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Don't make your first recruit the wrong recruit!

Earlier today I happened across a spreadsheet of people who applied to work at our consulting firm a decade or so ago - the very first time we went out and recruited people. I was amazed and heartened to see that I recognised a fair number of the names - evidently those early interactions created many more relationships over time than we ever actually made job offers.

It was a break-through at our firm to employ people outside of our original group of co-founders. It forced us to grow up as a business in many ways.

At the time, getting three people to join us was near a doubling of our team. Alongside the benefits, getting it wrong therefore carried substantial risks, so we invested lots of time in the process.

Here's a few of the principles we applied:-

  1. we took the most prestigious advert we could afford - and pitched at least half of it directly at our target client base (for business development purposes). The advert introduced the business, and spoke as much of our values and mindset as it did the roles themselves
  2. at the same time, though, we were extremely specific on the skills and experience needed for each job.
  3. we were very objective on how candidates were assessed versus the criteria identified - no exceptions were made for exceptional potential candidates who did not quite have the right qualifications. (Though very tempting to do this, it ends in confusion and too many applicants passing through)
  4. all applications were acknowledged and ultimately responded to with a personalised message. This was some overhead (given hundreds of people applying), but well worth it in the longer term. In particular, whilst a significant proportion of the people applying didn't have quite what we needed, there was fantastic quality overall and - as mentioned above - we did forge relationships with many at a later date.
  5.  the target was to funnel down potential recruits to ten people, each one of whom had a decent chance of success. Where additional information was needed to finalise the list, we did a couple of phone interviews first.
  6. those ten people were invited to a whole day event with our team. Once more, a substantial investment of time, but in our industry you have to be able to spend time with people at work (and play). Again, we agreed criteria for assessment ahead of time.
  7. the day itself was highly structured to test a number of different aspects, as follows:
  • a 30-min presentation from us on the company and, in particular, the strategy, vision and values
  • an individual paper exercise that took place over about three hours : this was based on a real, current issue a client had - a live case study - and the applicant had to conclude what they would recommend as a course of action
  • during the exercise, our team grabbed individuals for a total of an hour to participate in a conventional one-to-one interview
  • lunch (important)
  • a team exercise where in small groups the recruits had to synthesise their individual recommendations from the problem into a collective presentation, which was then made back to us

It is undoubtably the case that we came out of the above with offers made to different people than we would have done from just interviewing alone - and that was definitely for the better.

Interested to know your thoughts - overkill, or not enough?!

'Phil


Published: 20-05-14 by Phil Baxter

small business, start ups, recruitment, hr