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Picture this – a team member hands in their resignation suddenly and will be walking out in 4 weeks, leaving a void that needs to be filled in quickly. What would you do? Many often resort to calling their recruitment agencies, out of the blues, to get the vacancy out pronto…


Recruitment is one of the most vital functions in any organisation as it provides the business with the talent required to function and grow, and all the while business owners claim that one of their greatest struggles is finding talent. David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, firmly believed that recruitment is even more important than sales, as he argued that “no company can grow revenues consistently faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth and still become a great company.” So why do most leaders give this function the boot, not allocating the right time and focus, and sometimes even outsourcing it entirely as if it were not a core function?


We often forget that business ideas need organisations, made of great people, in order to grow and come to fruition, and only the right recruitment process will find you the right people. In this article, we will discover the process to ensure that you always recruit only the best candidates, explaining why each step of this process is important, as well as the typical pitfalls made.


Recruitment Planning Phase

Abraham Lincoln is famously quoted as saying “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”, meaning that spending a seemingly excessive time initially to prepare for the task at hand will guarantee a better outcome in the end. This applies to any task or project, so why not apply it to recruitment projects? Recruitment can only be consistently successful and effective if planning is done in abundance. The rest of the recruitment process is about executing and tracking such execution to ensure it is maintained on track and to completion in the most satisfactory manner.


Recruitment planning must cover all the aspects, from role definition, to marketing plan, to interview stages and progress tracking plan. If you skip this fundamentally important phase, then all the rest will crumble and the poor candidate to sign up with you will be doomed to a life of misery (that is, unless he/she resigns or gets fired shortly after signing).


At KastellVP, we coach business leaders to use a recruitment planning board with 8 stages that cover all the required aspects.

1 – Role Definition

Always start with the end in mind, by defining clearly the role and the responsibilities, taking some time to think it through. First and foremost, make sure that the role is defined in your Functional Org Chart, and if not, start by defining it properly, sticking to the standard and proven rules of designing a Functional Org Chart (e.g. you cannot have a role reporting to two functions). Ensure that the expectations for this role are listed clearly by the person to whom it reports and avoid listing any “catch-all” phrases such as “and any other duties that your manager may want to assign from time to time…”. Without this clear role definition, you will fail in all the subsequent steps because you will be recruiting blindly.


2 – Define “Get It”

Take time to understand what it means to “Get It” in this role, what seems should be “common sense” for someone in that seat. For example, for a “Project Manager” role it should be obvious that project success is not defined by whether you hit the budget or deadline but rather by whether all stakeholders are happy with the final outcome. The same holds for a Customer Support role in a technology company, where it is more important that candidates are able to interact well with their clients than being a techie. If you have previous experience in leading people in this vacant role, then document the aspects that you either liked in such persons, or else any points that you found yourself having to repeat over and over again because these people simply didn’t “Get It”.


3 – Define “Capacity To Do It”
Some job roles have particular personal capacity requirements that must be identified earlier on in order to provide this clarity to both the interviewers and candidates alike. This could include certain levels of experience, acquired skill, or time availability (for example, the role may require the selected candidate to travel for days at a stretch or work odd hours).


4 – Define Personas

By understanding the “Get It” and “Capacity To Do It” aspects, it will be easier to figure out where to find potential candidates. This is a crucial step in recruitment, as it will help you direct your marketing efforts and increase the visibility of this vacancy to the right pool of candidates. Are you looking for seasoned professionals or fresh grads? Which industries, other than your own, could have the same “Get It” requirements? For example, a sales manager in one technical industry could move to a different one by getting trained in the new technical field.


5 – Build Marketing Plan

Like any kind of sales process, vacancies need to be properly marketed in order to generate enough interest by candidates. This means that you must treat your recruitment marketing with the same rigor. You have to create an appropriate marketing plan using the Personas identified above and understand the channels that can be used, to then develop and execute the recruitment marketing campaign. It is very critical to track the number and quality of new applicants every week to be able to adjust the campaign as required and maintain a consistent flow of candidates. Also keep in mind that a recruitment agency is in reality another type of marketing channel that should provide a better qualification rate if the recruiters are well informed about the definition of the Persona. You should also dedicate time and give detailed feedback to the recruiters on the candidates put forward as this will ensure they remain committed to your recruitment project and keep working closely with you until the right candidate is found. 


6 – Define Recruitment Pipeline

With this clarity in mind, the next step would be to build the best recruitment pipeline with the right number of stages to allow you to filter out all the wrong candidates, which is by far most of them (seriously, 99 out of 100 candidates will be wrong for one reason of other). The design of the pipeline must also include the kind of assessments that will be used at each stage of the pipeline, the specific set of questions (although you might not use all of them) and the format of the scorecard to be used by every interviewer.


We cannot stress enough the importance to use a proper software to manage the recruitment pipeline end-to-end. If you keep in mind that every recruitment decision is the most important decision for your business, you will quickly realise the benefits of having such a system in place. And if you are asking yourself whether you’re doing ok with your spreadsheet, the answer is no a spreadsheet does not cut it!


Your recruitment pipeline must also have the interviewing questions defined with clear purpose. How can a candidate be properly assessed, and thereby be eliminated from the recruitment race if unfit for the role, without asking the right questions? If an interviewer is not well prepared with a set of questions that cover various required aspects, such as core values or responsibilities of a role, then the interview will be run in a very ad hoc manner, resulting in a very subjective assessment of the candidate. You need to have clear yet open-ended questions to cover all the aspects of your Core Values, the “Get It” definition as well as the “Capacity” definition.


Apart from interviews, candidates should also be tested for the various skills that they are expected to possess. These tests should be sourced from specialised testing centres as they provide a more objective assessment with scoring mechanisms that are based on a wider test population.


7 – Plan On-boarding Process

The on-boarding phase, the first few days, weeks and months of a new recruit working in a completely new, alien organisation, can be tough especially if there is a lack of preparation by the recruiter. This translates to anything from a slower productivity ramp-up to an outright resignation within months of starting to work for his/her new employer. It is very important to plan the on-boarding process at this early stage so that you are clear of your expectations from the new recruit (e.g. when will he/she be really productive) and therefore you can communicate this expectation during the interviews in order to set the right expectations up front.


8 – Define Progress Tracking

Finally, you should also plan how to track your recruitment progress along the various parts of the pipeline. You need to track the success of your marketing efforts, including your recruitment agencies, by tracking the number and quality of the applications you receive every week. Moreover, you should also track the responsiveness of your internal recruitment team (i.e. the manager and others involved in the interviewing process) by tracking the delays to review new applications or to schedule interviews. This will ensure that you are clearly on the ball and giving this process its due importance and required attention.

Execution Phase

Once the planning is completed, execution becomes more focused and you can determine more easily what would be working and what not, thereby allowing you to correct issues along the process. At this point, you would have the vacancy being advertised out there, either through your marketing agency or your recruiting agencies (ideally both though) and you would be measuring the applications coming in. You would also be tracking each application through your recruitment pipeline, keeping tabs on each candidate, ensuring the availability and input by your recruitment team, rejecting applicants promptly while allowing to the next stage only the really promising candidates, in order to conserve the team’s time for the really good candidates.

Although all this seems well and good and easy, business owners and managers often make recruitment mistakes because they are not naturally skilled at it and had no formal training on how to do it well. Moreover, most online articles focus mostly on how to execute an interview, with very limited information about the planning phase of recruitment. Let’s have a look at typical pitfalls.


Interviewing with the “hope this is the one” mentality

Although many managers compile a series of questions to be used during interviews, often the execution of these questions leaves much to be desired. This occurs because the “blocking” caused by the filtering during the interviewing process itself feels counter to the progress of the recruitment project itself and therefore managers may fall into the trap of not being firm enough in their questioning. One could even catch himself saying this out loud, hoping this will be the last interview to end the search. It may happen by asking close-ended questions that lead candidates to the expected responses, or by skipping questions altogether. In any case, the underlying problem is that the interviewer would have unknowingly let the guard down.


Not having proper calls with references

References can give us insights into a candidate’s past behaviour that are not easily spotted during an interview. Unfortunately, managers at times settle for “canned” reference letters that are as bland as a “Sorry to see you go” farewell card, forgoing the opportunity to call the candidate’s reference directly for a frank discussion.
References are a very valuable tool to get a different perspective of the candidate. However, a reference letter is never enough to grasp this perspective and one would hope that if the reference is really ready to recommend the candidate, then he/she should have no qualms to schedule a quick call to get a better understanding of their experience with the candidate. Anything short of a call should be considered as fishy and not suitable for recruitment.


Asking hypothetical or generic questions

At times, interviewers tend to ask many hypothetical questions to a candidate, to which the candidate would reply obviously with hypothetical scenario with all the caveats that it brings with it. Most of the time, this type of question does not unearth real information about the candidate. As an example, asking a “sales” candidate how they actually sold their latest portfolio of products (even if in a completely different industry) would give more reliable information to the interviewer than if they were to ask how he/she would sell a new product that is yet to be launched or one they have no prior experience selling.


Not looking out for a candidate’s “toxicity potential”

A wrong hire can bring different forms and levels of toxicity in an organisation, ranging from emotional immaturity to being the nemesis of teamwork. Unfortunately, many times this toxicity does not show up during an interview but rather is tucked in, ready to be split out months later. One way to mitigate this risk is to look out for any specific traits that could potentially lead to toxicity. A Harvard Business School study found consistent evidence that those who seem overconfident in their abilities, who are self-regarding, and who claim rules should be followed, are more likely to become toxic workers”.

Settling for “less than ideal” candidates

This situation happens when managers give up too early in the recruitment process, settling for candidates who only showed a loose fit with the company or role in question, or worse would have displayed some seemingly insignificant “issues” during the interviewing process. It is exacerbated even further when a role becomes vacant suddenly, pushing performance-driven managers to set the fulfilment of this vacancy as “Top Urgent” as they are convinced that “any” pair of hands will do to plug the haemorrhaging business.


Unfortunately, the cost of a “less than ideal” recruit ranges from “expensive” when the newly hired person requires a lot of hand-holding, to “dire” when the person turns out to be toxic to the company’s culture. Not only is the business still losing on the business opportunities, but it is also losing precious time from its management team and slowing down the overall team performance. If you are crying out loud to fulfill a role because you are missing on many business opportunities, then your next move should not be to recruit the first available warm body but rather to push harder on your marketing efforts to find that right candidate. Moreover, if you plan your role requirements well, it will be much easier to understand why the wrong candidates don’t fit.


Most entrepreneurs acknowledge that having the right people in your business is key. The others haven not come to the realisation  or accepted it yet! The bottom line is that recruitment is so fundamentally important, for any organisation to thrive, that it should be given all the best opportunity and resources to succeed. This means time and dedication. This means planning and committing to the plan. It means that you should never compromise on recruiting the best suited person for your organisation.

Think of yourself as the villain boss in a video game and eliminate any candidate who does show any form of weakness. Only the best should make it through.


Expert help is a call away

At KastellVP we coach our clients on the recruitment process to then be in a position to adopt this process for every recruitment project in the future. This process has been tried and tested time and time again, and we guarantee it will deliver the required results if all steps are followed.


Are you in the process of recruiting and don’t afford to get it wrong, again? Book a call with one of our coaches and we will guide you on the next steps to successful recruitment and how you too can build your dream team. 

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