Human Resources

How to revamp your recruitment process and attract top talent

From publishing a job posting to interviewing candidates, we break down the steps for finding and hiring quality candidates

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If you’ve ever posted a job, you’ve probably experienced one of the following during the recruitment process: (1) an inbox full of résumés and a long, tedious week of sorting through them or (2) a slow trickle of résumés, arriving one at a time because all the best talent is being attracted elsewhere.

This feast-or-famine scenario is frustrating and far too common. Here are a few steps your company can take to refine its recruitment process and ultimately hire a team of talented and dedicated people.

1. Remove implicit bias from your job postings

Implicit biases—the unconscious assumptions and beliefs we make about people—can hinder our ability to create a diverse, inclusive team. And in some cases, they can affect your recruitment process before you begin searching for candidates.

In an article for Forbes, Carmen Nobel of Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge group describes how seemingly innocuous words used in job postings can be loaded with gendered connotations, whether it’s tech companies using the word “ninja” to describe a role or an elementary school emphasizing its “supportive” and “collaborative” work environment.

“It’s unlikely that the world will stop associating certain words with certain genders anytime soon,” she writes. “Fortunately for employers looking to narrow the applicant-pool gender gap, there is a simple way to take the gender bias out of job listings: Simply rewrite them.”

All that this entails is deleting excessive descriptors. Words like “competitive,” for example, tend to attract men and deter women, without providing any helpful details about the position. Just omit it, along with other nouns, verbs and adjectives that don’t provide true meaning or value.

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2. Focus on future potential, not past achievements

According to businesswoman and bestselling author Nilofer Merchant, interview questions should focus on what your candidates can do, not what they have done. “Candidates are too often screened out because they don’t fit a particular pattern,” she writes. “How can you build something new, if you aren’t okay with not already knowing the answer?”

If you want to bring in talent who will cover your company’s blind spots, you need to be open-minded and forward-looking during an interview. There are three types of questions Merchant believes can help:

  • What is the person capable of? “Instead of asking, ‘Have you done x or y or z?’ you want to ask, ‘How would you approach doing x or y or z?’,” says Merchant. “This shift in question lets you learn someone’s capacity to think with you.”
  • How well can the person cooperate with others? You shouldn’t just ask candidates how they identified and addressed team issues in the past. Find out how they felt about the process so that you can determine if you’re dealing with people who are team players attuned to interpersonal dynamics or not.
  • What is the person passionate about? When talking to candidates about their previous work, ask specifically about what made those projects meaningful to them. You may want to hire people who are motivated by purpose, not just success.

3. Turn your recruitment process into a trial run

If the role you’re hiring for requires a very specific skill set, why not see how your prospects perform on the job?

That’s the approach taken by Matt Mullenweg, creator of the open-source software WordPress and founder of the company Automattic. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, he suggests that candidates who are being seriously considered for a position get a chance to work for the company before an offer is made.

“Before we hire anyone, they go through a trial process first, on contract,” he says. “They can do the work at night or over the weekend, so they don’t have to leave their current job in the meantime. We pay a standard rate of $25 per hour, regardless of whether you’re applying to be an engineer or the chief financial officer.”

Sometimes testing can also be incorporated into the application process. This allows you to present a problem to a candidate, knowing that an astute person won’t be able to resist trying to solve it.

“With this approach, you can find talented people without having to vet them for less meaningful qualifications such as what school they attended,” writes Hamlet Batista, the founder and CEO of SEO software company RankSense, in Quartz at Work. The best candidates are then brought in-house for a paid daylong trial project, and the top performer is offered the job.

4. Onboard new employees before their start date

You don’t have to wait for your new hires to arrive at the office to start onboarding. Just look at Culture Amp, a software company that specializes in employee engagement. Every candidate who’s brought in for an interview is asked to evaluate his or her experience in a survey—information the company can then use to refine its recruitment process and to create a welcoming environment on a candidate’s first day.

Golbie Kamarei, the company’s Chief People Officer, says new hires are also encouraged to attend Culture Amp events as soon as they receive their offer. “They get to come, even before they may have started officially, and meet employees who are at the event—but more than that, meet our customers and meet our community members,” she explains.

As you look for top talent, remember these four steps for honing your recruitment process. A more interesting, engaged approach could yield more interesting, engaged candidates—talent that your conventional recruitment efforts may have missed.

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