By: Steve Brand, SGSA Ltd.
Industry is paying a high price for poor recruitment techniques with British companies wasting £12bn per annum, equivalent to £1,000 per employee, through recruitment mistakes and the time spent by managers trying to bring staff up to scratch, according to a report, by SHL, the psychometric company†. This amount dwarfs the £3.1bn package for boosting jobs promised by the chancellor in the last budget, which implies that companies could do more to create jobs simply by improving their selection and recruitment processes.
People know the common mistakes to be avoided when interviewing prospective new hires but managers still seem to get themselves into trouble. Ricky Gervais, aka David Brent, makes some serious gaffs while giving an interview in the hit comedy, The Office. The reason that we find his behaviour so appalling is because it is based on reality, grossly exaggerated, but reality nonetheless. Thankfully, some of the errors made by David Brent are no longer possible because legislation has removed the sexism, racism, ageism and other ‘isms’ from the hiring process. This has levelled the playing field for candidates but many companies could still do better in comparing and contrasting the actual skills of each candidate against each other and the job requirements. An example of how not to do this occurred in my first interview for a job as a trainee computer operator in the 80’s at a FTSE 100 company. I would like to be able to say that the job required high levels of dexterity and the interviewer was looking for evidence of my skill in that area, but that wasn’t the case. The interviewer felt that there wasn’t much he could ask a graduate who had never had a ‘proper’ job before, asked me what car I drove and the conversation evolved into a discussion on how to best align the clutch plates on a Ford Cortina without a second pair of helping hands. Luckily for me, we were both passionate about car mechanics and I was offered the job the next day.
Recruitment and selection processes are far more sophisticated in companies today and often featuring behavioural interviewing, assessment centres, psychometric tests, technical tests and role plays. All these techniques should be used wherever possible, but ensuring that every candidate is interviewed in exactly the same way using a weighted, scoring system is imperative. Behavioural interviewing is particularly important in finding the right person and William Sharpe’s warning that ‘past performance is a thin reed for how to predict future performance’ only applies to investors; the opposite is true for recruiters. Few companies are hiring at the moment, so now is a good time to update job descriptions and benchmark the skills in the department so that in the rush to get the best people we don’t fall into the trap of using the cookie-cutter approach to hiring or even employ people who are less able than members of the existing team. When the economy does recover, firms are likely to need new staff, there will be large numbers of people applying for each job and it is our duty to recruit the most skilled person for the position. I still wonder how many other graduates were better skilled for the computer operator job than I was but didn’t know how to adjust distributor points using a torn up cigarette packet.
SGSA is headed by Steve Brand, an industry practitioner with over twenty years technical support and field service experience in the aerospace, electronics and software industries. Headquartered in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, UK SGSA supports the service industry by providing career development for support and service employees and the creation and sharing of best practices for the industry. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.sgsa.com.