As competition for skills increases RUSSELL DALGLEISH offers some advice on the recruitment process
Conversations I’ve had with company owners and directors over the last few weeks have moved from post-lockdown plans to my favourite subject: recruitment. The single most significant factor in the success of fast-growing companies is the quality of people you have in your team and, as I’m sure many of you will recognise, we have quickly moved into a talent shortage for many skills.
From chefs, to developers and salespeople, experienced individuals are now in demand and there is high level competition to recruit.
So here are my dozen tips to optimise your chance of recruiting the best in 2021.
1. Be clear on exactly who you want to hire
It’s time to refresh your job descriptions and ensure that these are specific on “must haves”, but also broad with regard to skills and experience.
2. Cultural fit is more important than skills or experience
We tend to see job adverts listing skills and experience, but cultural fit is much more important. Be clear how you will be able to ascertain if the individual at interview will fit into your culture. Has your culture changed since 2019? Probably, so be sure to reflect this in your assessment process.
3. Build a clear message for the market which explains why an individual should join you
In a tight market short of candidates it is essential that you are crystal clear on exactly why someone would want to join your team. Share your message with advisers, partners and friends and invite feedback. Do they believe this correctly reflects your company? And don’t be shy to promote your successes and plans. Candidates want to join companies with opportunity for career development.
4. Ensure you are optimising the use of all channels – and don’t feel you need to be conventional!
It is essential that your hiring message appears in front of potential candidates. Ask your team and prospective candidates where they look. This may sound overly simple, but try it first.
For many of us, the talent we want to attract is on LinkedIn, hence advertising there is sensible. However, I’ve found that promoting through my own LinkedIn profile works much better and attracts more relevant candidates.
5. Referrals are king
Everything in the business world revolves around trust and that’s the same in recruitment. There is no better call to receive than from a trusted friend than one that starts with “you may want to look at this individual”.
And, yes, I believe making a bonus payment or donation for a good referral is money well spent.
6. Build a support community to amplify your message
This is probably the most important step. The days of simply placing an advert on a job are long gone. You need to have a community of supporters who will work on your behalf to suggest candidates. This community can comprise:
- Your own team members
- Suppliers, partners, board members and advisers
- Recruitment professionals, such as recruitment agencies
- Job Centres and re-skilling agencies
- Universities and state support bodies
- Trade bodies and membership groups
- And don’t forget KickStart
If you are looking at hiring for multiple roles over a period of time, I suggest it’s worth getting to know a recruitment agency that can work with you. I don’t mean getting your HR team to build a preferred supplier list; instead speak with the CEO or MD of a specialist recruitment agency and ask her/him for their views on how you can increase your chances of success. What you need is insight on the market and these relationships can be invaluable.
7. It’s time to consider unconventional sources of candidates
It’s been typical over the years that where a role is office-based, we require the candidate to live within commute distance of the office or to agree to relocate. Today, for many roles, we are comfortable for the individual to be based remotely, thereby increasing the available candidate pool for you. But of course, you need to adapt your channel policy to ensure that your message reaches these candidates.
8. Carefully map out the recruitment process, as speed of decision making is critical
In a market where a candidate could be considering several offers its is essential that your job offer is the most compelling. If a candidate is considering several potential employers, the weight of decision making is affected by how they found the recruitment process. Was it clear, fast, candidate orientated? Was communication timely and, most of all, did it reflect the company’s culture?
When I held CEO roles, I would personally contact each candidate after they received the offer letter and ask if they had any questions. The feedback I received from new hires was that this impressed them and differentiated us from the competition, while clearly demonstrating the open company culture.
9. Optimise the interview process
Start by revisiting your interview process and ensuring it is still fit-for-purpose. We have all become accustomed to interviews over Zoom and Teams – as have candidates – so take care before insisting candidates must meet you face-to-face for interview unless this is essential. Meeting in person can be useful but can also delay the recruitment process.
10. Ensure your offer is compelling and highlights benefits clearly
Print out your current offer letter template. Would you be excited to join the company? If not, change it. Also ensure all the benefits are detailed, clearly, in the covering letter and that you try to answer the candidates’ most likely questions. Key questions in the mind of the candidate could include support for home working and when career advancement is considered.
11. Onboarding is key
No matter how effective we feel our recruitment process to be, things can always go wrong; hence it’s more important that ever to have a well defined on-boarding process. For me, I always map performance weekly against my expectations of the new hire and get my managers to do the same. For those that are excelling I’ll spend personal time with them to not only encourage their development but also to better understand how I can hire more like them. For those failing to meet expectations it’s a question of extending the probation period.
12. Be willing to adapt
Reports indicate that in 2021 the UK economy will enjoy its fastest growth since World War Two. Therefore, it’s likely that our candidate “must haves” today will change over the coming months. This will undoubtedly mean that candidates without the relevant skills will require to be hired and trained, so plan for that now. Understand the training support that is available from the state and use it.
Every success. Remember that hiring the right talent is your job.
Russell Dalgleish is co-founder and chairman of the Scottish Business Network