All too often job descriptions look like a template that has been doing the rounds for at least a decade. It’s a convenient and quick option that can be tempting. Let’s say you need a Finance Manager; it’s easy just to do what you did the time before only most of the time you’re hoping for a different outcome. Both the company and the industry itself changes over time and the requirements for what makes a good candidate for a role changes with it. Cutting corners is like having a quick buck mentality, neither of them works in the long run. If anyone’s reading this thinking ‘it worked for me’… You could have done better!
In our last blog, we spoke about the importance of an empathic approach to candidate selection. The reality is, the need for empathy starts even earlier on when a Hiring Manager is trying to understand the needs of the business. Back to the prior point – that takes time so the easy option is taking the premade job description and advertising it. What happens when you change the approach and really took some time to understand the business, the culture and the team before writing it? Would this streamline the level of interest to the right applicants?
The unfortunate reality is there will always be situations where managers will feel they don’t have time to do this; they just need CVs now. The role of a good HR Manager or Recruiter is to show them that the value of understanding these, results in a more successful recruit long-term.
When creating a job description, it’s useful to have a pro forma in your mind of all of the key areas you want to discuss. Whether that’s with a recruiter, direct report or team member. These might include skills, educational background, personality traits, team fit and so on. In our experience, it has been practical to include directly affected team members to get a gut feel for personalities in the group. It is imperative to minimise the number of ‘must have’ expectations as this can rule out candidates who in reality could work out really well. I see this a lot, especially when the role is outsourced. There will always be some non-negotiables though either way, such as in the case of the Finance Manager where it might be an accountancy qualification.
For recruiters, the more vibrant the picture we can create in our mind, the easier it will be to know when we have found the right person for the business. This should lead to a condensed shortlist with less risk of Hiring Managers conducting interviews that are a waste of time for everyone. In our preferred methods, the recruiter’s role is as it should be – consultative and value adding – as opposed to pushing job specs and CVs from A to B.
This is an empathic approach to recruitment and applies to writing a job description, which is synonymous with having a strategic partnership with both clients and candidates. It takes more energy hiring in this way, but the outcome for both the candidate, client and recruiter is always worth it.
If we see someone struggling to cross a road, for example, most of us are falling over ourselves to help. However many of us lack this sense of empathy in our working lives, and I would argue this is particularly true in recruitment. Which got me thinking about how we got here, why it is so damaging for the industry, and how we can start to change it.
How we got into this mindset is quite easy to answer in my view. Imagine stepping back to a time before the internet, before the telephone, and even before the post. Individuals who were seeking work would approach the employer personally. I expect they would take some time to have a conversation that was worlds away from a list of bullet points on a piece of paper. I am guessing of course – but I imagine there are a higher richness and insight to that exchange. Even if the candidate was not the right person for the job, they probably had an opportunity to discuss their abilities, and where they would need training. It would have been a completely humanised experience – where dismissing somebody’s interest based on one small flaw would be unlikely.
We are now at a point where recruiters can be sifting through hundreds of online job applications in a week. That has quite understandably led to a level of fatigue with the process – candidates who have no relevant experience applying for roles. We are left with a Tinder-style situation where unless a candidate fits the spec explicitly, they are quickly and quite mindlessly ‘swiped to the left’. Surely we are missing some of the best candidates, who perhaps don’t tick every box, but would thrive and excel if given the opportunity to interview.
The high volume of candidate applications paired with an increasingly burdensome workload has made many of us lose our empathy. We busily sort candidates into yes and no, black and white, the binary. Anybody that falls into the grey is more often than not swept up in the NO pile. Why? Because it would involve some consideration and time to pick up the phone and discuss suitability with the candidate – to work out if the grey is an opportunity. When we dismiss those candidates in the middle, we are not only doing them a disservice, but we are also letting down our clients. Because of course, we all know how important employee diversity is for well-functioning teams, and organisational innovation.
You might be wondering where the time is going to come from to be ‘empathetic’ – because it will take more physical and emotional effort. It will come from the places where you can spare it when you realise the benefits of changing the way you approach your candidate search. That is of course not a straightforward answer, but I am confident it is one you will have no issue with when you experience the positive impact of Empathic Recruitment℠.