‘She looks good on paper!’ Lucia discusses the similarities between recruitment and match making.
We’ve come so far from the master & servant days of the past to the point where a business & their staff are now viewed as a relationship. The connection between a modern thinking company and its employees is multi-faceted. Yes an employee must have the skill set required to perform the role, but today’s companies are looking for more. Call it culture, ethos, attitude, the personal aspects of the employee. For example an upbeat, friendly, chatty person may not be the best fit for a funeral parlour, whilst a serious, quiet person may fit better in a more formal environment.
How Hard Can It Be?
Whilst working for a relatively young company, not long out of the start-up phase & enjoying the challenges of scaling up, I was tasked with finding a new employee to join us. I had two choices, do it myself or use a recruitment agency. I decided to save money & do it myself. The fee would have been around £2k so I figured it would save us some much needed funds.
So first off I had to make an advert to plaster across job boards, social media, websites, etc. This is where marketing skills come in much more than any HR or recruitment training. A job should looks appealing & HR penned adverts tend to have a tone, “Wanted XYZ. You must obey these rules and must NOT…”
This is the first analogy demonstrating the similarities between recruitment and a dating site. The advert or profile needs to be sincere if the relationship is going to work out long term. The position must look attractive, so whilst being as honest & authentic as possible, it needs to highlight the good stuff, including those little things that might just make all the difference; that extra detail that tips the balance. I didn’t want my job profile to be swiped passed.
The easy bit was done. I’d put loads of effort in & even though I say so myself, my recruitment advert looked great. The proof was in the pudding; I got loads of CVs in my inbox almost within minutes. A couple of days later I settled down to read the many CVs that had arrived.
The first thing I noticed were that some came with some a covering letter, some didn’t. Of the former group, some merely introduced themselves, some had a reasonable preamble whereas some were longer than the CV itself. My view is that a CV should be sent with covering letter, but that in itself should be kept reasonably short & sweet.
Many many hours later I was starting to cringe at cliches. ‘I work well on my own and also as part of a team’ is an odd phrase which doesn’t really say anything about that person. A few days later I’d eventually managed to whittle the pack down to around a dozen people who had potential qualities that we were looking to recruit.
Now comes the chat-up phase. I picked up the phone & started to call them all. Body language is hugely important in all human communication but a partial interview or at least initial perception of someone can be gained over the phone.
My company was a vibrant, young & enthusiastic place, so we were trying to recruit someone with a bit of energy. Three who looked good on paper sounded strangely uninterested & even a bit bored. This was somewhat of a revelation to me as I became aware of those people who needed to apply to jobs just to be able to claim benefits.
They were out, plus two more raised red flags within my gut, a feeling that I would come to trust more & more during recruitment. The remainder seemed potential so I invited them in for an initial interview. This in itself took a lot of organisation, trying to fit around people’s current job roles and time scales, but after a fair bit of juggling I had them booked in. Time for the first dates.
The Interview Process
The first interviews I did on my own. I consider myself a good judge of character & I like finding out about people, not just a recap of what they’ve written on their CV but what they’re like as a person. Interviewing is a skill on its own. Adapting to people to extract the best out of them, find our what’s behind the guard, being patient enough to get your answer.
Fast forward a week or so & I’d narrowed the selection to four people. The rest were OK but that personal interaction paints a much bigger picture than the CV. I’ve interviewed people with uninspiring CVs who have turned out to be awesome, but likewise some beautifully crafted & well written CVs have had disappointing people behind them.
For the second interview I arranged to have a colleague with me. This is a great technique for any interview process as the second person can observe the candidates’ body language, think of alternative questions, drill down answers, and generally provide support. We were unanimous in our decision, only problem being we liked two people & couldn’t decide between them. Cue third interview. We weren’t planning on a third but this is an important decision; you wouldn’t marry someone after the second date after all.
Onboarding New Employees
The final interview allowed us to our person. He was offered the job & started a little over a month later, allowing for his notice period. We were careful to make his onboarding experience the best we possibly could.
Some firms spend the first few days telling their new employee everything they need to know. Imagine learning to drive and the instructor going through every control on the car! It wouldn’t work; instead they let you do the steering whilst they do the pedals (in a dual control car) and build up information as the pupil’s knowledge increases. Similarly we would feed information & training as he was ready to take in onboard. (Pleased to say he went on to enjoy a successful & progressive career with us thereafter).
Looking back on the process, there were several skills required. Marketing & Sales for the initial advert & placement. Reading & deciphering CVs, picking out golden threads of interest, deciding what skills or attributes were (or were not) desirable. Three different types of interview, on the phone, in person and with a colleague. The caring & responsible employer, human resources skill set for the legal, health & safety and onboarding processes.
The process took about a week to design, write & post the jobs, another week sifting through CVs, couple of weeks for interview 1, couple of weeks for interviews 2 & 3. Another month whilst the successful candidates’ worked their notice.
Looking at the hours & days I’d spent made me seriously wonder whether it was worth it. Some aspects I enjoyed but you can’t be an expert in the several different skills that take a job vacancy to a hired & happy employee. I’d saved the company money not using a recruiter, but at what cost? The time difference was neither here nor there but with one big difference; had our new employee not worked out (and this is not uncommon) the recruitment agency would have refunded our fee (within a timescale) If he’d left a month later, and assuming number two choice had found a position, then we’d be pretty much back to the drawing board and another two / three month cycle.
In subsequent years I moved to using recruitment agencies with mixed results. There are some double glazing type sales people out there just interested in how much they can make without much of a care for a good or long-lasting match. There are a few good ones out there who are prepared to take the time to understand business owners, their company and the oh so important culture.
I joined Lacuna because they fell into the rarer latter category. Honesty & integrity appealed to me personally & the authentic interview process, whilst not the most profitable I’ve encountered, certainly yields the best or at least long lasting relationships, meaning a much better collaborative partnership with our clients. This in turn builds trust and thus repeat match-making business.