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A selection from some of our News articles on Recruitment

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  • Selection and Screening - better applicants? Enter description here.

    Selection and Screening - better applicants?

    April 2017

    We thought it was worth revisiting selection and screening again. It is somewhat of a perennial topic within recruitment and HR - but an important one nonetheless. You can find lots of, well intentioned, advice on the web for how to go about screening candidates once they apply. However, its difficult to present any single "method" that will work in all cases.

    So, with this in mind, in this post on Selection and Screening, much of our advice is based on: what not to do. It can actually be easier to, in more general terms, look at what does not work, rather than particular items that will.
    Choosing specific tools and techniques for screening and selection depends very much on context. So for this post, we are choosing to keep it high level and thus hopefully appropriate for the majority of recruitment and staffing situations. Also, most discussions round selection and screening focus on screening the people you don't want out. We think however, it is instructive to look at it the other way. Instead of focussing on screening out, we will focus on attracting and managing the better applicants through your recruitment process.

    So with this in mind here is our list of things that we recommend that you address - if you want to attract the "better" candidates:
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    Needs Analysis

    Yes, we have said this before and it's still true: "If you don't know what you are looking for you you are most unlikely to find it". Put simply, "Needs Analysis" is an articulation of 'what' characteristics you need from your prospective candidates. It's as basic as what might a "better" candidate look like or what does the bare minimum look like.
    When working with employers and managers over their hiring requirements we would also add: 'why'. Asking 'why' a particular; attribute, qualification or skills should be a requirement - can in our experience be most revealing. It's amazing how often when a requirement gets some more consideration round 'why it's a requirement' that the real requirement can then surface and be something just that bit different. Try it and see...

    The Advert

    Lets face it; many recruitment adverts are grey and boring. In between the silky positive sounding language (take note recruitment agencies) they mostly list 'what' a candidate should bring to the job. Not many seem to place equal focus on 'why' a talented and experienced person should show an interest in this position and make their application. And, talking about lists of what a candidate should bring to the job; how many essential requirements do you really need to add? Have a look at your adverts, how many requirements do you list? Here is a thought. If your Needs Analysis (see above) says you really have to have something, then by all means list it. However, consider this; if you get your Advert right and it engages with the talented people you are looking for - is it not likely that they will have these requirements anyway? Perhaps you don't have to list everything. Try focussing on the 'why" rather than just the 'what'.
    While we are on Adverts: perhaps you need to use different advert copy for different channels? E.g. a referral advert on a social media platform does not need the same factual content as one on your careers website. It the same with jobboards. Remember also on the jobboard, your advert will be sitting beside those of your competitors. Do you really need that long list of requirements?

    The Application Process

    The best candidates i.e. the ones working in similar jobs, organisations and with marketable skills will look negatively on any system that makes it hard for them to apply. It is however true that applicants who are desperate for a job will put up with a lot. They are the ones who will put up with a long winded application process with many questions and boxes to fill in. We suggest however, you keep your 'eyes on the prize' and have your application process (and systems) focus on those who have got choices and need wooing - not those just desperate for a job.

    This means make sure your recruitment systems can capture an application easily and without a candidate having to spend 30 minutes (or more) wading though all your questions. Don't make your system a test of perseverance - all that will do is mean you will lose out on those candidates who have choices - i.e. they will choose to go elsewhere.
    If you are not convinced, think of your recruitment system a bit like an online store. If its confusing or takes too long, people will simply drop out and not purchase.

    Automating CV Search

    Just don't do it. Yes, you can still buy software that will keyword search applicant CVs. However, it's a false economy and employers who have used it, in our experience, find it just does not deliver better outcomes. Here's one issue; it is very likely that the requirements you have determined from your Needs Analysis will be able to be expressed in several different ways. You will thus likely find it very difficult to produce a single search algorithm that covers all your requirements. Another issue: anyone can stuff keywords within a CV. Without having the context, keywords are close to meaningless. It's also good practice to look at what sorts of people are responding to your adverts. If they are the wrong people then you should know this and consider that you might not be appealing to those whom you are really after. If you don't look at the CVs you will never know.
    So, use your Recruitment System to do some basic scoring against your base requirements. However, everyone passing these should, in our view, have their CV looked at - and by a human. This way you will not miss those golden nuggets of great candidates, the ones with that little bit extra.


    We are advocates of testing. However, we suggest; don't do it all upfront. Also not all tests are useful - at least within a recruitment context. Only test where it will actually be useful and can separate out good candidates. For example, there is little unbiased solid evidence that psychometric tests are useful in recruitment terms. They are not great predictors of performance. So, if you are still a believer in in the predictive power of psychometric tests just consider when best to use them.

    So suggest, applying for a job is a little like starting a relationship. You need to get to know each other a bit before getting serious. You can really switch a candidate off by trying to force them into testing too early (plus it tends to cost more money as you will likely be testing a larger cohort by doing it earlier in your process) . Those candidates with options can just switch off and withdraw their applications. From we have seen, where this is the case it seems to often happen with the "better' candidates - the ones your managers want to interview - particularly those with experience and already in good jobs.

    By way of an example. If the top salesperson at your main competitor expressed an interest (tentative or otherwise) in one of your sales vacancies. Would you; (a) tell him/her to get in line, force him/her answer a raft of questions on your recruitment system after they have got their CV updated, then wait a couple of weeks to then complete some tests and then if he/she is lucky (and have not taken another position) they might get an interview? Or, (b) get them straight in for an interview? If your system and process cannot handle going straight to (b) where its warranted, we suggest you get a new system, devise a new process or get a new recruitment team. After-all you can pick up the other process bits later on.


    In our view, your line managers have to be engaged and involved when it comes to interviews. Whilst your HR or recruitment team will very likley be more skilled in interview techniques (and their limitations) and will follow the process. They don't know what the job is really like. Candidates will have their own questions. Those hard to find candidates with those demonstrable skills and experience that you are after. They will have questions they expect to ask. The interview is a key event for them and their opinion of your organisation will be strongly influenced by the experience and what they hear and see.

    So, don't delegate initial interviews all to junior staff. Make sure a manager from the business area that they will be working in is at the interview and can answer questions. If you can - do some interview and selection training with your managers. When you think of the costs of the process and of the costs of not doing it well, it should be no-brainer business case to give them some training. Buddy them up with the Recruitment team or HR if you can. We think you will find, both sides will learn a lot.
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    Time to Hire

    The old adage; 'Hire in haste, repent at leisure" is well known in HR and management circles. However we suggest it can also be overdone. You should always keep a close focus on how long the process is taking. Firstly, your organisation needs it's positions filled. Additionally, taking a long time may then see those candidates whom you are interested in, simply drift away. After-all it's very likely that; if they are considering moving to your organisation that they will also be open to other opportunities as well. The longer the process goes on, the more likelihood also that their current employer may get wind that they are looking around. If their current employer then gives them a rise, or a promotion or makes some other accommodation to keep them - you will lose out.

    Candidates withdrawing after attending interviews, or not taking an offer, is by no means unusual. Called 'latter-stage attrition' it can also really frustrate your managers. After-all, when you get near to Offer stage managers have spent a considerable amount of time and attention on the process. If their chosen candidate is now not available they will likely feel they are hiring second best. We have seen managers in this situation lash out in frustration and blame it all on HR. If the candidate is not right - don't hire them. We are not suggesting you do. But likewise don't keep your candidates waiting longer than is necessary.


    The good candidates, those with options and who may already be in good jobs will want to know where they stand on this very early on. In our view, having job adverts that say "competitive remuneration" is sub-optimal at best. You may get away with it where you are attracting candidates that are just desperate for a job. But, will this really engage and attract the good candidates? We do note however this can also be a cultural thing. In Australia and New Zealand for instance, job adverts generally do not state the remuneration. However even there, candidates will clearly not move from one job to another unless their salary package and benefits are right.

    So be prepared to have this conversation early on. Ideally make it explicit if you can. It will also make you face up to, and research, what the job market's view of a competitive package really is.


    We hope this take on screening and selection proves useful. We have tried to cover the main areas of the recruitment process, and in a manner that can be applied by almost any recruitment or HR operation whatever your business. As a closing final summary point; consider keeping your focus on attracting, screening and selecting the "better" candidates rather than managing for the lowest common denominator. It's the quality of that one candidate that you hire that should be your focus - not the hundred you reject.
  • The Dark Triad: Narcissim, Psychopathy, Machivellianism Enter description here.

    The Dark Triad: Narcissim, Psychopathy, Machivellianism

    June 2016

    A post about 3 of the more problematic traits you probably don't want in your candidates. Together they are being referred to as the "Dark Triad". With conventional psychometric tests and interviews fairly ineffectual at uncovering them coupled with the havoc such employees can wreak within an organisation it's an important topics for recruiters.
    We have explored Narcissism in previous posts and materials. This time we are including two others in what is being referring to - in the popular press at least - as the Dark Triad. It's a subject that has had some discussion recently within the UK with both the Daily Mail and BBC carrying articles. You may even have been sent the online quiz that provides a fun assessment of where you sit between the 3 traits (see graphic below and end of post for the link).
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    All three of these personality traits within the "Dark Triad" are directly relevant to the workplace and to your recruitment activity. Consider workplace bullying for instance - a topic that gets a fair bit of attention within HR right now. Is it not better to avoid hiring the bully rather than having to deal with the aftermath within the workplace? However how do you screen them out. If you use psychometric tools or assessments are they highlighting these traits? From our own experience few if any do. So before we look at what you can do. Lets first look at each of the three traits individually:


    Narcissism can be broadly defined as the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one's own attributes. Narcissism is usually considered a problem in a person's or group's relationships with self and others. Note, it is not the same as egocentrism. Sandy Hotchkiss identified what she called the seven deadly sins of narcissism as: shamelessness, magical thinking, arrogance, envy, entitlement, exploitation and bad boundaries. From a recruitment point of view these are the people who exaggerate their accomplishments and experience and may tend to outright lies to make them sound better than they are.


    Machivellianism is the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct. The word comes from the Italian Renaissance diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli. He wrote a famous book called "The Prince" which can be summarised as a handbook of manipulation and how to get what you want. From a screening point of view, those with this trait are shown to be associated with low emotional intelligence in assessment tests. It is also related to cold selfishness and pure instrumentality with those affected giving priority to; power, money and competition often at almost any cost. Within the workplace it has been shown to be aligned with: obtaining or maintaining power, harsh management regimes and manipulative behaviours.


    Psychopathy needs more careful interpretation. It is popularly associated with mass murderers who exhibit no feelings towards their victims. It is perhaps however better defined as a personality trait characterised by enduring antisocial behaviour, diminished empathy and remorse, and disinhibited and often bold behaviour - though other definitions are also used. It can certainly be a full on personality disorder. However it can be more usefully regarded as a continuous aspect of personality, exhibited in different personality dimensions within a population in varying combinations. At their core, these people lack empathy and are anti-social, however within a usual workplace setting they will make great efforts of disguise this
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    The Dark Triad refers to when the 3 are all together, within a single individual. Indeed it is hopefully apparent, that whilst they are independent conditions they are likely to exist together to a greater or lesser degree where any single one of these traits has been identified within an individual.

    However - is it all bad?

    No. Not all people who identify or are assessed with these tendencies are criminals or worse. We should acknowledge that many hold senior positions within organisations. Indeed these traits have very likely helped them secure their current positions. After-all, having some ruthlessness, the ability to manipulate people and implement hard decisions is often part of working at senior management.
    However like most things, what may be good in small doses can become bad when the doses get larger. Organisations generally rely on people working together for a common aim - not just for the gratification or benefit of individuals. Having trust between team members generally helps in getting things done. Teams tend not to function very well when an individual has their own agenda and starts manipulating others. Finding out after the event that people don't have the capability or experience that they claim can cause signifiant problems, etc. So, if you had the chance to identify and weed out such individuals within your recruitment process would you not want to?

    Identifying the Dark Triad traits at the recruitment stage

    First do understand - people with these traits will sound very convincing. They will in particular tend to "interview well". That is, they will bend over backwards to appeal to the interviewer and "get on side". They will likely exude presence, charm and confidence. Not everyone who interviews well will have these traits but you should be aware that within a face-to-face situation most who do have these Dark Triad traits will likely be able to hide the more obvious markers. They will not for instance, readily radiate as a psychopath to most recruiting managers - even if they score high on that spectrum.

    Studies by the University of British Columbia have shown that those with Dark Triad traits very much rely on face-to-face interactions, both to weave their dark arts and also to disguise their more malevolent skills. However if interviews are not a good means of identifying them, it seems other means do offer more promise. In a statement from the study, they said "The results of this study are pretty clear – once you remove non-verbal cues such as body language from the equation, the ability to smoke out narcissists and psychopaths becomes easier”.
    It seems if you want to assess them, you should do so through online or non face-to-face interactions. Removing the face-to-face interaction seems to be the key. The study showed that those who ranked highly on the Dark Triad spectrum did the best in face-to-face negotiations, particularly those who were Psychopathic and Machiavellian. The study suggested several reasons for this. Firstly, not being able to take advantage of their opponent’s weaknesses via a visual medium proved a huge problem for those higher on the Dark Triad spectrum. Secondly, it appears that their negotiating language is considered to be quite hostile without any manipulating visual (i.e face-to-face) component alongside it. Lastly, those who don’t belong on the Dark Triad spectrum will feel more comfortable negotiating/presenting themselves online or in tests rather than face-to-face.

    For us, it seems clear that this is another example of where the "standard face-to-face interview" won't reliably pick the best or most appropriate candidates. This is perhaps especially true where interviewing managers have not had training or much interviewing and assessment experience. We are big proponents of both testing and telephone screening within the recruitment process and these tools/techniques may provide a counter to just relying on an interviewer with these candidates.
    The BBC quiz is at the following link:

    A sample of the results is enclosed by way of a graphic - before anyone asks - no one here is owning up to whose result is being featured in the graphic.
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  • The Business case for Outsourcing your recruitment Enter description here.

    The Business case for Outsourcing your recruitment


    This post we have a go at looking at reasons to outsource recruitment. Called RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing). Its close to being the norm in some markets, whereas its seen little take up in others. This is our perspective on the business case drivers behind RPO.
    Ok we had better off start by saying we do have a very vested interest in this. The vast majority of systems we deliver are supplied through RPO partners to employers. We also however have direct clients, so we get to see a bit of both worlds. This post is about comparing recruiting through an RPO versus doing it internally with your own in-house recruiters. So the audience for this post is really for employers not our RPO partners.

    We are going to keep it fairly generic and keep to what we think is reasonably typical for employers (if there is such a thing). There are of course lots of exceptions, some RPO providers excel in some markets and aspects of provision and others do so in others. Likewise the quality of in-house recruiters also varies enormously; some are really on the ball, well resourced and well supported. There are also some who just seem to muddle through (not our clients of course...). We are certainly not trying to offend anyone and hope you find this discussion more food for thought than presenting things in a black/white manner.

    So to RPO or not to RPO? That is the question...

    I first got involved in selling outsourced services in the 1990’s and I have noticed one thing in particular. It's certainly not what the ‘books’ say and it may seem very contrary. However I think it is very important to this discussion, and its this:

    It's not all about the hard business case...

    Yes, you do need a hard quantified business case to sell outsourcing, to get it approved as well as measure against once you have it up and running. I am not suggesting you don’t. However in my experience, you can skew a business case all over the place - especially if you are the client. What you include, what you exclude, your assumptions, ROI hurdles, hard versus soft revenue and costs - they all make a big difference when you are working the spreadsheet. In particular I have found and observed that at the most senior business levels within a client, what you might call the ‘soft business case’ comes more into play. What I mean here is some of the more subtle assumptions, preconceptions, views etc that come to the fore. I have found them at this senior level very powerful motivational triggers.
    Its not that they replace the business case, its more that they shape it. This is particularly true for a service like RPO where we are dealing with people and lots of intangibles. As an example, we intuitively know that if we recruit higher calibre people, we are likely to have better outcomes and performance from our staff and hence in the business a whole. However it's a difficult thing to prove. This where the assumptions, preconceptions and views of Management come in. A “view” that the perhaps whole recruitment process is (a) taking too long , (b) that for some reason we are not getting the candidate quality we should, (c) HR is not doing enough of the work. Sometimes this “view” and the blame attached is very unfair however I certainly have seen it form the paradigm by which the business case will be viewed - fair or not.

    Here is another way of putting it. Employers with good quality, motivated internal recruiters and who are well resourced and keep up with trends and technology - don’t tend to have senior management looking to outsource recruitment. There I have said it. It's the elephant in the room. A really well run, resourced in-house recruiting function is almost always well perceived by senior management and considered well worth keeping.
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    However - and here is the problem - it is very difficult for an in-house team to keep this edge. Recruitment is an evolving function/business and to be effective you do need to adapt and take on new tools, techniques and practises to stay sharp. This is not easy and I would contend that more in-house teams than not, have a tendency to stagnate and stick with the current way of doing things unless they get a periodic shot in the arm. In this, the RPO provider has the edge. By virtue of their greater scale of operation and focus on just this one area, they are much more likely to have established models and practices which deliver the goods, and to keep trying to improve on them. Its self interest - the RPO will need a business case to get an approval from the client. To do this it will need to evidence and to prove it can deliver the goods and show a history of performance. An in-house team is very unlikely to have this level of comparative scrutiny that has shaped - what should be - finely honed business practices and models.

    Q. So should you RPO all your recruitment? A. Not necessarily

    It's not quite that simple. There are a few other aspects that come into play. It's not all plain sailing and that RPO will always be the answer

    If you are a big employer you may find that you have the scale in ‘hard’ business case terms to rival a RPO in terms of the strict cost economics of operation. At the end of the day you there are 3 things that underpin a recruiting service: People, Process and Technology. If you have: good HR and recruiting leadership; you have invested well in good systems; keep evolving your techniques and practices and you have size, you can certainly run an operation to compete with an RPO - on cost. However at the end of the day it is very rarely just about cost alone.

    This is a key advantage most RPO operations can draw on; the ability to scale recruitment up and or down by flexing resources i.e recruiters. Effective in-house recruitment teams will really struggle to be led or managed well when they themselves are subject to redundancies when flexing down or suddenly absorbing new recruiters when flexing up. This is why we see some in-house teams for instance supplement their own recruitment activities with an RPO provider who handles those roles that are in the peaks and troughs. An example of the blended model - outlined below.
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    Nature of roles, culture
    Most people within the RPO industry I know would subscribe to this one. Namely, that RPO’s tend to perform better with high volume, sometimes called high churn roles where they can run their proven techniques, processes and resources against and provide the most value for the service. Whereas, Internal recruiting teams tend to operate better with the more senior level / complex roles; roles where mapping to internal culture is more vital to shaping the selection, or roles where a particularly close working relationship is required with senior management. An example is Director level positions. These are also the sorts of positions where Agencies can and do play a powerful facilitating role. Its not the same as an RPO but is an example of outsourcing just a part of the recruitment activity and tasks.

    Blended Models

    We are going to look at mixed or “blended” models to finish this post off. You don’t have to think of outsourcing recruitment as an either or, an all-in or all-out. Also as an in-house recruiting team you don’t have to see the RPO as being the thin end of the wedge or the enemy. Some of the most effective recruitment operations I have seen are where an in-house HR/recruitment function is supported by outsourced RPO provision.
    This is the ‘blended’ approach and by this we don’t mean its a compromise or third way or in any way an inferior solution etc. It where a smart organisation uses the RPO for where its best, for managing the volume and churn roles and perhaps providing supporting services and tech for an in-house team who handle the more delicate/complex roles. HR and in-house recruitment functions don’t need to fear the RPO, its just horses for courses and we think will be an increasing feature of well run recruitment operations.

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