Secrets of a Brighter Workplace


Tips on how to understand, recruit and keep the best people for your business


Making the right hiring decision isn’t as hard as you think – a case study

Taking it easy

I sometimes wonder if I’m guilty of making recruitment seem hard to get right.

Does talk of the need for rigour, objectivity, a scientific approach, bamboozle you? Make the very idea too big, too complicated to bother with?

If so, then I’m sorry. Because it’s not the picture I want to paint. Because actually getting it right doesn’t always have to be hard. Just a few tweaks to your process could be all that’s required to make your next hiring decision the best you’ve ever made.

But don’t take my word for it. Let me show you, with this case study from local charity Stockport CP Society, who I’ve been working with recently. Their experience shows just how easy it is to give yourself the best chance of making the right hiring decision for your organisation.

Let me set the scene. Fundraising Manager Sam needed to hire a part-time interim events planner (to cover maternity leave) and a full-time fundraiser. When I met her, she’d just advertised the roles and was waiting for CVs to arrive.

Looking in the right places

Sam wasn’t feeling confident about filling the events planner vacancy. She felt that no one would be interested in a part-time interim role. I disagreed. We just needed to consider who this role might appeal to – and then go looking for those people.

For me, this was just the sort of role that would appeal to new mums looking to return to work. It was a great opportunity to build skills and confidence without having to commit to a long-term position or full-time hours. And where do new mums hang out? Facebook, of course! We targeted a couple of local mum Facebook groups – and this helped get a bigger response in applications.

Easy learning point #1: Don’t assume you won’t find the right candidates but do make sure you’re advertising the role in the right places. Think about who might be interested in it – and don’t be afraid to think beyond the obvious. Then find a way to get your job advert in front of them.

Looking for the right person

The charity had a bank of interview questions already prepared, from which recruiting managers could select the most appropriate. But these two roles were very different – I wasn’t sure the same set of generic questions would really give Sam the insight she needed to choose the best candidate for each role.

There was also no scoring guide. Immediately it was clear there were some quick wins that would make the recruitment process more effective.

So, first off, I interrogated Sam about the roles in detail. What specific behaviours, motivation, personality were required for each? What characteristics would the right person have in order to be successful?

What I discovered was that while there was some overlap across the two roles – like the need to be organised and a good communicator, there were key differences too. For instance, the fundraiser needed to be an expert at relationship-building, while the events planner needed to be a fantastic project manager.

Easy learning point #2: The detail of each role is important. Look hard at the role you’re recruiting to. What will help someone succeed in that role in terms of their personality traits, as well as their experience? Be specific.

Asking the right questions

With that understanding, I created a series of competency-based questions and probes for each role, questions that honed in on the specific and key aspects of the role. With a bespoke set of questions, Sam was able to get a much better and more detailed understanding of each candidate’s capabilities in relation to the role they’d applied for.

Choosing the right candidate

I also designed a scoring guide in the form of a simple tick box describing the qualities needed against each question. This gave Sam a structure against which she could evaluate her candidates. Rather than judging them against each other she was able to score them against what ideal looked like in the role – making things much more scientific and making a decision much easier.

Easy learning point #3: Putting a structure in place – both in terms of the questions you’ll ask and how you’ll score candidates’ answers is not onerous or expensive – but it does mean you can have more confidence in your final decision.

What getting it right means

Sam said: “It went really well on Tuesday – we have appointed subject to references etc. and the candidate has accepted! I think your questions made all the difference, we managed to really get under the skin of people’s skills and experience. I think the detail in the questions helped people take us seriously too – being too vague gives the impression you don’t know what you’re looking for, which I’m sure puts candidates off.”

Easy learning point #4: It doesn’t have to be ground-breaking to make a big difference. Sam’s really excited to work with both her successful candidates – rather than being nervous about whether she chose well, she’s feeling confident and comfortable with who’s joining her team.

It just goes to show that introducing a more rigorous, scientific approach is not hard to do but can really help provide a level of certainty as to whether you’ve made the right hiring decision.

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