Whether you’re doing the recruitment yourself or outsourcing to a recruitment agency, it’s good to understand the essentials so that you get the best talent for your team. So from the hiring brief to onboarding, we’ll take you through the major steps within the recruitment process to provide you with helpful hints and tips.
We are finding that the recruitment space is becoming more and more challenging for organisations because the workplace is changing faster than ever, and so are the candidate’s expectations.
Our guest today is my VerifyNow colleague, Zahra Nathwani, who leads our recruitment services. Zahra is a Master’s qualified HR professional with over 15 years of experience. Over that time, she has worked as a business partner in various HR and recruitment management roles, including internal recruitment, RPO recruitment, and graduate recruitment for various industries.
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YouTube Channel: HR Think Tank
00:00:00 – Intro
00:01:25 – Recruitment Process Overview
00:05:01 – Salary Disclosure Advice for Employers
00:08:10 – Common Recruitment Challenges
00:11:15 – Employee Buy-in Within a Remote Recruitment Process
00:13:02 – How to Make Advertised Roles More Appealing
00:16:35 – Tips for Effective Communication with Candidates
00:19:14 – The Consequences of a Poor Recruitment Process
00:20:56 – Hiring Family & Friends to Work at Your Company
00:23:56 – The Role of Phone Screening
00:26:19 – Spotting Red Flags in The Recruitment Process
00:27:59 – Recruitment Myths
00:32:09 – Recruit Internally VS Using a Recruitment Agency
00:37:25 – What to Do if You’ve Had Bad Experiences with Recruitment Agencies
00:39:24 – Fast Five Questions
00:42:36 – Outro
Q: So, in this episode of the HR Think Tank, we’re focusing on the recruitment process and providing our listeners with some tips on how to improve their process. Can you start by providing an overview of the recruitment process? What’s involved in recruitment?
The first step in the recruitment process involves identifying why you’re recruiting. It’s important to understand what you’re looking for. Are you recruiting for a newly created role? Is it a replacement role? Are you recruiting because you’re expanding? Because that’s going to help shape the recruitment process that you’re undertaking.
Once you know why you’re embarking on this process, you need to go through a really thorough brief with your recruiter, whether it’s an internal person or someone that you’ve outsourced. Candidate experience is super important these days, so if you can set out some milestones and objectives and give thought to the role you’re hiring for, you can give the candidate a great experience.
From the hiring manager’s perspective, think about what your recruiter should understand about the brief and give them a laundry list of skills that you need the candidate to have and break down where the new hire will sit in the team. It’s also important to establish why the candidate should work for your organisation and why you’re a great manager to work under. These are important things to discuss with your recruiter during the briefing process.
The next step is to think about how your recruitment process is going to run. For example, what are the different elements of testing that you’re going to do? Who is going to run these tests? Who does the candidate need to meet throughout the process? All of this is going to shape your recruitment process.
For example, you should think about how to involve the relevant stakeholders so they can play their part in the selection process.
The recruitment process isn’t just about meeting the candidate and understanding who they are and what they do. It’s also about allowing the candidate the opportunity to think about why they would want to work for you.
Q: Am I correct in saying that, as a hiring manager, it’s important to know all the steps to the recruitment process because the candidate will ask you these questions, so that you have an understanding of what to expect.
Yeah. At some point during the briefing process, your recruiter will ask you for your perspective as to why you wanted to work for the organisation. And if you can articulate that to the recruiter, it’s a big benefit to understand why someone would want to work for you. They can then articulate to the candidate why they should join your team.
Q: Let’s talk about salary disclosure because it’s always a talking point, regardless of whether you’re doing internal or external recruitment. Recently we ran a poll on LinkedIn to ask whether employers should disclose the salary on the job ad. 55% of the respondents said yes, 5% said no, and 40% said that it depends on the job position. What’s your advice for employees around the disclosure of salary?
Look, I have seen it play out both ways. Over my 15 years of recruitment, I’ve found that when a salary is included in the job advertisement, it’s typically because there is no room for negotiation. When a company has a budget, it’s good to be upfront and honest with the candidates so that they know there is no room to move away from that salary.
When a salary is not displayed, from my experience, it’s usually because there’s an element of negotiation involved. For example, an employer might not know what the skill is worth on the market, so it’s safer not to put their finger on an exact number.
So, I would agree that it depends on why and how the role has come about.
As early on as possible. If you’ve decided not to include it as part of your advertisement, then I’d include it as part of your employment screening or in the first step of the recruitment process once you’ve had a look at what candidates have applied for the position.
You don’t want to go down a lengthy recruitment process when you and the candidate are on two separate pages regarding salary expectations. So, my advice for any recruiter or employer recruiting is to ask about the candidate’s salary expectations during the telephone screening part of the process.
From a candidate’s perspective, it’s important to know that it’s completely appropriate for the recruiter to ask you about your salary expectations upfront because you don’t want to be wasting your time or the recruiter’s time if you’re on a different page.
On the other hand, if the role is only about $5,000 or $10,000 less than your expectations, I would suggest exploring the position further because many organisations have other things that could be of value to you that you might be able to grasp during a telephone screening.
Otherwise, in general, don’t be deterred by advertisements that don’t disclose salaries.
The biggest challenge in recruitment at the moment is that organisations are changing faster than ever, so their expectations are changing. They’re also in the spotlight a lot more, so candidates can see how they’ve treated their employees. Employer brand has also played a big role in the ability to attract good candidates.
Another thing to note is that candidates, themselves, have changed their job expectations a lot. For example, a couple of years ago, they would have happily travelled into the city every day, but now most candidates aren’t.
I’ve also found that because it’s so easy to apply for jobs now, you can do it with a click of a button on your phone, people aren’t giving a lot of thought to what they’re applying to or who they’re applying to – they are just mass applying without thinking about it. This creates a big challenge for organisations because they’re getting a lot of applications, but when they dig into it, there’s not much talent in the pool.
The other challenge in terms of recruitment, as I said previously, is that candidates’ expectations have changed, and I am seeing a lot of people wanting to change career paths. So, there’s a lot of people coming into the market who have worked for a specific industry and decided that it’s not the path they want to take anymore. As a result, we’re seeing a lot of candidates try and apply for other types of roles that they don’t have any experience in.
The way we do recruitment has also completely changed over the last 12 to 18 months. The efficiency has improved, but the change has brought about different challenges that weren’t necessarily a problem 18 months ago. For example, you can pretty much run a whole recruitment process remotely, but how do you get buy-in from a candidate? How do you know that they’re invested? How do you know they’re real? All of those sorts of things have come into play in terms of the new recruitment processes.
Q: Because we’ve moved to a more remote recruitment process, you’re essentially reducing face-to-face interaction. Some would argue that it’s become difficult to build interest with candidates because they’re not seeing the workplace in action. They’re not seeing and feeling the type of people they’re going to be working with. So what can employers do to bridge that gap?
I am a big believer in having a few different stages in a recruitment process – having one recruitment process or one interview round isn’t enough for you or the candidate. They have decisions that they need to make, and they’re not going to be able to make it just by meeting someone on a zoom call for 30 minutes or 40 minutes.
So, organisations need to think about their candidate experience throughout the whole recruitment journey. What are the different types of information you can give candidates insights about your brand and culture? Share information about what you’re like as a manager because it’s key, now more so than ever, to provide as much insight as possible.
You don’t have flashy offices that you can bring candidates into to try and wow them. So you have to find ways to improve the candidate experience and adapt it to remote onboarding to give them a taste of what it’s like to work for you.
Q: You mentioned earlier that it’s not always about salary. So what else can an organisation offer? Can you share a few other things, besides salaries, that employers can offer to make their roles more appealing?
In terms of how we’re moving into the future, people aren’t interested in a nine to five job anymore. And it’s also not about the hours you work anymore; it’s about the output you do. So, it’s really important that you can translate what your workplace and culture are like.
For example, don’t just say you’re flexible, give them examples of how you’re willing to be flexible – that’s a huge sell. Flexibility is definitely one consideration, whether it’s remote working, part-time hours, or completely removing any sort of work day times out of the contract. For example, you could say, “this is the work that you need to do, and this is your deadline, and you do it the way you need to do it.” Those things are important to candidates in this day and age.
I have seen some of the great benefits of this approach over the last 12 to 18 months. For example, organisations are putting a big emphasis on parental leave opportunities and getting more women into the workplace. We’re also seeing a lot of health and well-being initiatives that are coming through the workplace.
For example, being on zoom all the time isn’t great for your mental health. It’s easy to forget that there is somebody that’s there that’s breathing and living on the other side of the screen. And unfortunately, you remove that human element you’re not working in an office.
So, it’s important to remember that and shift the focus to those sorts of things as well.
One of our last Think Tank guests, Julie Birtles from Beyond Excellence, also spoke about how employees and candidates are asking for more fulfilment and that it’s not just about the paycheck anymore - especially because the last 18 months has given people more time to reflect on what they want in life. Just yesterday, I was on a conference call with people who have changed their careers because they don’t want to be working 80 hours a week for someone else.
Yeah, a lot of organisations have shifted their focus to think about their employee value proposition. So, if they can articulate that to candidates, it’ll be a lot easier to sell your organisation to them.
Q: Let’s talk about effective communication with candidates. What does over communication look like versus under communication? What is the right level of communication? And what are some of the common mediums of communication?
Communication is so easy these days – there are so many ways you can communicate with candidates, whether that’s via LinkedIn, email or phone. Either way, communication is key, and you have to remember that candidates are not just candidates, they’re not just people that want to work for you, they’re probably people who have either worked for your competitors, could be a client one day, or could be a customer one day.
So, you need to put that lens on when you’re interacting with a candidate so that you can establish how to communicate with them. I always tell people, right on the onset, “if you’re successful, you’re going to get a callback for myself, and we will walk you through the recruitment processes. If you’re not successful, we will still notify you; it will just be via email.”
Another thing to consider is that we are currently experiencing a candidate short market. So, you really want to give candidates a good experience, because they’re the people who you want to secure jobs for.
In terms of over-communicating candidates, if you’ve applied for a role and you haven’t heard back from a recruiter, and you really want the role, there’s nothing wrong with picking up the phone and just saying, “look, can you let me know where my application is sitting?”
I put my contact details in all of the adverts we recruit for because we ask candidates for their personal information. So the least I can do is give them mine to call me about a role and actually find out a little more information.
I think if you’re calling every single day or every single hour, that’s going to be a bit much. But if you want to check in, send your recruiter an email or contact them on LinkedIn and ask for that update; there’s nothing wrong with that.
Q: Is there such a thing as over-communicating from an employer side? Do you come across as too desperate?
There is a fine balance between that because, at the same time, you don’t want to drag out a process and take a week to get back to the candidates because good candidates will find other opportunities. So you have to find the right balance between communicating enough information and over-communicating with them. Having a recruiter can mediate that and help you find that balance.
Poor recruitment has a huge cost. Think about the time you’ve invested in running a recruitment process, whether it’s your own time, other people’s time and the cost of advertising.
If you’ve just picked somebody because you need somebody to do that role, and it turns out that they’re not a great fit, then you’ve wasted time onboarding, inducting and training them. So you’ve also wasted your team members’ time.
If you’ve made a wrong decision, you’ve lost all of that.
Q: Besides the time, is there an impact on employee morale if you’re constantly hiring people and then firing people within a short period of time?
Yeah, absolutely. They say that it takes an employee at least six months to understand a role completely. So, if you’ve hired someone and you’ve given somebody that six months, that’s a lot of time, morale and energy wasted.
Q: A question I’ve just got to ask you is, should you hire family or friends to work in your company?
I am a huge fan of hiring friends and family in the workplace. I think that talented people know talented people, so it’s a really good network of people to tap into. The reality is, during lockdown, we’ve all been working at home with our family anyway, for example, my husband is like my IT support as well as my co-worker, as well as my husband. But I think your networks, your family and your friends are a huge asset. That’s what things like LinkedIn are all based on, it’s your network, it’s the people you know, that’s what helps you recruit.
Your employees are also your brand ambassadors. So if you want people to come and work for your organisation, you’re also saying you’ve got a great organisation that you work for. I’ve worked on HR teams, where we’ve actually used people’s networks to attract people, and we’ve given employees referral bonuses if they help us find somebody. So there is merit to it, but I think that if you are going to do it, that you also look at some sort of risk management strategies as well. So what sort of controls can you put into place so you don’t have somebody who’s in your family that’s reporting to you, and you’re approving their leave, or you’re approving their expenses?
I think you're right, you've got to put something in place to manage the conflict of interest, or the perspective that there is a conflict of interest.
You probably wouldn’t want to have your family or friends on a recruitment panel. But I’ve seen this sort of stuff play out in other ways as well, when a manager leaves an organisation, it’s not uncommon for them to take a whole chunk of their workforce with them, because they’ve worked with them. They know what they’re like, and people follow good people as well.
Phone screening is so important because you can get a lot of information from a 10 or 15-minute phone call. So it’s one of the first steps that I do as part of the recruitment process.
The questions that I like to ask during the phone screen are centred on understanding why someone has applied for the role. I also try to ascertain their salary expectations from the start. It’s surprising that you still get a lot of candidates who say, “oh, I’ve applied for so many roles, I’ve got no idea what I’ve applied for, can you please tell me what I’ve applied for?”
That comes to my point earlier; it’s so easy for people to apply for jobs these days, so people put their CVs out everywhere. So, a phone screening helps ensure that you and the candidate are on the same page.
I also try to ascertain if the candidate has some of the key skills that the client is looking for. And if they don’t, I don’t dismiss them; I look at what transferable skills they have.
So, the phone screening gives you the opportunity to get a story and allows them to ask questions to decide whether they want to progress as well. I’ll send them a breakdown of the conversation after the phone screen so that they have something written in front of them that they can review.
Q: Let's change gears; let’s talk about some of the red flags when hiring. What tips can we share with our listeners in terms of red flags?
As a recruiter, you can generally recognise red flags pretty quickly.
For me, one of the red flags is if it’s hard to get in touch with a candidate. Candidates normally come back to me within a few hours of me contacting them. So if it’s longer than that, or if it’s more than 24 hours, it’s a red flag.
Another red flag is if you’re not able to get ahold of references and validate who the referee is. And if the candidate is not willing to be part of the employment screening process, that is also a red flag. All organisations need to be doing reference checks, checking the qualifications and verifying employment history. So at a minimum, those three things should be checked. And if someone doesn’t want to participate in those three things, that’s a red flag.
One of the myths that I think should be dispelled is that you shouldn’t consider candidates with big career gaps. People have career gaps all the time, whether it’s to travel, look after family or have children – these are not things that should be dismissed. Instead, you should understand the reasons behind it and remember that everyone’s human at the end of the day.
Look, they can, but I wouldn’t expect it. If there is a big gap and you, as the recruiter, want to understand why just ask the question.
From a candidate perspective, it can help, but you’re not expected to have to list it. If you’ve had some time off travelling, on parental leave, or you’ve decided to start your own business, there’s many skills and attributes that come from those sorts of life experiences that employers would really see value in. And a lot of people still shy away from putting things like that on their CV, but I think it’s a definite positive.
I think another myth in recruitment is that you should only use the CV to decide whether you should interview somebody – that’s a big one that I’ve seen in my time in recruitment. I get it though, a candidate’s CV is a big part of their marketing tool – it’s the first thing that a hiring manager sees about the candidate. But, alongside the CV, you should see what other information you can gather from a phone screening. So, for example, you make an assumption from their CV that they’re not going to be good for the role.
At the moment, there’s a lot of people looking to transfer out of their old industries and come into new industries – that’s a real gem. So really, look at your pool of candidates and be open to find out more beyond their CVs.
Another myth is that it’s a bad thing if your candidate over communicates with you. If they show interest, it doesn’t mean that they’re desperate; it just means that they’re invested in the recruitment process.
I had a manager once who used to freak out every time a candidate would add her on LinkedIn because she was worried that if she didn’t give them the job, she would always be connected to them on LinkedIn. But, I don’t think that is a reason not to hire somebody.
Q: What should you consider when deciding whether to recruit internally or outsource that to an agency such as VerifyNow?
Whether you choose to do recruitment internally or outsource it depends firstly on the size of your organisation. If you’re large enough to have an internal recruitment team, I would definitely use them because they can look at many roles across the organisation. And if the organisation is not big enough to have an internal team, you can look at taking it out to an outsourced provider, such as VerifyNow.
You may have also tried and been unsuccessful in recruiting for a role yourself. In which case, taking it out to an agency can help. It’s almost like that house that’s been sitting on the market for so long; people start to wonder what’s wrong with it? Why hasn’t anyone bought the house?
I just want to jump in there. Sometimes you want to protect the brand, particularly if you're going through a transition or change in the management process. So, for example, perhaps you don't have the best reputation as an employer, and you're trying to change that. And so it might be better to go through a recruitment agency. And over time, you can rebuild your employer brand until you're at a stage where you might be confident to do it yourself.
Yeah. And the only other thing I would think about when you’re using a recruitment agency is that recruitment agencies do this all day, every day. They’ve spoken to different industries and worked across different organisations, so they have good intel in terms of what the market is doing at the moment. So if you’re recruiting for a specialised role, you may need to delve into that specialist space and actually use an agency that specialises in that area.
There’s a lot of benefits to using an agency as well. If I compare it to buying a house again, I recently purchased a house after trying for years to find something. We decided to use a buyer’s agent to help us buy a place, and we have bought something now. So, using a buyer’s agent helped us look past houses that we previously dismissed – they looked at finding those hidden gems.
I find that recruitment agents are good at challenging you and helping you look at a hidden gem or look at a CV from a different perspective – they can be innovative in recruiting for a role that you need. So, outsourcing has a lot of benefits.
It comes down to energy and dedication to the role as well. I mean, if this is your bread and butter, you do it day in and day out; from a candidate experience perspective, you'll be responsive, give the information, be upfront and be available.
Absolutely. And, if a recruitment agent is quite established and has a good network, they’ll have a lot of candidates on their database, which can help you avoid running a whole recruitment process. So a lot of time is invested in recruitment, from writing an advert to shortlisting CVS and telephone screening – it’s quite time-consuming.
So if you can outsource it to somebody who specialises in it, they can pick up red flags quickly, look through CVS and find things that you may have missed.
Q: What would you say to organisations or hiring managers who have had bad experiences with recruitment agencies before?
Not all recruitment agencies are the same. If you’ve had a bad experience, I would say, don’t put all recruitment agencies in the same category. A recruitment agency is defined by the recruiter that does the sourcing and helps you find the candidate. So, look at who you connect with and who understands your organisation.
I’ve worked with RPOs, internal recruitment teams, and recruitment agencies before, and I think the key difference is if you’re going to outsource it, try and give as much information to the recruiter as possible. Tell them about your internal teams, do a bit of a tour on-site, and give them as much information as possible to help articulate that to the candidate.
And the advice I'd probably give is to be clear on your service offering or what you've contracted this recruitment agency to do.
Generally, most recruitment agencies or recruiters have a vested interest in getting you the right person for the job – it doesn’t benefit anyone having to recruit again for that same role. So have faith in the fact that everyone is invested in getting a good outcome.
- What was your first job? My first job was working at Red Rooster. And my first career was in nursing.
- What’s something interesting that is not on your CV? The reason I’m not nursing anymore is because I passed out at the sight of blood. So, I definitely don’t have that on my CV.
- What advice would you give your eighteen-year-old self? I would probably say don’t be so scared to fail because failing is part of life’s journey.
- What book is a must-read, or what movie is a must-watch? I really loved reading The Barefoot Investor and Marie Kondo. They both sparked my interest in living a minimalist lifestyle and helped me gain direction regarding what I wanted in life.
- What’s a job for the future that doesn’t exist today? I’d really love to see something like a garbage designer – somebody whose whole profession is to look at garbage and reuse it in something useful. We’re seeing a few organisations come up and create products, but I want to see someone completely dedicated to that role. And if you want to go way into the future, I think you’re probably looking at space agents – kind of like travel agents, but instead, these agents help you get to space.