No Excuse For Sloppy HR Recruitment

No Excuse For Sloppy HR Recruitment

Managing an Indigenous under-funded, under-resourced Not-For-Profit is difficult enough. But when you are recruiting for key positions and you don't prepare or have no protocols for interviews and selection, you cannot afford to be sloppy.

Some time ago, I was asked to assist in recruitment interviews for a General Manager position by the CEO of an NFP that I have had a relationship with earlier in their history.

Let's just go through all the things they did wrong!

I had, in fact, participated in earlier interviews for various finance staff recruited by this CEO when he had first arrived, and in the process had provided to the organisation a recruitment "checklist" for those earlier interviews. So, imagine my surprise when the CEO asked me to assist in the GM interviews, and I discovered that a complete Job Description was still being discussed, that an advertisement had been published without reference to key details such as employer industry and location (regional town), and before other details such as remuneration ranges and basic terms had been agreed internally.

Having heard this, it was no surprise to me to learn that various highly qualified potential candidates had made initial inquiries, and when told that "what you ask has not been determined yet," did not bother calling again.

Clearly, "do not reinvent the wheel" is an old adage that this CEO did not believe in as the previous recruitment checklist had laid out step by step matters to complete before, during and after the advertising, interview and negotiation process. It is not rocket science that if you have had a recruitment process before, you should learn what went right and what went wrong, and standardise the process.

At any rate, imagine my further surprise when I arrived for the interviews and was told that the interview panel needed a couple of hours before the interview to "sort out what questions to ask and how we would rate the candidates".

So what should they have done?

It is tempting to follow the conventional route and figure out what skills you need to have in your organisation now and then advertise for those skills, and hopefully find someone who can do the work. Then, as your organisation grows or changes, you do it again.

However, this can have some risks attached.

Firstly, if you hire someone now, will they still be required in a few years’ time once the organisation has grown or changed, or will the skills required have grown as well?

How confident are you that the skills the candidate show for the present vacancy suits the overall purpose that the organisation requires? Perhaps they show the right qualifications and experience on their resume, but how do you judge character, will they “fit” in with your management style? Will the candidate show responsibility in the tasks you want them to be responsible for?

So what if you turned the model on its head and instead of relying on conventional business practice, rely on what you do know – your vision and your reading of people’s attitudes? Base your Human Resources recruitment practice on hiring the right attitude, not necessarily the right skill.

Let’s start with designing what your staffing structure will look like at the end, rather than who you need right now, or at least, at the end of your current strategic planning period.

This allows you to plan for the big picture. Identifying who you will eventually need means that you can select people who can fit into, or grow into the required positions over time. You certainly want to avoid a revolving door of changing staff if you want stability and corporate experience as your organisation grows.

This philosophy also gives people a career path, where they can see a continuing future for themselves in your organisation, motivating them to be loyal and consistent.

To do this, picture your organisational vision - in day-to-day terms of what you will be doing and the type of people most "fitting" of that type of work and attitude - and then draw an organisation chart.

An organisation chart is basically an upside-down tree showing the CEO at the top, and the “departments” or functions under the executive level and the people who populate those functional areas. This might include people who work in administration, projects, programs, and so on. Then, in each area there might be sub-functions, for example under Administration there may be a finance area, a reception and office staff function, and so on.

Once you have done that, you should write Position Descriptions for every position shown in your diagram.

Position Descriptions are a written statement of each position’s role and responsibilities. They should contain: –

  1. Job Title
  2. Who they report to
  3. Who they are responsible for or who reports to them
  4. The position’s objective (and how this helps in the organisation's objectives)
  5. Their daily duties
  6. Their responsibilities within those daily duties
  7. If appropriate, measures of their effectiveness in meeting their responsibilities and objective

If you are clear about all the things on the list, the staff member should be able to operate almost autonomously, especially if your business systems include procedures about how they fulfil their daily duties.

The first three items set out where they sit in the organisation– and these should align with the organisation chart.

The position’s objective, and how this helps with the organisation's objectives tell them why they are there. For example, your Program Manager’s objective may be to manage a "Ready-For-Work" Program that "prepares members for successful long-term employment in the private sector". This helps the organisation objective of "helping members participate in the economy with jobs and employment".

Their daily duties list is just a list of what they should be doing every day. In the example of the Program Manager, this may include organising the team’s work for the week, monitoring the results of each Project Officer, investigating Grant opportunities, creating new employment initiatives once a quarter and implementing them, and so on.

Their responsibilities within those daily duties identify what they are allowed to do while carrying out their duties, and what they are responsible for within those duties. So, again in the case of the Program Manager, their responsibilities may include “ensuring the Program finds employment for 20 people a year.” This means that they cannot just rest on “organising their team”, they must actually ensure that they do whatever is necessary to meet the Program targets. In this case, they may even be authorised to hire and fire Trainers in order to achieve the targets.

Finally, defining measures means that their performance can be quantified. Clearly, achieving 20 employment places a year is the target in the example, but the Program Manager’s performance can also be measured by balancing it with “maintenance of 10% or less turnover of staff.” In using this balancing measure the Sales Manager can’t abuse their hire-and-fire delegation.

It may seem overkill to you to draw up your “final” organisation chart and write every position description every 3 to 5 years during your strategic planning process. But here’s why I think it is important to do this now:

  1. It will save you time – as your organisation grows, you will only get busier and busier. If you had to stop and think about what skills you need every time you needed them, and then figure out where they fit into your structure, and then take the time to write their position description, you would not have the time to do this properly whilst in the thick of it. Doing this at the start when you have time, and when you have a good idea of what you want to achieve in your organisation, saves you time later.
  2. It aligns with your Vision – you should, at the start, have defined your vision, your purpose, mission and objectives and what you want your organisation to look like in the future as you attain your vision. Therefore, drafting your organisation chart now will save you time later because you will already be prepared to look for the right type of people you need in the right positions.
  3. It gives you clarity into the future – when you decide it is time to hire more staff, other staff already know who is coming and where they fit, and who is responsible for them. There’s no need to explain to your team what happens every time someone new is hired. When you hire staff, you can show them where you are heading organisationally and give them the comfort of knowing their potential progression in the team.
  4. It is flexible – sure, it might change, but unless you change your business model entirely, any change is likely to be only a tweak where perhaps you move a position from one branch to another or you edit duties and responsibilities. If you decide to expand operations, you can add a whole new branch.

The second part of your recruitment protocols is to employ a technique where you evaluate staff weighted on whether they can fit into the culture of the business you are going to build rather than just their skills.

So, this technique means that when you interview staff, you ask a series of questions that first help you decide if they have the skills and experience you ask for, then whether you think they can do the tasks and responsibilities you are setting, and finally whether they can do the job in your organisation's culture.

Ultimately, you can teach skills, and you can train for experience, but you cannot teach or give them the right values and attitudes.

So, the interview questions are based on three principles: –

  1. Can they do the job?
  2. Will they do the job?
  3. Will they do the job here?

You should prepare template questions for your interview procedures in advance, and amend them for the positions you are interviewing for - definitely not the hour before they arrive to be interviewed!

"Can they do the job?" is aimed at finding out if they have the relevant skills and experience for the advertised position. No point in continuing with the interview if the candidate for the Principal Legal Officer is not qualified as a lawyer; no point continuing if the candidate for Accounting Team Manager is an accountant but has had no experience managing staff.

"Will they do the job?" is all about motivation. Why have they moved from job to job? What are they looking for? Will this job challenge them enough and provide them with the interests they seek? The questions here will be all about trying to see if they have the drive you need and whether the tasks in the job are a fit.

"Will they do the job here?" is all about corporate-culture fit. If they have the skills and experience for the advertised role and if they have the motivation and will find interest in the tasks, will they nevertheless "fit" into your organisation? Are they comfortable with, and can they subscribe to your vision and corporate culture? The questions in this category are more instinctive and from the gut about their personal values to see if they sync with your organisational values.

Here are the sorts of questions I use in my own templates:

First, in order to see if they can do the job, I ask questions around:-

  • Explaining the type of work they have been doing
  • What kind of supervision do they get
  • Who they supervise
  • What they produce as outcomes
  • Their qualifications and other experience

Then in order to see if they will do the job, I ask questions about:-

  • What they want in their career
  • What goals they have
  • What are their interests in the job
  • What excites them about the job

Finally, in order to see if they will do the job here:-

  • What kind of employer do they seek to work for
  • What kind of people do they like to work with
  • What their personal values are
  • How they think they can contribute to your organisation

Each of the key points may be covered by 2 to 5 questions each, to make sure you get a full and rounded picture of whether they can do the job, and if they want to do the job, and whether they will fit in with the business.

The series of questions for each key point may start with an open question (“Tell me about…”) then follow-up questions might dig deeper or clarify their responses. The use of scenarios can be useful where you ask them to tell you about a time when something happened and how they dealt with it, or where you put forward a scenario and ask them how they would deal with it.

Using these two principles for recruitment may be unconventional but they provide a far greater chance that you will choose the right people who will work with you, be loyal, and can grow with you. The conventional approach is to take the duties and responsibilities and check if the candidate is qualified to do them. This, however, does not tell you if they are motivated to do those tasks, nor if they will fit in with the way you want to do things in your business.

The key however is to be prepared before you even advertise. Do not leave this thinking to the last minute.

Prepare your organisation chart and position descriptions during your strategic planning and review it at least every 5 years. Make it part of your HR team's protocols to refer to it.

Prepare template interview questions before you even advertise. Make it the standard interview sheet for all positions.

Prepare standard checklist procedures for recruitment - checking with the above protocols, a template advertising format, consideration of terms and conditions including salary, the preparation of a template information pack about the region and town, the organisation, the position and position description and the terms, and then advertise.

You are managing an important organisation. Your staff are an important component of your success. There is no need to be sloppy in your recruitment processes.

If you want to know more about our recruitment policies and protocols or about our templates and checklists, contact us on 08 9242 2085 or email and we can set up an obligation free discussion about your needs.

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OTS Management