Whatever the size of your business, having a well-documented recruitment process is critical.
It’s highly useful for explaining the nuances to managers, candidates, and other stakeholders, as well as for measuring and improving your recruitment activity.
By mapping your process against a skeleton process (which I’ll outline below), you’ll be able to see which elements are most important to you, which elements need more support, and more easily define the purpose of your recruitment activities.
You can then look at what options you have through people, processes, or systems to improve different areas.
As recruitment is a human-to-human activity (or at least partly) the aim isn’t to create a robotic process, merely to reflect that, as it's such a business-critical process that will be repeated many times over, having an outline of what good looks like is highly beneficial.
The Recruitment Process
So let’s start with the recruitment process at its most basic.
I think most organizations can start with these basic six steps. Onboarding is certainly part of the candidate experience, so I think it's important to include it to ensure it feels joined up.
Each of these steps follows sequentially from the other so you can isolate each step to analyze and improve upon it.
At this point, I think it’s really important to think about the main focus of your recruitment team.
Are you primarily responsible for the attraction piece and the challenges there, or are your core responsibilities ensuring the hiring elements are performed to their best? Maybe it’s both.
I’ve worked in several organizations with differing priorities at both ends of this scale.
In one organization I joined, the responsibility for selection was exclusively on managers, and my main challenge was to market the company effectively and to reduce the recruitment agency spend, so my focus was really around Attract.
Another organization I joined was going through rapid growth, but their biggest concern was that the culture would be diluted and managers would struggle with this, so therefore my main challenge was around Hire.
In both of those instances, the role grew to include the whole process, but at any point there was a clear area to focus on where I needed to spend my time and efforts.
I’ll now go into these in more depth and give some suggestions for optimizing them using a combination of people, processes, and systems.
Stage 1: Engage
By “engage” we’re including all activities that make candidates aware of your job opportunities.
In simple terms, a candidate will engage with your company through some interaction and discover an open position they’re interested in.
They’ll then research the job and the company (your website, the job description, call a friend who worked or works there, visit your retail outlet, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, etc.) and make a decision to apply or not.
Engagement activities are varied and each company will have its own unique blend. Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list to get you started:
- Job adverts—newspaper, online media, in-store, TV, radio, social media
- Recruitment agencies and headhunters
- Careers page/website
- Industry events and conferences
- Job fairs
- Social media—LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, etc.
- Talent communities—CRM, email newsletters, alumni networks
- Direct sourcing
- B2C connection.
When analyzing these, you need to delve into the metrics and identify which are the best sources of candidates for your business i.e. which provide you with the best candidates vs effort and resources spent.
Over time, you’ll discover those that are the most impactful based on your unique blend of candidate marketing and outreach. You can then fine-tune and ensure you display your employer brand/employer value proposition (EVP) in the best possible way.
The table below takes the methods we listed above as the main categories and highlights which parts of that process you can focus on improving by increasing automation, improving the candidate experience, or adding resources.
I’ve broken these out into people, processes, and systems.
|Source||People improvements||Process improvements||System improvements|
|Job adverts||Training your team on job advert writing—it’s a specific skill.|
Speak to managers and candidates about where they look for roles and advertise there too.
|Have job adverts for your most common roles saved. |
Remember a job advert isn’t just the job description.
Outsource this to a media buyer.
Track the source of hire so you can optimise your spend.
|Link your ATS to your most common places to post roles, some ATS systems have great functionality here.|
Tracking links on job adverts so you can be sure which media is working best.
|Recruitment agency/ Headhunter||What's the engagement of the in-house team with the candidate—is there a pre-screen?||Setting up a defined preferred supplier list.|
Producing a factsheet for the recruiters to send candidates about you.
Setting up agency briefing calls with managers.
Having clear protocols for communication with agencies.
Standardised terms and conditions for recruitment agencies to sign so you don’t have to have terms reviewed for every new supplier.
|Linking agencies directly to your ATS so the manager experience remains consistent.|
Use of agency marketplace tools like Hiring Hub (this is UK only but easy to research if this type of product exists in your region
|Careers website||Regular updates with fresh content||A big thing to look at here is whether your careers site is part of your ATS or its a separate entity and how your corporate site interacts with your careers site.|
Ensure in your job intake meeting you share the link with the hiring manager so they can share it with their networks.
|Automated publishing of jobs straight to your careers site once approved|
Links to company socials
|Industry events and conferences||Attendance from your recruitment team at as many events as possible, collect names, follow up and engage with potential candidates||Have the right materials: stands, brochures, pamphlets, etc that you can use at multiple events making them not “one-off” efforts||Listing attendance of events on your careers site|
|Job fairs||Attendance from your recruitment team at the right events.|
Do you need a dedicated campus recruitment team if this is a key source of hire
|Have the right materials: stands, brochures, pamphlets, etc. that you can use at multiple events making them not “one-off” efforts||Listing attendance of events on your careers site and socials|
|Referrals||Spend time with your employees, speak to them about who they know at their previous company and who they would recommend.|
Regularly update the business to highlight roles available for referrals.
|Review your incentivization methodology and policy.||There is specific software that manages referral incentives and tracks them. Many ATS providers have functionality in this space too.|
Can your ATS track referrals?
|Social media - LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, etc.||Regular posts outlining company culture and highlighting roles|
Clear responsibility for which team this sits in eg Comms vs Talent Acquisition vs Marketing
|Ensuring managers post their roles on socials||Creation of tracking links for socials from your ATS|
Automatic posting to socials from your ATS
|Talent communities - CRM, email newsletters, alumni, etc||Curating a bespoke newsletter for candidates to send to different candidate groups|
Reviewing good candidates you’ve interviewed and seeing if they’re good for other roles and want to stay in touch
|Capturing alumni as part of leaver process - develop specific referral programs for them to incentivize referrals.|
Automated links to join Talent Communities that can be on your careers site, apply pages, recruiter’s auto signatures, etc.
|Automated job alerts and email marketing campaigns to candidate database|
Tracking links on each community so you can be sure of channel effectiveness.
|Direct sourcing||Add additional resources to the direct sourcing team|
Develop specific sourcing roles.
|Talent mapping: What roles will you look to hire in the future (through planned growth or expected attrition) and start to engage individuals ahead of time to speed up the process?|
Sit with hiring managers and go through LinkedIn Recruiter together, get them involved in this stage of the process.
|Purchase LinkedIn Recruiter, Cord, or similar sourcing tools|
Keep those pieces of functionality to one side as your tech bucket list and we’ll come back to them later in the article when we look at how to analyze the best technology provider for you.
So we’ve looked at how you connect potential candidates with your opportunities, what will the candidate do next? They’ll explore the role and the job and then make a decision as to what they’ll do.
This is fairly straightforward, and I won’t go through all of the possible elements of research as there are so many different websites that candidates might look at in different countries, but I will focus on the basics.
The most important thing is to visualise what a candidate does in their research phase while deciding whether to apply.
Some candidates are actively searching and will apply instinctively, but many are more passive and will be very choosy so there is benefit in getting this right.
If you’re unsure what candidates do, speak to them when they start or when you interview or screen them—this information is easily accessible.
For Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and other socials, make sure that you have a relevant presence.
If you have the available resource in your organisation to curate and produce content then make sure you utilise this and have a really clear brand presence across these sites.
If this resource isn’t available then you have to make do with what you have available but retain the important principle to have relevant messaging that states your EVP.
Glassdoor you have less control over, but on the other sites you need to make sure you have some branding and some content.
Try and look at this regularly and encourage team members to post pictures and videos that give insights into your company in an honest way—don’t be afraid to post and, if all you have to make videos is your phone, still do it! Candidates want to see inside an organisation and this is a great way to do it.
Make sure you offer links straight to Glassdoor from your careers site, job descriptions, email signatures, etc.
The job description and advert
This is so important as it’s something every single candidate will look at. Keep it relevant, use inclusive language, and add as much detail as you can (benefits, salary, working conditions etc).
Most companies just post the job description as an advert but, if you have the capability and resources available, producing a specific high-quality advert will increase engagement here.
The advert should be posted on job boards, the job description with all the detail should be on your careers site where the application is made. Think of it like a TV commercial—it tells you why you want something—when you go to buy the product you find out more about it.
You have a choice as to whether your application process is part of your careers site (we’ll come to that later in Apply) but however limited your resources prioritise ensuring your careers site represents you in the best way possible and try to drive as much traffic here as you can as you’re in control of this content in a way you aren’t on Glassdoor.
This covers your TA/HR team, managers, and anyone referring someone.
Those in frontline recruiting roles need to be able to talk knowledgeably about the roles they’re recruiting for and those people who might be sharing roles through their social platforms also need to know what to do and say when people contact them.
Like we mentioned with agencies above, and we’ll cover in the Select process below, having an “info pack” with relevant information to support employees with these conversations is super useful here (or, even better, a page on your careers site that you can direct internal and external people to - a really good current example of this is hybrid working, it's a question most candidates have and there’s a position most companies have—connecting them through having a page on your careers site will save you a heap of time).
Again, like with the sources some of these will be more relevant to you and some are linked together e.g. an employee posts a role on LinkedIn, their friend sees it, checks Glassdoor, calls their friend to find out more, reads what they’re sent and decides whether to apply.
Also, if someone decides not to apply but wants to engage with your company for future opportunities, how do you want them to do that? Follow you on socials, join a talent pool, stay in touch with your talent acquisition team? In an ideal world, this becomes automated as part of your talent community strategy.
Map out these key processes so you can look at them and ask yourself “What are people doing/thinking at this step?” Then strategise as to how to support them at this point. By prioritising the highest impact ones you’ll be doing the right thing at the right time.
So, to conclude Engage, we’ve done the following
- Mapped out our touchpoints with your candidate community
- Found a way to prioritise which are most important to you and some suggestions for what to do to improve them
- Looked at how candidates might research your business and how to influence them
- Looked at mapping these key processes to ensure a smooth candidate experience.
Stage 2: Apply
By “apply” we’re talking about the point between a candidate deciding to apply and a candidate formally submitting an application. This includes all the methods we’ve mentioned above, so the application might not be direct from the applicant e.g. via agency, directly sourced, or referral.
Most people reading this will be at companies whose maturity level means they already have an applicant tracking system although others might not. An ATS, even the most basic, is critical to being able to deliver recruitment at scale so, for the sake of this article, we’re going to assume you have an ATS or you’re putting together a business case for one.
There are lots of good reasons to have an ATS but, in terms of applications, the consistency of experience and the data you can capture is, in my opinion, the most critical because they can:
- Ensure every applicant is captured in the application funnel for a role so they can be tracked in your data and get a response to their application
- Diversity data can be captured
- Ensure each candidate provides the minimum required information for the role eg CV, cover letter, answering questions around suitability or availability which will speed up your sifting process
- Manage candidate communication throughout the process effectively
- Candidates can be added (with their permission) straight into your database.
In my opinion, your aim needs to be to channel every single application into your applicant tracking system to avoid challenges created by not achieving the above.
The other thing that is critical in your Apply phase is to make sure that the application process is smooth, removes duplication, can be completed quickly, and only asks relevant questions (these might not be the same questions for every role).
There are many bad examples of application processes, for example asking candidates to submit a CV and then asking them to fill out a form containing the same information or endless questions that don’t add to the decision process.
The only information (in addition to diversity data which is required for your benchmarking) you require at this point is the minimum amount of information you need to make a decision as to whether to interview the candidate or not plus contact information to communicate with the candidate—you need nothing else so ask for nothing else.
You also need to think carefully at this point about what information you want: cover letters, messages to the hiring manager, portfolios, achievements, specific questions, motivation letters— even videos highlighting some or all of the above can be relevant.
But, make sure what you ask for is what you need and it makes a meaningful part of the decision-making process.
So, as we look at the application phase, we need to look at our sources again and see if there are any potential hurdles. The table below covers this.
|Job adverts||These should link directly to your careers page or ATS but you should be clear in your advert about what information is required as part of the application process e.g. a cover letter.|
If possible, create unique links for each advert so your ATS can track where the applications have come from. This gives you accurate data on the performance of each channel and helps you spend your budget more efficiently.
|Recruitment agency/Headhunter||This is one of the most challenging as the recruiter is rightfully protective of their relationship with the candidate and perhaps wary of sharing their contact details. |
Ensuring you have this clearly covered in the terms and conditions you get employment agencies to sign (yes they should sign yours), and explaining why you want candidates submitted in the same way, are critical plus emailed CVs are a significant data privacy risk.
The advantages of getting the candidates submitted in the same way are that the review process is the same, your ATS can sense check whether the candidate has been submitted before (a risk with agency candidates),
Many ATS systems have agency portals that manage this for you and this needs configuring correctly to ensure you get the right information from your agency partner and ensuring that the data privacy issues are covered between you and candidate or you and agency and agency and candidate.
What can get missed out in this stage is the candidate reading the job description and checking the basics of the role in a way they would do with a direct application, so you need to be really hot on this with your suppliers.
|Careers website||These should link directly to your ATS, so easy in that sense, but you should be clear on your advert about what information is required as part of the application process e.g. do you want a cover letter? When is the closing date|
|Industry events, job fairs, and conferences||In a physical setting it’s important to be clear on what you want to achieve. In most instances, I would argue that your main aim here is to inform people of the vacancies you have, how to apply, and reinforce any EVP messaging that you have. |
So, in short, at any physical event, you need to equip your team with where you want people to apply and any backup information and messaging that will answer potential candidate queries.
|Referrals||For referrals, there’s a whole huge debate on the strategy of offering incentives, which I won’t dive into here, but you need to know who referred someone so you can attribute the application effectively. Make sure that your application process has the ability for the candidate to add who referred them.|
|Social media: LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, etc.||The adverts or links posted here should link directly to your careers page or ATS and, again, you should be clear in your advert about what information is required as part of the application process.|
|Talent communities - CRM, email newsletters, alumni, etc.||Similar to adverts and socials, the most important thing about the advert link is that there are tracking links. |
As part of the application process, having a question where someone can mark themselves as a former employee is really important so you can make an informed decision on their candidacy.
|Direct sourcing||Direct sourcing as an application method has some complexities, I’ll focus on the main three here. |
Firstly, as mentioned already, we should be aiming to avoid lots of different channels of applications to line managers. This means we need to get candidates into your ATS, which means we need a CV/cover letter/application and this might be problematic for a candidate who is very passive in their job search.
To counter this, you need a good relationship and understanding with your hiring managers so they understand why you just have a LinkedIn profile or no cover letter.
Secondly, however you wish to share the profile, if you’re saving that on your internal systems then you need to comply with local data protection legislation.
I think a standard part of the conversation between recruiter and candidate here should be an understanding that you will store their data and you have a simple email communication with the candidate that confirms this with some terms as part of that. This might seem like overkill but it’s necessary and getting these processes established is important.
Thirdly, and this is a problem I’ve encountered a lot and relates to the first issue, is around the depth of detail you go into as a recruiter at this stage with the candidate’s abilities.
If, as a recruiter, you’re headhunting candidates and you’re not expecting to get an updated, bespoke CV from each one (which from my experience for hard-to-fill roles is common) because you’re chasing them then you need to build a level of confidence with your hiring managers that they should interview candidates you recommend up to a point.
To reach this level of confidence, using a scoring system and standard set of questions for a particular role is key to ensuring both you and the hiring manager are assessing the same thing in the same way. If you recommend people who they don’t like that's fine, sit down and discuss what went wrong and recalibrate together.
The diagram above shows how the different sources should end up in the same place and the different steps they go through to get there.
So to conclude Apply we’ve done the following
- Ensured we’re asking for only the relevant information for each role as part of the application process
- Understood that the source of the candidate can impact what we get at this point and this might require adjustments further down the line
- Understood how to track the various sources
- Understood why consolidating our application process into our ATS is critical.
Stage 3: Sift
Firstly let’s be clear on what we mean by “Sift”. For this purpose, we’re talking about the work that happens before a formal interview where we whittle down the handful of applicants we want to interview.
There are many different approaches that can be applied to this stage of the recruitment process, they can be done in a different order and you can merge elements together.
Again the message here is that you need to decide what’s right for your business and each role as this part of the process can differ for different types of roles.
So, what are the elements we need to do before an interview?
Well, it’s important that every interview that happens is worthwhile and that each person has a serious chance of getting the role.
There’s nothing worse than 5 minutes into an interview realising that the candidate is unsuitable due to their salary expectations being way out of range, or that they don’t understand a key fundamental aspect of the role that clashes with their personal life such as shift patterns/travel expectations/days expected in the office, or that their skills really aren’t there.
With this in mind, the purpose of the sift is to swiftly remove unsuitable candidates from the process. Let’s look at what the key issues are and how we check them.
|Item||People check||Process check||System check|
|Salary expectation alignment||Conversation to establish expectation||Ensuring the salary is published in the application process (although this is a very blunt measure as it doesn’t represent the full package) the candidate can sense check themselves.|
|Qualifications required for the role||Conversation to confirm and reaffirm that you will want to see documentation at Offer stage.||Clearly stated requirements in the job description.|
Questions asked in the application application stage.
|Ability to reject candidates if qualification isn’t there.|
|Working conditions (shifts, hours, travel, in office/hybrid)||Conversation to confirm.||Clearly stated in the job description.|
Questions asked in the application application stage.
|Ability to reject candidates if they aren’t aligned with working conditions.|
|Communication skills||Conversation to establish communication skills.||CV/Cover sheet|
Any questions you ask as part of the application process.
|Basic job requirements (language capability, programming ability, clarification on what’s on CV etc)||Reviewing CV.|
Conversation to establish basic capabilities.
|Basic testing.||Ability to reject candidates if testing isn’t passed.|
Conversation to establish motivation.
|Ask questions around motivation.|
These are some common examples of the type of check we would make as part of the sift process, you need to establish the following things:
- Are these the right things, anything to add?
- Are the checks right to establish this?
- Who should be responsible for checking?
- At what stage in the process should we check this?
This is an example of how we could do this:
|Candidate||Completes application and applies with relevant documentation.||Working conditions (this is an assumption that they’ve read and understood it properly).|
Read job description and has assessment of own suitability (this is again an assumption).
|Candidate can self select out of a process; clear job descriptions stating actual minimum capability requirements can help here.|
|Recruiter||Reviews application.||- Checks basic job requirements- Checks cover letter and CV for motivation- Checks salary expectation (if given) against budget- Checks working conditions against CV/cover letter- Checks for required qualification||Can reject candidates based on a more detailed understanding of the role (whether this is done by hiring manager or recruiter can be dependant on capacity, the role, and capability of the recruiting team). Creates a longlist of candidates to call.|
|Hiring Manager / Recruiter||Reviews application.||Checks more detailed technical job requirements and motivation.||Can reject candidates based on a more detailed understanding of the role (whether this is done by hiring manager or recruiter can be dependant on capacity, the role, and capability of the recruiting team).Creates a longlist of candidates to call.|
|Recruiter||Telephone screen.||Reviews and checks motivation, job requirements, salary and working conditions, and communication skills.||Produces recommendation of a shortlist to interview.|
|Hiring Manager||Reviews shortlist.||Reviews recruiter’s notes.||Confirms shortlist.|
So, by having a clearly sequential set of steps like this you can create a really powerful sift process that ensures you’re ending up with the best possible shortlist to interview.
There are some things to consider here though:
The process outlined here has several handoffs and is sequential but handoffs slow a process down and can be delayed by holidays, illness, and other priorities and we all know a slow process means we lose good candidates.
Using tools like Boomerang Outlook that candidates can use to book time in your calendar will save you time here.
For some roles, I’ve worked with hiring managers to ensure that the recruiters are perfectly capable of delivering step 3 on their own. This works best for roles with clear requirements, ideally less technical.
Upskilling the recruiters to do this is so valuable and a huge time saver, it also requires you as a TA team to partner effectively with the business on what they need.
For some roles, it can be hard to assess the capability of a candidate, particularly technical roles when someone’s just listed 50 technologies on their CV.
From my experience, I’ve found a few good ways to do this. At one company where we hired lots of developers, the TA team worked with our engineering managers to create a list of fairly basic questions that were quick to ask and easy to assess the answers.
This allowed Recruiters at step 4 to perform a basic level of technical ability assessment.
Source of candidate
As we mentioned in the last section, the source of the candidate can trigger a different process e.g. do we want to put candidates sourced from a trusted agency through the same set of steps or do we have to develop a level of trust that they do this effectively?
What about candidates we find from LinkedIn or other headhunts? For those we’re likely to have completed stage 4 before we’ve had a CV (which in some cases we may never get updated properly) so we need to think about this really carefully and make those choices as a team with your hiring manager community.
Trust is particularly important with headhunted candidates. What I’ve seen work best is for hiring managers to develop that level of trust with the TA team and that is constantly refined with feedback.
An effective process needs to be swift and hiring managers haven’t spoken to the person yet—their TA team has.
We can all get it wrong at this stage, and it’s more consequential to reject a good candidate than to progress a bad one, so if headhunting is a big source of hires it’s even more important to get this bit right.
Remember, at this point you’re trying to find people who can’t do the job or who don’t have the right motivation or lack the communication skills required.
You aren’t trying to establish who is best at this point you are just establishing that people reach a high enough bar to further investigate their skills.
In 2023 I can’t believe I’m having to write this down but I do: please send a rejection email to all unsuccessful candidates.
All ATS systems can do this, as can Outlook or Gmail. The damage to your employer and consumer brand by not doing this far outweighed the time taken to do it.
As part of the rejection process, getting some candidate feedback is extremely useful. There are a multitude of ways to do this.
Even if you’re just sending mass email rejections to people you can add a link to a Survey Monkey or Google Forms doc where candidates can give their feedback and many modern ATSs have candidate feedback modules.
Don’t make the mistake of just asking the people you hire about your recruitment process—it went pretty well for them.
Sending a survey to people you reject without interviewing, and a different one to those who were interviewed, will give you more detailed insight on different parts of your process.
So, to conclude, at Sift we’ve done the following
- Established what we’re looking for at this step of the process
- Understood that we’re looking to establish those candidates who can be rejected rather than establishing which candidate is best
- Agreed with stakeholders involved in the process who will check what and when
- Looked at process and systems improvements to automate
- Discussed different orders to this part of the process in depending on your requirements.
Stage 4: Interview
The interview stage of the process is the formal part of assessing a candidate’s skills and choosing the best candidate for the position based on the factors most important to you.
In essence, the approach for Interview is identical to that for Sift. You need to establish what you’re looking for at each step of the process, remove duplication, and streamline the process to be as efficient as possible.
Each org will structure its interview processes differently depending on what type of role you’re recruiting, so let’s look at this in two parts.
First, the principles that I think you need to focus on and second an example of how a process like this could work.
In my view, the most simple and straightforward principle to follow is that you need to assess each and every requirement you have in the job description, both the tasks to be done and the skills and experience required to perform them, and assign that to a step in the process (you can assign it to more than one).
- 5 years’ software development experience can be done in the review application and telephone screen process.
- Lead the Human Resources department in the EMEA region should be covered in the telephone screen and interview explaining to the candidate what this means and understanding their approach to doing it.
- Eye for design and detail (for a designer role) can be assessed by reviewing a portfolio at review application (this is a good example of where a hiring manager needs to be involved early as it’s a subjective measure that needs a trained eye) and review of portfolio or task at interview.
You get the idea—don’t put anything in the job description that you don’t want to assess and make sure you assess everything in the job description during the process (otherwise remove it).
So an example interview process could look like this (I’ve added the recruiter as an interviewer but that is obviously up to you).
|1st||Hiring Manager (with others potentially involved if you interview in pairs or groups).||Skills required to do the role (this clearly has to be the line manager’s core assessment—can they do the job).|
Chemistry—can we work together?
Motivation—we should have an idea already but a deeper dive can be taken.
Culture and values—aligned with chemistry but this is more of a fit for the organisation.
|2nd (part one)||Recruiter (if this is the role of the TA function, if not this probably goes to 1st interview).||Culture and values—is this person a good fit for the organisation? |
Hiring managers can hire for today but great businesses hire people for today and tomorrow, so ensuring they’re the right fit for you increases the chances of that person’s growth in the business.
Review of anything highlighted by the 1st interview or wasn’t covered.
Sense check on salary and working conditions.
|2nd (part two)||Hiring Manager’s Manager||Motivation|
Review of anything highlighted by the 1st interview or wasn’t covered
Any presentation required
This is a standard template I’ve used as the starting point for planning your interview process but, obviously, not every role is the same.
In some markets and cultures having too many steps slows the process down too much, so I try and keep it to two maximum, but for some roles it’s fine to have more.
Having two interviews in a process does give you some obvious advantages and having time to think and compare candidates before meeting them again is so useful.
I’ve been in many processes where our expectations of what we could hire didn’t match reality.
When you’ve met five well-sifted people, none of whom are perfect but who are all demanding the top of your salary range, this indicates you might need to compromise on something.
Having your interview process split in two gives you a really good way to realign slightly and decide collectively the best route forward.
For each step, make sure you leave enough time to cover questions you and the candidate will want to ask. Make sure everyone has a set of questions they want to ask and are set up to take notes and properly record their responses.
I think you need some objective measure of the candidates but I’m wary of the dangers of too much focus on a score because it can over-emphasise someone who says the right thing over someone who does the right thing.
A score is useful to sift out those who clearly aren’t right, but it is risky to think you have to offer the job to the person with the highest score.
Finish with a collective wrap-up and assessment of the candidates (my suggestion is to review them from the lowest score first), some principles to cover this:
- Give feedback scores to the recruiter after the interview
- Avoid side discussions about candidates before the wrap-up meeting (it’s hard but it runs the risk of groupthink)
- Recruiter collates scores and starts with lowest first with the following agenda:
- Recruiter shares collective score, give their thoughts and a would hire/wouldn’t hire/might hire
- Hiring manager’s manager gives their thoughts and would/wouldn’t/might
- Hiring manager does the same
- Collate feedback to be given and who will give it
- Repeat for all candidates
- Review those with most yes’s and agree who to offer the role to (be clear on who has the final decision here).
So, to conclude Interview, we’ve done the following
- Established what we’re looking for at this step of the process
- Agreed with stakeholders involved in the process who will check what and at what stage
- Agreed on your decision-making process to keep it fair and balanced.
So, hopefully, by the end of the interview stage, we have an excellent candidate to offer the role to. How do we do that?
Stage 5: Offer
The step we’re talking about at offer is the point between you deciding on your candidate and them accepting or declining the offer.
It might seem like a trivial part of the process, but things can easily go awry here so having a clear set of steps is critical.
One lesson I’ve learned over the years is that this part of the process is highly emotive.
We’ve been through a long selection process that’s involved and draining for both parties and now there’s money on the table.
I’ve seen hiring managers want to offer people well below what they’ve asked for because “They took the role for that money when they joined” or because they want to test them with a low offer to assess engagement or refuse to offer a few % more because of budget constraints or team inequity.
Things can go wrong quickly here and, if emotions get stirred up between the candidate and hiring manager, a future critical working relationship can become damaged.
I learned some of these lessons the hard way. When job markets had moved fast and we were behind with what we should have been paying, our TA team had a view, our HR team had a view, and managers had their own individual views.
This became quickly chaotic and, by measuring our offer-to-acceptance ratio, we quickly used evidence to get everyone on the same page and fix the problem.
I’m a big believer that TA teams should have a strong voice in these discussions as they talk to the market in real-time.
Here’s an outline process that involves the hiring manager, recruiter, and candidate.
Again, this is just a suggestion, and your organization will work differently, but this outline is a good starting point and the key items in the steps are fairly universal.
Agreeing the offer. What package should be offered to this candidate? Clearly, expectations, interview feedback, and team and company benchmarking are required data points for this.
You need to be clear about who the final decision maker is, but I feel the recruiter’s input is critical here to avoid a lowball offer and ensure there is company-wide consistency in line with your compensation philosophy.
Make offer. I’ve assigned this to the recruiter because this is a key area where things can go wrong. The best recruiters are master brokers: they can see both sides and bring parties together to a result that works for both.
If hiring managers are making the offers and the candidate is disappointed with the offer it can ruin the relationship. Also, recruiters are more experienced at this and they understand the benefits, etc. better.
Accepts offer. Does the candidate accept?
Improve offer. If declined, review the offer and improve it or pass it to the next group of candidates.
So, to conclude Offer, we’ve done the following:
- Agreed who will make the offer
- Agreed how we will decide the level of offer
- Agreed a process if the offer is declined.
Stage 6: Onboard
Onboarding, or perhaps more accurately referred to as preboading, is the process between somebody accepting the offer and their start date. This is such a huge part of the candidate experience that I think it's worth touching on here.
The most important things you need to focus on here are being clear on who’s the main point of contact for your new hire, who will be in touch with the candidate, and what documentation is required to be completed before someone joins.
Your setup and how much automation there is in the process etc. should indicate who the best point of contact is in your business, but I think there are some points to consider.
- The manager has to be in touch with the new hire regularly.
- There should be someone from HR ensuring that as much documentation is completed as possible before the hire starts. This should be someone who understands benefits and onboarding well and, in my view, shouldn’t be the recruiter as they should be hiring the next person
- Make sure you talk (not text or email) the candidate through this part of the process. Waiting to start a new job is a strange time so engage with them
- Get as much automation as possible in this part of the process that your systems will allow.
- Make sure it's super clear to the new person what will happen on their first day/week/month.
Stage 0: Planning
I’m finishing here with the start—sorry about that but there is a good reason.
Clearly taking a good quality job brief is essential to recruiting well. You need to understand the brief and ensure that your advert, understanding, etc. are all correct.
I’m not going to spend any time on that but I want to focus on the other key part of taking a brief—contracting the process with the hiring manager.
Here are some key points you need to make sure fit into your brief document.
- Review the process with the manager: Identify key dates —holidays, dates unavailable for meetings, etc.—and map out the target dates you’re both aiming for so you’re both working to the same schedule.
- Engage: who is doing what, referrals, conferences, socials—can the manager contribute to any of this?
- Sift: Review all of the elements in the job description and map them to a part of the process you’re assessing and assign them to an individual and agree the measure you’re looking for.
- Interview: Ensure you’re speaking to anyone else you want in the interview process now and what you want them to assess. Agree interview questions and scripts and make sure everyone is prepared for the interviews well ahead of time.
So, in short, ensure you’re all clear on who is doing what and key timings, and agree that together along with your touchpoints throughout the process.
How To Implement This
There’s a lot of content here and recruitment is an involved and complex process when you look at it end to end.
In the current market, it’s not uncommon to be receiving over 200 applications for each role so you have to have good and consistent processes to ensure you can whittle 200 people down to 1 quickly and fairly while being as sure as possible you’re selecting the best person for your role.
Start by mapping out your process. You can use the templates I’ve shared here (I used draw.io, a free tool) as a starting point and go through each section highlighting where you see issues today and how those issues might be resolved or lessened.
Next, get clear on what your primary purpose for your business is and focus on that part of the process first.
Then share your process with stakeholders and educate them that consistency is critical to success in recruitment. If you’re all on board with the process then you have an excellent starting point to build a successful partnership with hiring managers and deliver together.
Review your People, Process, and Systems requirements—what are quick wins and what requires longer-term change and build that into your departmental strategy. Change takes time and isn’t easy so plan it out with a realistic timeframe.
Finally, specifically on Systems, there are so many ATS systems out there and so many tools promising to solve a specific problem.
Recruiters spend so much of their time glued to their ATS that you have to weigh up having an ATS that can do much of what you need but not everything perfectly vs. a collection of systems that create more complexity for your business.
There’s no right or wrong answer to that problem, but in my opinion, the starting point must be to map out all your needs and see whether an ATS (current or new) can cover them rather than constantly buying new bits of kit.
So, in short, what we’ve done here is to build a template recruitment process that you can customize to your business and use as a template to improve the process by highlighting the key points and educating your stakeholders.
Having a clearly understood process will benefit your business through repetition. This doesn’t mean your process becomes robotic—if you’re all doing the same things time and time again you’ll get more efficient and quicker and make better, more consistent decisions around hiring.
You’ll also see the opportunities for making the process more streamlined and discover opportunities for automation.
Be brave about listening, use your process maps to discuss where things went wrong, and work with stakeholders to improve them. An interactive approach will always work best.
Feel free to reach out to me in the comments with any questions or find me over in the People Managing People Community, a supportive community of HR and business leaders sharing knowledge to build world-class organizations.
Some further resources to help you recruit better: