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Lessons from a recruitment experience gone wrong

When does recruiting start?  When you put out a job advert?  When you phone your preferred recruitment agency and ask them for CVs?  Maybe it’s when you start mentally preparing yourself for an onslaught of mostly unsuitable applications.

Needless to say that I don’t think that’s when recruitment should start.  For me, it starts when you even contemplate the possibility of bringing a new person into your business, whether it’s as a new role or to replace an existing one.  That’s the point at which you should start asking questions and planning for the future.  Without the planning stage, you run a much higher risk of recruiting the wrong person or getting half way through and discovering that you didn’t need to recruit after all, resulting in wasted time, effort and most importantly, money.

A friend of mine recently shared her recruitment experience as a candidate which demonstrates perfectly what happens when an organisation starts recruiting without any apparent planning.  The lady in question went for an interview for the post and clearly blew them away as a job offer was swiftly issued.  She had some follow up questions and took the opportunity of emailing them to the person who’d issued the job offer.  As a result, the offer was immediately withdrawn with no real explanation.

While I accept that these things can happen and agree that it’s preferable to withdraw an offer than continue with a candidate who may turn out to be the wrong person, I can only put this down to a lack of planning on the organisation’s part.  In my opinion, there were a few major fails that could have been avoided with a bit of planning.

Fail #1 – the job description

The job description was unclear and made no mention of career progression or how they thought the role would develop.  They didn’t appear to have given any thought to the position beyond the immediate requirement.

Lesson: the top candidates will be the people who are interested in what they can become rather than what they’re going to get.  Plan for the future and get them excited about the possibilities (you can be clear that they are just possibilities without making any promises).

Fail #2 – the job advert

As it turned out, the job advert was inaccurate in some of the details given.

Lesson: Ensure you’re being as honest as possible in your job advert.  It’s the first piece of information that people will see about the job and although they will understand that from time to time, circumstances change, they also don’t want to feel like they’ve been misled in any way.  It’s not a good basis on which to start a working relationship.

Fail #3 – number of interviews

Although this particular role was supposed to be a senior position, only one interview was held.  I’m not a fan of long drawn-out processes and I do think that sometimes, one interview is enough.  However, if you decide to hold just one interview, you have to be prepared for the fact that a candidate may have follow up questions.

Lesson: give careful consideration to how many interviews you need to hold and who should hold them.  It’s not always necessary to have more than one interview but if you’re only going to have one, you need to put the effort into making sure it’s an indepth one.

Fail #4 – not answering questions

My friend was left feeling that she should not have asked the questions she did.  In my view, it was perfectly reasonable that she should ask questions in order to be clear on what was being offered to her and what she’d be expected to do in return.

Lesson: if you don’t give sufficient information at all stages, be prepared for follow up questions.  Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes and think about the kind of information you’d want to have to help you make a decision.

Fail #5 – forgetting it’s a two way street

It’s clear from this experience that the organisation felt uncomfortable with my friend’s detailed questions.  She was planning for her future career and asking for sufficient information to enable her to decide whether or not she wanted to work there.

Lesson: it’s not all about you.  You need to make some careful decisions about who you want to employ and whether or not they are the right person for your business.  Equally, the candidate has to make their decisions about working for you and whether you and your business will meet their needs.

In conclusion, I’d say that my friend had a lucky escape from a position and a company who clearly weren’t for her.  I’d also like to say that the organisation in question learnt a valuable lesson, but something tells me that they haven’t learnt a thing.

For advice and support on getting recruitment right, get in touch on 01487 815720.

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