Recruiting good people is a pain. There’s few things that feel as pointless as spending an hour interviewing someone who you know isn’t going to get the job, or trawling though a huge pile of innaporpriate CVs. Life is too short and your time is too precious to be inefficient when you are recruiting. Futhermore, hiring bad people costs you way more than their wage. Here’s my top tips.
1. Decide in advance what you’re looking for
It boils downs to three things: Skills, experience and domain knowledge. Skills might include technical skills, but also things like people skills and communication or language skills. Be clear about what you actually need, and what would be nice to have. It sounds too obvious that you should do this at the start of the process, but it’s amazing how often candidates get all the way through the process only to be dismissed because they are too junior, or too expensive.
2. Restrict the number of agents you use
If you throw your vacancies open to every agent who wants to place a candidate you will quickly become inundated with CVs, many of which will be duplicates and you’ll be fielding calls from agents all day. Your life will be a misery. Pick your favourite two agencies, and politely decline CVs from anyone else. Don’t give any agency exclusivity, however much they ask for it. An element of competition is good.
3. Brief your agents really well and establish ground rules.
Make it clear that candidates who don’t meet the minimum standards you have set will be rejected, and to not bother submitting them. The better you brief your agents, the fewer CVs they will send you for review and the better quality those CVs will be. To avoid a continuous trickle of CVs, I like to agree a date with my agents when they will send me their ten best CVs. I then know that on that date I can expect to spend the afternoon reviewing 20 CVs, and I can arrange my diary accordingly.
4. Eliminate early
The key to efficient recruitment is to eliminate as many candidates as possible as early in the process. If you get 20 CVs and progress them all to a face to face interview, you will be spending at least 20 hours interviewing people, at least 19 of whom won’t get the job. 20 hours is a long time. Much better to eliminate the worst 10 of those CVs from the outset. This is normally pretty easy and it’s ok to be brutal at this stage. In any pile of 20 CVs they’ll normally be a couple with “I Are goods at comoonicatings” in the personal statement, a couple with overly long or overly short CVs from which it is impossible to make a judgement, and a handful who don’t meet the criteria you have set, or don’t meet it well enough.
Telephone interviews are a great way to funnel the number of candidates down further. As a matter of principle, I do not even consider doing a face to face interview with anyone unless I have spoken to them on the phone first. The objective of a face to face interview is simply to ascertain whether it is worth investing an hour of your time in interviewing them face to face. This should take no more than ten minutes, after which you’ll know whether they can communicate verbally, whether they can substantiate some their claims on their CV, whether they know anything at all about the job they’ve been put forward for, and whether they are interested in it. Ask they a few technical questions by all means, but don’t start trying to work out whether you should hire them or not. Just work out whether you want to see them or not.
If you reject half of your pool of candidates at this stage, you’ll be left with about five. Chances are you’ll naturally lose a few along the way if they accept other job or decide to stay in their current jobs. There’s nothing you can do about this, so don’t worry about it.
So you’re left with maybe four people who you know have the skills, experience and domain expertise you need, you know you can talk to them and you know they’re interested in the job. Invite these four people to attend face to face interviews.
By halving the number of candidates at each stage of the process, you spend the minimum amount of time on candidates who won’t get the job, leaving you more time to spend on candidates who might get the job.
5. Act fast.
If you keep candidates in the process too long you will lose the good ones to other people and you’ll be left with the chaff who are desperate for any job. The quicker you can progress candidates, the more likely you are enthuse the good ones. When you are briefing your agents, you can even agree a timetable for when you will do each stage. “I want CVs on Monday morning, and I’ll get you feedback by Tuesday morning. I’ll do telephone interviews on Thursday morning, and Friday afternoon, and I’ll be looking to do face to face interviews on Wednesday or Thursday the week after.
It’s in your interest to give the best feedback you can to your agents. They will (should) use that feedback to send you better candidates in the future. This really doesn’t take too long, especially if you’ve made a few notes during the interview. Obviously there’s no point giving detailed feedback to candidates you are progressing.
7. Making a decision.
Once you’ve found what you think to be a good person, it can be difficult to make a decision on whether they are exactly right or not. I’ve seen many good candidates disappear whilst hiring managers dither about whether to hire them or not. It is a big decision. You’re about to spend a lot of the companies money on someone, and you’re going to have to work with them day in day out, and you’re staking your team’s success and your reputation on that person. But if you’ve done a god job with the previous stages of the process, this ought not to be too difficult. Here’s the decision process I use.
8. Trust your gut.
If in doubt, don’t hire them. You know when you come out of an interview with a smile on your face, feeling excited about the person. These are the people to hire. If everything else stacks up, trust your instincts. I call it the warm fuzzy feeling. If I don’t have the warm fuzzy feeling after interviewing someone, they don’t get hired.