HR departments and recruiters are often asked to do more with less – find candidates; make sure they are the perfect fit; ensure they match all of the pre-screening criteria. Now you’re being asked to do all of this faster, with the same attention to detail and quality of work
Accepting and tracking applications in your email client and a newly created excel spreadsheet for every job? Stop! There is a better way to manage your recruitment process, which will save you time without having to sacrifice the quality of your screening methods.
- Increase Speed
Embrace technology – look for an online recruitment tool that:
- Integrates into your current website
- Posts jobs internally and externally
- Manages paperless applications
- Filters all applicants
- Pre-screens automatically
- Tracks test dates
- Creates offer letters from templates
- Uploads background and reference checks
- Exports applicant information into Word and Excel.
- Free up Resources
Get more done in less time. A system that streamlines your hiring process with efficient workflows and tracking tools can help you find the best talent quickly. Managing a large number of applicants can be a breeze with a system that tracks an applicant’s hiring status, applicant details, interview dates and keeps a job applicant database. This database can come in handy for finding a new hire as quickly as possible.
- Improve Quality
You need to shortlist quickly, but you also need quality candidates. Find a system that helps you find the top qualifying applicants with built-in customizable pre-screening questions and lets you integrate background and reference checks with the click of a button.
- Treat every candidate with respect for their interest. Whether you are recruiting inexperienced new graduates or C-level executives, give every candidate the respect they deserve as people. Being honest, open and professional is critical to candidates’ perceptions of your company. Never violate this rule in your talent-finding formula.
- Create a professional hiring process; then follow it. Explain the hiring process to all candidates; follow it religiously. Depending on the authority level of different jobs, you’ll need to vary your process at times. However, to maintain your professional credibility, you must follow the process you have explained to the candidate.
- Design a positive process for candidates that don’t “make the cut.” Have you experienced the horrors or heard about other candidates who were told that they would hear from a company after an interview, only to hear nothing? Employers who practice this “policy” must not realize the damage they do to their reputation and brand. Candidates have friends and family who are also consumers and can refer other talented people. Outstanding leaders develop a formula that offers dignified ways to deliver a professional “no” message.
- Create a hiring formula that gives you flexibility. Your recruiting and hiring formula should recognize that you may sometimes need candidates with unusual educational or behavioral qualifications specific for the job, department or team. A winning talent-finding formula allows you to be consistent, but flexible when necessary. If you want to consistently attract the best talent, make flexibility your trusted partner.
- Create a pleasant “candidate experience” for all job seekers and recruits. You might compare this component to the popular branding goal of creating a positive “customer experience” for all consumers who contact your company. Treating all candidates with respect, keeping your hiring process consistent, and having a professional communication strategy for non-hires increases your probabilities of attracting and hiring the best talent available.
Consider using some or all of these suggestions to create your effective plan and winning recruiting programs. If these features sound like basic human courtesy and respect more than textbook HR principles, you’re right.
Whether you are recruiting for a part-time mail clerk or a Vice President of IT, the candidate will judge your leadership ability—and your company—by the way you manage the hiring process. Your company faces no more risk when hiring a lower-level employee than when interviewing executive suite candidates. Your professional hiring process should be consistent for all candidates.
For example, the inexperienced part-time candidate may have an older sibling or family member who is eminently qualified for an open executive position. Further, lower level candidates may not be shy about telling everyone in sight about the treatment they received when interviewed by you or your company. If it was a positive experience, he or she may sing your praises. Conversely, if it was a negative experience, the candidate may be equally vocal in recommending that family and friends not buy your company’s products or services.
Join the fraternity of outstanding leaders by designing a professional, effective talent-finding formula. Your career and employer will reward you many times over.
Have you participated in the annual “employee engagement survey fail”? That’s where employers conduct yet another engagement survey, hoping that this year’s results will be better than last year’s, only to be disappointed once again.
Paying the Price of Low Employee Engagement
If you can relate to this, you also probably experience the pain of one or more of the following consequences of low engagement:
- Costly turnover, especially the loss of mission critical, hard-to-replace talent
- Employee relations issues taking up managers’ time and energy
- Employees showing lack of initiative requiring managers to “babysit”
- No “We’re all in this together” spirit…which leads to turf battles, silos, and overall lack of teamwork
- Low morale resulting in less-than-stellar customer service
While it’s No Consolation, You’re Not Alone
Despite employers investing tremendous sums of money on improving employee engagement, employees remain largely disengaged across the globe. Very little has changed since Gallup started measuring employee engagement in the 1990s.
From the recent Gallup State of the American Workplace report:
While the state of the U.S. economy has changed substantially since 2000, the state of the American workplace has not. Currently, 30 percent of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work, and the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is roughly 2- to-1, meaning that the vast majority of U.S. workers (70 percent) are not reaching their full potential.”
How does this happen?
Why, despite all the time, effort, and money invested, does employee engagement not improve? More importantly, what do YOU need to do to improve engagement in your organization?
Four Things to Do Immediately
The following list—while far from exhaustive—identifies some of the most powerful things you can do to increase the effectiveness of your employee engagement improvement efforts.
- Examine whether you are making the four “failure guaranteed” mistakes employers make, despite knowing better:
- Not reporting the results of your survey
- Not reporting the results in a timely manner
- Not making any changes based on employee feedback
- Not explaining the reasoning behind why some input was not acted upon
- Identify if you are guilty of the “employee engagement deal killer”; mistakes that lead to low engagement, along with a resentful, cynical workforce, such as:
- Employees don’t understand the big picture—Research shows that only 4 out of 10 employees know their employer’s goals, key initiatives, and other aspects of the big picture. How can we expect employees to be engaged, if they don’t understand what they’re contributing to?
- Employees don’t understand how specifically they contribute to the big picture—When employees don’t understand how they matter, and what they can do to make the biggest difference, they don’t have the passion and commitment of those who have a line of sight between their actions and the big picture.
- Employees feel unappreciated—This is one of the biggest sources of employee disengagement and low morale, and one of the most easily solved problems, and it costs nothing.
- Managers are unresponsive, teaching employees not to care—Unresponsiveness takes many forms, including not responding to emails and voice mails, not responding to requests, and not indicating they received time-sensitive material they had requested from a direct report. This last form of unresponsiveness—and thoughtlessness—is especially off putting to the employee who moved mountains to make the deadline and is now left wondering “Did they not get it? Do I follow-up and seem like a nag?” Unresponsiveness leads to the attitude “If you don’t care about me…why should I care about you?”
- Stop treating employee engagement as an aggregated statistic, and learn how to individualize the employee experience. This could be a game-changer for your organization. While it’s important to understand overall engagement levels in your organization, in the end, employee engagement is an individual experience.
Just because your organization—or a department—receives a particular score on an engagement driver such as “My opinions and input matters”, doesn’t mean it’s true for an individual employee. When that employee is a high value, hard-to-replace employee, this distinction becomes even more critical.
At the micro level, employee engagement being an individual experience means that each employee has their own “engagement recipe” of drivers and causes of disengagement. Boosting engagement requires understanding each employee’s unique recipe and then co-creating a work experience that satisfies those drivers.
When this happens, not only will employee engagement levels rise, but each employee will be far more productive and will generate far greater economic value.
Conducting reference checks on your candidates can sometimes be considered unreliable. What are the key ingredients of an effective reference check? This is an important part of performance management. If you don’t get this right, you will hire the wrong people and you will pay the price for those decisions for months, or even years.
What Can Go Wrong?
Here are some of the reasons that many managers have little or no faith in the reliability of checking references:
- The candidate only provides referees who will give them a glowing report.
- The referee has a grudge against the candidate and slants their reference in an unfairly negative manner.
- The referee gives you a positive report, because they are afraid of the legal ramifications of saying anything bad.
- The referee is restricted by a company policy that limits what they can say about previous employees.
Is it any wonder that checking references has attained a reputation of being a far-from-exact science?
Opinion Versus Fact
Think back on the last time you were asked to give a reference for an ex-employee of yours. Chances are that most of the questions you were asked sought your opinions of that candidate. Questions like:
- “What did you think of the person?”
- “Did they do their job well?”
- “Did they get on with other employees?”
Opinions can differ greatly and are not a reliable source of data upon which to make a decision as important as hiring someone (no matter what their level of responsibility in your organization).
If, however, you ask for facts (or to verify facts already given to you by the candidate), there is far less liability. A fact is a fact. It either is what it is, or it isn’t.
So, let’s turn this around and focus on the results that were achieved in the previous jobs, i.e. what was their performance?
Focus on Performance
What do you want in your new employee? Above all, you want someone who will produce the results expected of them.
What is the most valid way of determining their ability to produce results for you? Well, just look at their past record of results! If they have a proven record of results in a similar job (or environment) in the past, there is a very good chance they are capable of producing results in your job.
This is not guaranteed, of course. Reference checks are but one of the elements to consider when making a hiring decision.
Focusing on performance is the key factor to note in this entire article. It will make the difference between easy and effective reference checks, and checks that are difficult, or equivocal.
The Best Approach
Perform your reference checks after you have interviewed the candidate. Make sure that, during the interview, you established the candidate’s actual results achieved in past jobs. “Actual results” usually means numbers. It’s how many in what period of time. What were the statistics? The whole thrust of this part of the interview should be to look at their performance in the previous jobs they have held. This way, you have the specific results (numbers) that can be verified with the referee.
Who Do You Ask?
The basis of the reference check is to verify the candidate’s facts and figures with someone who is able to do so. But who are they?
The problem is that, without asking the candidate, you have no way of knowing who has the relevant information. You can’t simply ask the candidate, “Who can give you a reference?” If you do, you are inviting him or her to give you only people who will say nice things about them.
Rather than that, set the scene first by asking them a few pertinent questions about what they have achieved in the way of performance in their last few jobs. This could include such things as:
- Statistical facts and figures (like their sales volume or the level of profit they generated).
- Percentage increases in production (e.g. increased market share or reduction in outstanding debts)
- New systems implemented (such as a new reporting system or a revitalized stock control process).
Now, having set the scene, the question that will evoke some really effective information is: “Who can verify these production results?” With this approach, a whole new world opens up for you. There are usually several people who can verify the candidate’s production results, including:
- Their Manager (of course).
- Their colleagues (who worked with them).
- Their customers (who have no axe to grind).
- Other department managers (who could observe their performance more objectively).
This wider range of names is particularly useful when the employee is still working at their last job and does not want you to contact their manager. This exercise should net you quite a few names to choose from. It is important to have choices, as you will see later in the discussion on cross-referencing.
The neat thing is that you don’t even have to mention the word “reference” when eliciting these names. They are simply people who can verify the candidate’s production record.
Avoiding the Problems
Now, let’s look at these problems we mentioned at the beginning and see how they stack up against this performance-focused approach to reference checks.
Problem 1: The candidate only provides referees who will give them a glowing report. This problem is almost completely eliminated with the above approach. By ignoring the list of referees supplied on the resume, you completely bypass the trap of only talking to people whom the candidate has carefully chosen as referees. If the people selected to verify the performance still have a tendency to give a positively slanted opinion (if asked), it is harder for them to slant the results. And, when referee statements are cross-referenced (see below), any holes that exist will show up.
Problem 2: The referee has a grudge against the candidate and slants their reference in an unfairly negative manner. Once again, this can be largely avoided if the referees are only asked about the results produced by their previous employee. They can still be negative, however, so this is where the cross-referencing comes in. For a start, you should do at least two reference checks per employer. If one of the two is not so good, do a third one as a cross-reference against the other two. If two out of three are good, the bad one can probably be put into the category of a “suspect reference”. You can always do more, if still uncertain. This is why it is a good idea to get several names of people who can verify the candidate’s results for each of the positions they have held (that we want to check). It gives you more choices, should cross-referencing become necessary.
Problem 3: The referee gives you a positive report because they are afraid of the legal ramifications of saying anything bad. Let’s face it, the reference check is seeking valid data upon which to make an important business decision. If the data is wrong, you can make a costly mistake. It is vital that you get accurate information. If the referee you are talking to is one of those people who is afraid of saying the wrong thing, you will find they are far more comfortable simply confirming facts and figures. They will only become hesitant when asked something that invites their opinion.
Problem 4: The referee is restricted by their company policy that limits what they can say about previous employees. Even this situation will at least be partly resolved when the emphasis is placed on the previous employee’s actual results on the job. Companies that have such restrictive policies generally don’t mind verifying production statistics, or confirming what positions the employee held and what functions they performed. The normal scenario here is that the restrictions limit the referee to only stating the employment duration and the former employee’s job functions. You can generally get more information, however, by digging deeper on the functional aspects. For example, “So, he was involved with collecting outstanding debts. Did the amount of outstanding debts decrease while he held the job?”
With a performance-focused approach to reference checks, you can definitely obtain valid information upon which to base your hiring decision. The reference check is, by no means, the main deciding factor. If done right, however, it can contribute powerful data to the decision process.