Sandra Porter on how to make sure your managers have the right skills to win the current talent war
We’re in the middle of a talent war and it doesn’t seem that it will be getting any easier any day soon. A recent report from the Open University and the IoD states that a quarter of organisations believe finding staff with the right skillset will remain the biggest challenge in the next five years.
Being involved in hiring the best talent is a huge responsibility. Getting it right or wrong has significant consequences for any organisation. Yet, all too often, managers are expected to interview potential team members without understanding their role in the process or having ever been trained in interview techniques. Where hiring processes are left in the hands of untrained managers the result can be a chaotic and ineffective process that wastes time and patience of all those involved. Frequently, candidates are invited to numerous interviews to be asked the same questions at each one or who might meet unskilled, arrogant or disrespectful interviewers creating a terrible impression of an organisation. Who would want to join? And in this age of social media, you can be sure this will soon be reported on Glassdoor or other social media platforms, making it even more difficult to hire the best candidates.
But helping your managers to interview effectively need not be a difficult process. Firstly, you need to do the groundwork – discuss the importance of the hiring process to those that are going to be involved in the process. This sounds obvious but is often overlooked. Hiring managers need to be fully aware that recruitment is a competition – which candidate, and potential employer, can impress and attract the other the most. The hiring manager’s decision should be based on their assessment of how the candidate’s skills, experience and behavioural style indicate their likely success in the role. The candidate decision is often based on the role and package being offered but is also greatly affected by the emotional connection with the managers that they meet during the process. The skill with which the hiring managers navigate this process are crucial to be able to attract, identify and hire the talent that the organisation needs.
Helping your managers to interview effectively need not be a difficult process. Firstly, you need to do the groundwork
The utilisation of selection processes and tools should support managers to be well-prepared and considered in their thought process and enable effective decision making. Any recruitment process should begin with alignment on the ‘ideal candidate’ skills and experience. Sometimes it might be assumed that the hiring managers are aligned on the ‘ideal candidate’, only to realise that this is not the case during the final stages. Time must be taken to align on the ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ attributes so that the selection process can effectively identify them. So often differences of opinion regarding the skills or attributes needed are only identified at the final stages of the hiring process. Ahead of any interviews, hiring managers should be thoroughly briefed on why the role is necessary, where it fits in the organisation, who the role will report to, the scope and key accountabilities of the role. They should also know why they are involved in the hiring process and what, in particular, they might be well placed to explore during the candidate interviews.
As for the interviewing technique itself consider how you can upskill the interviewers to achieve three key aims.
Explore beneath the surface
Focusing on ‘what’ questions usually elicits a run-through of a CV that you have already read. Instead, use probing questions about the ‘why’ and the ‘how’. One question followed by one answer rarely provides anything more than a scripted answer. It is digging beneath this that will find the truth. Hiring managers therefore need to be curious. Exploring why the candidate has made certain decisions in their career, why they were, or were not, successful in a project, how they have dealt with challenges or failure for example, will expose far more about how the candidate thinks, their values and their motivations than discussing the facts outlined on their resume.
‘Listen’ with eyes and ears
Any interview is usually a series of questions and answers. Listening to the candidate responses is obviously important but can prompt hiring managers to write down the answers and therefore be looking at their notepad more than the candidate. This is a huge mistake. You need to listen with your ears but also ‘listen’ with your eyes. Observing the candidate’s body language to notice when they become more animated, when their eyes sparkle, when they appear anxious or defensive is crucial. Candidates will tend to be far more expressive and animated when they are talking about their passions and strengths. Great eye contact will encourage a candidate to continue with a response and be more open and candid with their answers. When interviewers have their head down writing notes, they miss 93% of the messages being communicated by the candidate. Only capturing 7% of the information is never enough to inform good decision making.
Enrich the candidate experience
The recruitment process could be likened to a dating process. Both sides of the potential match are considering if they want to progress from one stage to the next. Neither side should be arrogant or complacent. Each stage of the selection process should allow both parties to learn more about the other. Demonstrating products or services, meeting other potential colleagues, explaining company values etc can all enrich the process, which may actually be the start of the successful candidates’ induction. Respecting the candidate’s time, protecting time for their questions, communicating regularly regarding next steps and timescales etc, will all help a candidate feel comfortable and welcome. Reminding hiring managers that recruitment is a two-way sales process is crucial if you ever want to offer top talent and it be accepted!
Recruitment can be the most satisfying but also the most frustrating and time consuming of tasks. It is also a process that is often underestimated as a key strategic enabler. Investing in equipping your managers to have the skills, tools and confidence to hire effectively is a key determinant of being victorious in the war for talent, or not.
Sandra Porter, author of ‘How to be an HR Superstar’ and managing director at the HR Dept.