to save money and find the best person for the job. But identifying the best candidate can be harder than you think. Rachel Miller reveals ten potential pitfalls and suggests a better way
Could your firm afford to lose thousands of pounds? This is quite possible if your business recruits the wrong person according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
Thanks to social media and online advertising opportunities, more of us are taking the DIY approach to recruitment. And yet we don't necessarily have the skills and experience that recruitment consultants can bring to the task.
Take the "halo" effect. Every recruitment expert knows that it's easy to be swayed by a candidate because of a positive first impression. Often, there's just something about a candidate that you like from the word go - it could be their natural charm or the fact that they share your love of cycling or that they come from your home town.
The danger is that you lose your impartiality because you want them to be "the one". But once you've taken them on, their faults can quickly become apparent.
Every business has made these hiring mistakes, especially when they've recruited in haste. So if you want to avoid repenting your decision at leisure, you need to make sure your recruitment process is up to the job.
Here are ten other common mistakes that employers often make and how to avoid them:
1. You are fishing in the wrong pond
An ad on a recruitment website, on Gumtree or on Twitter can certainly attract plenty of applicants. But casting your net too widely makes the whole process much more laborious. What's more, you are only really targeting people who are actively looking for a job. In fact, your best bet may be someone who is happily employed but who could be persuaded to move on for the right opportunity.
Best approach: Actively seek referrals from your network of contacts and target your ads at special interest groups on sites such as LinkedIn.
2. You have sent out the wrong signals
Is your job description accurate? Does it have the right emphasis? If you want to find the right person, you must be specific about the role and its requirements. The more targeted you are, the better. Make sure you are aware of how the role has developed. Your last ad for the job may not be accurate anymore.
Best approach: If you are replacing an employee, ask your outgoing member of staff to describe what the job entails.
3. You are rushing the process
Recruitment is like buying a house. You don't buy the first place you see; you do a second viewing, if not a third; and you always get a survey. Take your time with your recruitment process and don't make snap decisions. Once you get to the interview stage, it's common for employers to move too quickly. Now's the time to think carefully and make sure you follow up references.
Best approach: Screen potential candidates by doing short phone interviews first so that you have a strong shortlist of interviewees.
4. You talk too much
It's incredibly common. You spend most of the interview telling the candidate about the company and the role. And the candidate smiles, nods and promises they are the best person for the job. If you want to find out if they've got what it takes, it's imperative to let them talk and for you to listen. For a start, what can they tell you about your business and your sector?
Best approach: Let them demonstrate that they have done their homework; keen candidates will also ask pertinent questions.
5. You are keeping it too formal
Everyone is on their best behaviour at interview. So it's always worth introducing a more informal element to the process - this could be a tour of the company or a follow-up chat in a café. Notice how the candidate interacts with others, including your receptionist or serving staff in a restaurant.
Best approach: Get the candidate to meet the rest of the team and ask for their feedback. Encourage your people to assess their personality and cultural fit. Is this someone they could stand to be with, day in, day out?
6. You aren't being consistent
Recruitment is not an exact science but it does call for discipline and a degree of impartiality. It's best to draw up a list of questions and make sure you ask each and every one. This kind of discipline can ensure that you aren't unduly swayed by the "halo effect". Remember, just because a candidate shines in one area doesn't mean that they are perfect in every other way.
Best approach: Devise a simple scoring system to allow you to compare candidates.
7. You haven't tested skills
It's worth asking questions that test a candidate's ability to think on their feet such as "What would you do in this situation?". It's also worth testing their skills by setting them a practical challenge; a test that is representative of what they will have to do in the role. Tell them they can ask questions - those that do are likely to do a better job.
Best approach: Always get specifics and ask how they gained and developed their skills. Ask for examples and test them if you can.
8. You are overlooking attitude
Think about previous employees that haven't worked out; the chances are it was their attitude that left a lot to be desired. Certainly, you can always train someone who has the right attitude; but interpersonal skills, a work ethic and enthusiasm can't be taught.
Best approach: Make sure you spend enough face-to-face time with potential candidates to allow their personality and ethos to shine through.
9. You are ignoring the warning signs
It can be easy to ignore one or two niggling things and focus on the positive when you think you've found a new recruit. But any sticking points at this stage are likely to become bigger issues down the line so it's vital that the candidate's expectations are in line with what you want to offer. Then there are the warning signs that you simply must not ignore such as too much job churn on a CV or referees that hint at problems. This is also where your gut instinct has an important role to play.
Best approach: Steer clear of candidates that find fault with their previous employers - next time it could be you.
10. You are asking referees the wrong questions
Being a referee is an awkward business. Most people will be absolutely honest but they won't necessarily volunteer anything negative unless specifically asked. At the very least you need to do background checks to ensure a candidate is genuine. Always get referees to confirm specifics, including job title and dates of employment.
Best approach: Ask referees the same questions that you put to candidates - what was their role, what were their achievements - and then see if the answers match up.
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