Well appointed

Effective management means nothing without the right people in the right jobs, and therefore recruitment is an important management skill. However, for some, recruitment has become unnecessarily complicated in the hands of human resources (HR) specialists. Managers at any level should recruit their own staff, with the support of recruitment specialists if necessary, but don’t let them take this crucial responsibility out of your hands.

Recruitment is costly in terms of management time and resources, advertising, interview and possibly assessment centre or agency expenses. It also costs the organisation not to make an appointment or to select someone who leaves soon afterwards or proves unsuitable.

You need to know the basics: job descriptions, person specifications, advertising, selection, and appointment. Generally, HR and, sadly, many managers, will want to write long, repetitive documents. You should write one page – or compromise at two.

Weed out specifications that exclude people. The more concise the job description and person specification, the more the potential of the job opens up. For instance, have you considered recruiting someone who’s deaf or blind to a job that you had previously described as requiring speech, hearing and sight? Contrary to assumptions, doing so may improve communication within the team and with your service users.

Keep job titles short, simple and sensible. And don’t call a job the opposite of what it is: “child abuse co-ordinator” looks silly or criminal to any ordinary person.

Your purpose in advertising and sending out an application pack is to attract only suitable candidates. Processing 200 applications is time-consuming, and probably means your advertising and information were poor, or you’re paying too much. You’ve probably got it right if you’re getting 10 applications, shortlisting five, and selecting one from three excellent contenders. Make sure all dates – deadline, test, interview – are arranged and applicants know about these from the outset.

Good organisations will have a statement of equal opportunity which sets out clearly the ways in which the recruitment process provides safeguards against discrimination. It’s about ensuring all applicants are treated fairly and given equal consideration.

The applications are in, and it’s time to shortlist for interview. Ideally, this should be done by at least two people using agreed criteria-matching skills and experience to the job description and person specification. If the main purpose of shortlisting is to invite candidates for interview, think about the time required for the interview and evaluation, as well as what is the maximum number manageable in the time available.

Interviewing remains the primary source of selection. It is worth preparing for the interview. Have the details about times and location been confirmed? Has the interview panel been agreed? Is it representative – are users involved, for example? Have agreed questions been set?

Remember, the purpose is to get the best out of candidates, not the worst. Plan who will ask which questions, and agree the order before the interview starts. Be wary of reading out in turn a list of questions and writing down the answers – this can be disconcerting for candidates. If you set them an oral exam, all you’ll find out is how well they’ve revised. You want the candidate to speak freely, but you need an agreed structure and assessment method so each candidate has an equal chance to show you their true qualities. So think about the best way to go.

Ask open questions that require an answer beyond “yes” or “no”. Keep in mind both the “content” of the interview and the “process”. The layout of the room, introductions by the chair of the interview panel, conduct of interviewers and the way questions are asked can all influence the extent to which candidates relax and perform at their best. Think about what you might say as the introduction and at the conclusion of the interview.

Plan the process of notifying the successful candidate as well as those who are unsuccessful. People usually appreciate a phone call as soon as possible. Be prepared to give feedback – it’s important that people know why they have failed and, indeed, why they have succeeded. However, keep in mind the effect the call or letter of rejection may have. You may want to attract people to apply for other posts in the future, so the wording is as important as the job offer letter.

And remember, these days interviewing is a two-way process – the candidate is assessing you as much as you are assessing them. Get it wrong, and you’re covering that vacancy for another three months.

John Burton is an independent social care consultant; and Des Kelly is consultant director in social care, BUPA care homes.

“When I was………

…being interviewed for a management consultant job, the high-ranking manager chairing the panel was late back from her lunchtime shopping. She didn’t apologise. At the end of my shortened interview, I was asked to comment on the process. I said starting late was an example of poor management. I didn’t get the job.” (John Burton)

“…being interviewed for a high-profile job, I was required to make a presentation. However, the room had no electricity, which meant neither PowerPoint nor an overhead projector could be used. I was asked to lay my acetates on the table. My enthusiasm further lessened when two out of the three interviewers stared out of the window throughout.” (Kathryn Stone, director, Voice UK)

Top tips

  • It is worth getting feedback on why people join as much as on why people leave. 
  • Involve your team, service users and carers in the recruitment and selection process.
  • Always keep a record of notes made at interview and any scoring system used.

Rubbish tips 

  • Your time is valuable – delegate interviewing to more junior staff. 
  • When you interview regularly it becomes second nature – you just know what questions to ask. 
  • The best interviews are spontaneous and unstructured.   

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