Navigating the recruitment minefield

Job Interview

Recruitment is a minefield. The costs of getting it wrong are high and the chances of getting it right aren’t always great either.  Fortunately you can follow some processes which will improve your odds.

You can start by focussing on two key questions during an interview process.

Firstly, can the candidate do the job? Here the processes are usually pretty straightforward. It usually entails taking a look at the candidate’s CV and looking at past experience to see if their skills are transferable to the role in question. Much of the time, you will have a pretty good idea of the type of skills needed to successfully deliver the tasks and role. It may involve some element of testing the candidate’s skills.

There are numerous competency tests; from verbal and numeric tests to diagrammatic and spatial reasoning that you can search out and use. Competency assessment tests are valid and reliable ways to measure the knowledge and skills required for a job. Depending on the industry different test are available. Testing can go beyond the candidate’s grasp of spelling, grammar, numeracy or spatial awareness. If you are hiring people for whom English is a second language, you may want an objective assessment of exactly how good their English language skills are. That’s not a bad test for many English speakers either. Problem-solving questions can give  you an idea of the thought process a candidate goes through when looking to find a solution to a problem.

If you flag up the fact that you will be carrying out competency tests, some candidates will do better because they will prepare. After all, candidates who come prepared are the kind of employee you want, aren’t they?

The second question is will the candidate do the job? This often depends on the candidate’s character. Getting the screening processes right here is a much trickier proposition. How can you identify the checks and tests that will let the candidate with the right personal qualities shine through?

Here are a few areas that you might want to test:

Aptitude Checks

Psychometric testing is generally used to determine the attitude and aptitude of a candidate. Thomas International Testingand SHL are two of the most commonly used psychometric testing environments in the UK. They include:

  • General Intelligence Assessment – GIA – measures a person’s mental capabilities and can predict their potential to grasp a role or respond to training.
  • Personal Profile Analysis – PPA – gives an account of how people behave at work, answering a wide range of issues: it ranges from their motivation to their communication styles.
  • Job – testing to identify the behavioural requirements of a job that, in turn, helps you to hire the right people for that role. It will also help identify development needs, how roles could be restructured or how talent could be redeployed.

Communication Skills Checks

Obviously, someone’s communication skills will be reviewed during the interview process. But perhaps you should consider a telephone interview. Telephone interviews can be more than a pre-screening process. If their telephone performance is going to be an important part of the job, you could learn a lot.

Communication checks can also highlight the candidate’s interpersonal style, chosen communication methods, and their ability to win acceptance of an activity, plan or document.

  • Pay attention to how the candidate greets you; look for good eye contact  as well as a positive and empathetic tone. Pay attention to posture and enthusiasm while speaking during initial stages. (At the same time, remember your own role. Be welcoming and open. Interviews are stressful situations where the stakes are very high for the candidate. If you are crusty or testy, you shouldn’t be surprised if the candidate has problems communicating with you.)
  • During questioning – or if you ask them to make a presentation – ask yourself: How well does the candidate get their message across? Is she succinct? Does she back her arguments up with evidence? Does she go into too much detail or too little?
  • Do her answers tend to stray away from the question?
  • Does she really listen, or is she just waiting for the current speaker to finish so that she can make a further point?
  • Does she really engage with her listener and the problem?

“Only shallow people don’t make first impressions,” said Oscar Wilde. We all jump to instant pre-judgements. Structured testing not only give us a fairer impression of the job candidate, they also make us more self-aware and therefore less likely to rush to conclusions.

Personality Checks

Ask thorough questions. You don’t want to find holes in a candidate’s abilities after she has started the job. Ask questions about the candidate’s relations with others as well as her ability to perform the task. What about her work style? Try to get a feel for whether she was liked and trusted. Ask questions that limit opportunities for omissions of important details.

Personality tests like the Belbin test are a good gauge of what roles a person is best-suited to in a team environment. Simple tasks such as asking a candidate to list their strengths and weaknesses, and then lining those up against their achievements, can give you insights into their character.

Don’t rush to judgement. It’s a good idea to test your impressions against the impressions of others in your company – especially those who will end up working with her!

Trust and verify

There’s an old Russian saying: “Trust and verify”. Check all references. A recent survey carried out by Money-marketUK found that 20% of people lie in their CV’s. You can also learn a lot by looking at the candidate’s public profile on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The author, Olan Ahern, has a strong interest in human resource management and works on behalf of Pearson PTE Academic specialists in English Language Exams.

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