Recruitment Failure
Signs of failure in the workplace

Recruitment Failure

We had a query from a frustrated manager:  Why is it so hard to find good staff? I have had so many bad experiences. Most recently, I interviewed someone for a retail sales position. She came across really well in the interview, bubbly, had all the right answers to questions. And the two reference checks I did for her were both positive. But after she started, I soon realised it was a recruitment failure. She would often come in late, or call in sick on a Monday, our busiest day. When she was working, she would always do the minimal and I was always finding work left unfinished.

Unfortunately, recruitment, even when it is done well can be a hit and miss affair. There are things you can do to improve the chances of making a good recruitment decision:

  • Using structured interviewing, which is about using interview question templates, where you ask every candidate that you interview the same set of questions. This is important, so that you are comparing like with like; you can compare and assess candidates on their responses to the same questions.
  • Using behaviour based questions – where you ask candidates to give you examples of where they have done something relevant to the job you are employing for. For example, “tell me about a time when you were involved in conflict at work, and talk me through how you dealt with that situation”. The reason these types of questions are generally regarded as better than just asking someone’s opinion about something (eg. can you tell me your thoughts on dealing with conflict at work?”), is because past behaviours can be used to predict how someone will behave in the future.
  • Whenever possible, include work samples in the interview process. This isn’t always easy, but alternatively, you can organise a paid work trial.
  • Do reference checks.

However, even when you do all of these things well, the research shows that interviews aren’t all that great at selecting the best person for a job. Some people perform really well at interviewers – we all know the “good talkers” who can’t back the talk up with substance. And some people get very nervous in interview situations and are not all that good at selling themselves, but they might make great employees.

That’s why it’s a good idea to use your networks whenever possible to help find new employees. When someone you trust recommends an employee, this is gold. I always put far more weight on the opinions of people I trust than on resumes, performance at an interview, or referee checks. That’s because I know from experience, and from the research, that good interview performance (and positive reference checks) don’t necessarily equate with successful recruitment decisions.

Headhunting is also a good idea, where you seek out people you know are good employees (either through your own knowledge of them) or through the reputation they have in an industry, and you approach them about potential job opportunities.

But sometimes, there are no other options; you need to recruit and make a decision between people that are unknown to you or any of your trusted network of contacts. When I reflect on the recruitment decisions that have gone well and the ones that have gone badly, the thing I have found is that with the good decisions, my feeling about the decision being right is very strong, everything just fits and feels right. For example, the referee checks have a strong consistency, with the referees saying very similar things, so that what you are hearing has a ring of truth to it. And the consistency of what I heard from the referees fits with how I perceived the candidate. I have learnt to trust this piecing together of all the information, and seeing if it all fits and has a consistency about it, and this has worked quite well for me.

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