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No more needles in haystacks: fixing the broken system of candidate search

candidate search

March 22, 2019

I have lost track of the number of times a client has approached me to help solve a recruitment crisis after many weeks or months of failed candidate search. Whether the client has an internal team, is working with a preferred supplier list of external recruiters or has been using online recruitment tools, in every case they are exhausted and frustrated by a fruitless hunt for a needle in a haystack.

Countless hours and large sums of money have been spent trying to attract the right calibre of person for the role. The road to failure is littered with CVs detailing inappropriate skills and experience, interviewers are depressed by meeting under-qualified/over-qualified job seekers (or worse, sitting in an empty room when an interviewee fails to show), or – worst case scenario – the recruiter has pocketed an inflated fee and it quickly becomes apparent that the new recruit isn’t the right person for the job. Does this sound horribly familiar?

Here’s how to fix your candidate search problem.

1. Agree exactly what you’re looking for

The first issue is often that those involved in the recruitment process aren’t quite clear on the candidate search objectives.  It is crucial that you have a written brief which is approved and shared by the recruitment team. If you all have a slightly different idea of what you want in the new recruit, you will never find the right person. It’s not just about the precise job specification; it’s also vital that everyone understands why you’re hiring now. What’s the strategic motivation, the corporate imperative for bringing the new person onboard? Drill down into the detail at this initial stage of your search and it will ensure that you don’t drift off course further down the road.

2. Work with the right team

Once you’re clear on what and who you’re looking for, the next step is to ensure that the people you are using in your candidate search are suitably qualified and experienced to lead the process. There is no shortage of recruiters out there who will gladly take your money and chuck CVs at you all day long.

They are driven by targets, and in many cases have scant commercial experience, no established network of candidates and very little interest in solving your business challenges providing they can meet their own needs. If your internal HR team is leading the candidate search, they also need to have the right experience. Particularly for niche roles, it may be appropriate to bring in additional expertise to assist. It’s rarely effective to use your usual channels and techniques to find a specialist candidate and it can be deeply demotivating for your team to put unrealistic expectations on them (and then you have a whole other problem to deal with).

Be realistic about where your team’s strengths lie and don’t be afraid to invest in external assistance early in the process: it’s a price worth paying. Expertise, market knowledge and an engaged network of suitable candidates are prerequisites when selecting recruitment support. Again, time spent finding the right help will pay dividends in the long run. In my case, I have an average success ratio of one CV to hire because I only ever work with clients who I know I can help.

3. Build rapport, fast

Going back to my first point, once you have the right recruiter, it’s also essential to build an open and honest rapport at briefing stage so they can really get under the skin of the candidate search. This doesn’t need to be time-consuming, but it does require good communication and clear focus.

Similarly, the recruiter needs to have a good rapport with candidates – they should be plugged-in to their contacts and have the people skills to quickly assess suitability for the role. For all the advantages of recruitment technology, these sorts of soft skills and the ‘human touch’ are hugely powerful in candidate search, and often overlooked. In the current market, candidate search is as much about understanding the needs of the employee as the employer. The ability to attract, persuade and secure the right person for a role is one of the hardest parts of the process, and so often is the point at which the wheels come off.

The more senior the role, the more challenging it can be to close the deal, and this is where the value to the client is really delivered.   In many ways, candidate search has become more difficult than ever, despite the proliferation of so-called solutions constantly being marketed to HR professionals. I believe that, by going back to basics and following these three steps, it’s possible to cut through the confusion quickly and efficiently.

Find out more about me and how I work here. If you need help to get your candidate search back on track, fast, please get in touch.

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