If you could wipe the slate clean and start your recruitment function again... where would you start...? (Part 1)

So I haven’t been asked to create an entire talent acquisition function from end to end but have contributed to, led or managed change in most of the bits involved.   This has ranged from redesigning candidate assessment to speed up the process and gaining on quality, contributing to a social media strategy or beating Rod (yes his real name) around the head until he would just get on with his job and keep the organisation out of court. What got me thinking recently is that whilst I consider myself pretty good at what I do, (modest I know) even I find myself getting swept along with the status quo of our industry.  Whilst there are some true thought leaders out there who appear to be radically changing things I do appear to find myself having to look at the components one by one rather than starting from scratch with a blank piece of paper, something I think we would all like to do from time to time.  Maybe fixing the individual components misses out something important?

I spend many hours of my life on a train so clearly have some available brain power to spare rather than gazing out the window (like now. The 20.15 from Manchester) so as a way to kill some time thinking about where you would start a talent acquisition function is an interesting exercise (I would say that).

So starting a talent acquisition function from scratch isn’t the thing that keeps me up at night with worry.  That would be the volume of employment contracts in multiple countries where I don’t speak the language and that they are all like little ticking time bombs waiting for something to happen.   Even that is not sleep depriving but remains my number one work worry at the moment. 

So where do you start with an in house recruitment team?  Is it the systems, the roles you fill, the business or the candidate?

It’s trickier than you think.   I can’t help but think that the ‘right’ answer would naturally be the candidate because let’s face it, it is all about the candidate experience but even if you are starting with a blank page do you really believe that is where you would start and if you believe you would, what has stopped the 99.9% of in house recruitment teams actually looking at that now?  Or me for that matter...

The type of business you are and the type of people you employ must make an impact.  As I sit on a train I can overhear a conversation with two people that work for a high street phone retailer.   What works for them and what works for me in my high end technology world are different but I wonder if despite that we would take the same approach? 

So given that comments are few and far between, let me share my opinion... I know you’re surprised aren’t you J You’ve come here to read about a man crush and a tenuous link to recruitment but no it’s actually about recruitment.  Who’d have thought?

I’m a candidate experience champion.  An ambassador for the poor candidate that ventures onto a careers site and puts his or her faith into the process.  Expectations are often high, even the most average of corporate careers sites promises exciting opportunities, career development and the dream of a life better than the one you currently have.  Career sites by their nature aspirational.  I don’t how many deliver or at least deliver completely. 

So the candidate ventures into the website, often registers, provides CV, contact info and a host of other confidential information that may or may not be related to their application but they don’t know.  So let’s start here?  Let’s make the career site genuinely user friendly.  We have a lot to learn from Amazon.  Not necessarily their recruitment team (sorry guys) but their standard retail website.  Although not the cleanest or simplest of sites we all find it easy to navigate, can buy with one click and it delivers an excellent service, not matter what device you use to access it.  You can see how the experience was for other people in the reviews section and share the information you find to your heart’s content.  

Shouldn’t all careers sites be more like this?   

But what happens to the candidate application?  Not a daft question.  It is my belief no matter who the applicant is, everyone needs to know where they stand.  Are they in the process for a live role? In the process but for another day or based on their CV do we think they probably aren’t quite right.

I will use an example close to home.  I work in IT Security.  We look for Security experts.  We get applicants from doormen, security guards and former Iraq serving mercenaries.   Whilst these applicants will probably never be quite right for us unless they get some related experience we do need to tell them. 

All of them.

Every time. 

This all of them, every time approach is a killer.

Do you get your system to do this or do you employ expensive recruiters to do this for you?  It’s tricky.  We have all seen automated screening/parsing systems and whilst have some great results I am not sure any of us have seen something that works every time.  Or at least not yet.  So for me you an automated “hey we’ve got you” followed by a real recruiter reading the CV and saying no, yes or maybe as soon as they can.

So here’s the real issue.  Just how do you do this.  If you see 50 applicants every year you have no excuse, but some of my recruiters are running with 30 roles, averaging 500 applicants in total.  Is it realistic that every applicant gets a response?  I really want to say yes.  I really do.


Because this is the moment that a candidate engages or walks away with a bad taste in their mouth.  If managed well even those candidates that do get rejected will still be an advocate of your process, your brand and your recruitment function.  Done badly and they will just say you are like all the rest.  Even worse they will tell their friends, real and social media based before updating glassdoor.com with how they feel.

I have yet to crack this, what about you?

Part two next week.