The Recruitment Process: A Guide to Hiring Top Talent

Recruitment is the process of identifying and attracting job seekers and building a pool of qualified applicants. It usually involves developing a recruitment strategy, searching for candidates, screening applications, and managing and evaluating the process. Ideally, the recruitment process will attract a lot of qualified applicants who make it through the screening process and accept positions.

However, the recruitment process doesn’t always hit the mark. Companies might not attract enough qualified candidates. They may under- or over-sell the organization. Staff might not screen applicants adequately before they enter the selection process. This can result in a company settling for an employee who isn’t a good fit for the organization.

To create the ideal recruitment process, organizations should identify their needs in terms of personnel requirements and culture fit. There are many different channels for recruitment, both internal and external, that you can explore to create a pool of qualified candidates. You need to create a prescreening process to pinpoint the candidates who are most likely to succeed.

This guide will take you through the recruitment process, from why it’s important to how to improve your candidate evaluation process. You’ll learn

  • Why the recruitment process is important and the best practices that HR professionals need to know for recruiting
  • How to identify recruitment needs, including how to use existing employee performance to determine whether more hires are needed
  • The sources for candidates, both internal ones like existing employees and external sources like advertising and job fairs, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each
  • How to improve the candidate prescreening process, including the initial screening interview, and how to use technology to evaluate resumes
  • What you can do to improve the candidate evaluation process so that you find the right mix of cultural fit and skills

Ready to improve the way you find and hire employees? Let’s get started.

Why the recruitment process is important

The recruitment process could very well be the most important part of your business strategy. You need a team you can rely on to get the job done, whether you’re a small business owner hiring your first employee or the CEO of a global organization.

Finding good, loyal employees is hard. You need people who are in it for the long haul, fit in with your organizational culture, and can and will go above and beyond the bare minimum to help the company meet its goals.

The recruitment process documents how you’re going to find these hires. A good process will minimize the time you spend searching for, interviewing, screening, hiring, and training candidates. In turn, faster, more effective recruitment can improve your business performance by ensuring you find high-quality employees, reducing the costs associated with employee turnover, and positioning you to take advantage of new business opportunities.

Recruiting good cultural fits

It’s not enough that a candidate has the skills to do the job. You want to foster a strong employer-employee relationship, and to do that, you need to hire employees who fit into the teams you’re building and contribute to the workplace environment.

Corporate culture may seem like a cliché organizations use to talk up different aspects of the workplace — or hide flaws — but it’s a very real thing. It can be easier to build a team for a small company. There are fewer people and fewer personalities to clash.

But as your company grows, you need to put more thought into who you hire and identify what the culture actually is. For example, does the organization break into small groups to collaborate, or does it work better as large, cross-departmental teams? Finding people who work well in the environment is critical to their success and yours.

One way you can build a profile of your ideal candidate is to look at the qualities your top employees have. The most successful ones may be those who work on side projects and are willing to challenge the status quo, so you’ll want to find more people like that.

Recruitment tips

There are lots of ways to go about recruiting employees. Here are a few tips to help you start finding candidates who will fit in with your organization’s culture.

Ask employees for referrals

One way to find talent is to ask current employees to refer candidates. Real endorsements from real people go a long way toward helping companies attract good employees.

People aren’t willing to put their jobs on the line for someone who will be a liability instead of an asset. Conversely, if they know their former coworker would be a superstar at your organization, getting them to talk up the company and its culture may help the candidate accept your offer.

Choose quality over quantity

It’s tempting to interview as many candidates as possible in the hopes of finding the right person. However, one thing that can save you a lot of time is prescreening candidates using resume scanning technology and phone interviews so that you’re bringing in only the top talent to meet face to face. (This guide will cover prescreening in more detail in Chapter 4.)

Use collaborative hiring

Once you’ve gotten a candidate in the office for an interview, involve the team who will be working with them. This may seem cumbersome, but the people who will work directly with the new hire — and who understand the day-to-day challenges of the role — are in a great position to determine if the candidate is a good fit. Let them ask questions and tell the candidate about the role in their own words.

Best recruitment practices for HR

In larger organizations, HR professionals have to find and hire the right candidates, often with no input from departmental management until it’s time to make the offer. To get the right candidates in front of stakeholders, here are some of the best recruitment practices that can help you find top talent.

Stay on top of industry trends

No matter what industry you’re in, it’s changing. Whether it’s the job functions themselves or the demand for certain skill sets, knowing what these are will help you find qualified candidates. For example, in the IT industry, professionals need to know how to work with cloud services like Microsoft Azure and AWS and not necessarily traditional server room hardware.

Fine-tune job descriptions

When candidates read the posted job description, that’s often their first impression of the position. These descriptions need to be accurate and enticing, and if that means they’re longer than a few sentences, that’s fine. Include the job title, a summary of the duties involved, and the ideal qualifications for the position. Doing this will help candidates decide if they have the right qualifications and make it easier for them to throw their hats into the ring if they’re interested in the job duties.

Organize the candidate pool

Even for a specific job, your candidates will vary. One good practice is to separate candidates by experience, industry, and skill. For example, you could organize candidates with AWS experience into one segment and those with Microsoft Azure into another.

Track performance metrics

As you create and use your recruiting process, it’s important to know how well it’s working. Track metrics to see if you’re finding candidates effectively. Some of the more common metrics to track are

  • How long it takes to fill an open position
  • How many people respond when you contact them
  • How many candidates you interview before you hire someone

To be effective, you need a recruitment process you can refer to as you source and hire candidates. The steps you’ll go through include

  1. Identifying your recruitment needs
  2. Finding candidates
  3. Prescreening candidates
  4. Evaluating candidates

Now that you know why the recruiting process is so important, it’s time to get started creating your process. The next section will detail how to identify your recruitment needs, including how to collect information from various departments to determine what the teams need in a new hire.

Identifying your recruitment needs

Before you can start recruiting top talent, you need to understand your organization’s recruitment needs. A good recruitment strategy starts with knowing where the skill gaps are in the organization, how job descriptions have changed over time, and whether new roles will need to be created.

One of the first steps to identifying recruitment needs is updating your organization’s job descriptions. The best way to do this is to talk to team leaders and find out how their roles and their team members’ roles have changed over time. You may learn, for example, that the sales team no longer performs any marketing roles, and those duties now fall on the shoulders of the account management team.

In a small organization, there may not be formalized job descriptions, so now is a good time to create them. Set up a time to talk with staff members to find out the essential job functions they perform, what skills are required, and what the purpose of each job is. You can also set up forms to collect job description information, speeding along the process.

Conduct a skills gap analysis

As you update and formalize job descriptions, conduct a skills gap analysis. This will help you see which skills your organization’s employees already have and identify any skill sets future employees will need to have.

Start backward when you conduct a skills gap analysis. First, identify the skills you’ll need in the future, like Amazon Web Services experience or proficiency with graphic design software. Then assess the skills your employees already have.

You can get information on existing skill sets from senior management and team leaders as well as from performance reviews and employee surveys. Rate the desired skills on a scale (like a three-point or five-point scale).

When you discover skills gaps, prioritize the ones you want to address. You can fill some gaps by training existing employees. For example, someone on your marketing team may have a great eye for graphic design and just need training in InDesign or another software program to meet the organization’s needs. However, if the skills gaps are too big, you’ll want to add a new role to the organization.

Look for places to promote from within

Your organization likely has some high-performing employees who can be moved into more advanced roles. When you’re identifying recruitment needs, look at performance reviews to find the employees ripe for promotion. Some of them may need training on new skills, but if they’ve already shown initiative and the ability to perform under pressure, they’re likely great candidates for a role at the next level. This allows you to focus your hiring efforts on lower-level roles, which can be easier to find talent for.

Using forms to collect data can help you identify top-performing employees who would be successful in a more senior role.

Use performance reviews to identify needs

Employee performance reviews can be a gold mine when you’re trying to identify recruitment needs and skills gaps. How employees are performing in their existing roles is a great indicator of whether or not a team needs additional support or specialized help. These performance reviews aren’t limited to information from management; self-assessments can be very valuable for employees to provide feedback and for you to conduct a skills gap analysis.

For example, the sales team may be struggling to reach its sales goals. As you read through the employee performance reviews, you learn that most of the team is also responsible for preparing marketing materials, like customer success stories and sell sheets. This eats into the time they could spend identifying and nurturing leads and scheduling demos. As a result, most of the team noted in their self-evaluations that they feel overwhelmed.

In this scenario, you’d be able to immediately see that you need to hire someone to handle marketing, and you’d look for someone with the skills to write the materials and put them into a template so that they look professional.

Other skill gaps may not be so obvious, but you can infer needs as you review trends in performance reviews. If an entire department is struggling, you might need someone with specialized skills, or you might just need new hires. Going through employee reviews and feedback can help you determine this and figure out the skill sets you’ll be hiring for.

Updating job descriptions, discussing staffing with team leads and senior management, and collecting feedback from employees can help you identify recruitment needs. Once you’ve figured out your skills gaps and determined the type of employee required to fill the role, your next step is to find them. The next section will walk you through the many sources you can use to recruit employees.

Sources for recruitment

Once you decide to fill an open position, you need to find talented and qualified candidates. However, finding these candidates can be difficult, and you want to make sure you’re shepherding the right people through the recruitment process. If this seems like an insurmountable task, you might not be looking for candidates in the right place, or your recruitment pool may be too small.

Fortunately, you’re not limited to job boards and want ads for recruiting. There are a lot of recruitment sources you can use to look for candidates, both internally and externally. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to consider all methods to make sure you’re casting a wide enough net in your search for top talent.

Internal recruitment sources

If you’re looking to your own employees to fill open positions, that’s internal recruitment. An existing employee already knows your business and your industry, and giving your employees an opportunity to throw their hats in the ring helps foster employee loyalty.

It can also save you a lot of time since you don’t have to screen existing employees for a cultural fit or for references. It’s a lot faster and less expensive than reaching outside the company for a new hire.

Internal recruiting falls into four main categories: promotions, transfers, referrals, and demotions.

  • Promoting someone is the most common source of internal recruitment. This can mean moving someone from a junior position into a more senior role, or it can involve hiring an intern as a full-time employee.
  • An employee transfer is when you move an employee to the same job but in a different location or department. For example, an administrative assistant in the sales department could be moved to the IT department.
  • Employee referrals are an overlooked but extremely effective method of internal recruitment. They are cost-effective and help you find talent that has a better chance of being a great cultural fit.
  • Demotions are the opposite of promotions; instead of moving to a more senior role, an employee is moved to a more junior role. Employees generally see this as a punitive move.

There are lots of advantages to internal recruitment. One of the main perks is that it reduces training costs. Internal candidates already know about the company, so all you have to do is train them on any new systems or procedures they’ll need for their new role, instead of taking them through the entire onboarding process.

Internal recruiting also boosts employee morale. Employees see their peers getting promoted and know that, if they put in the work, they can move up, too. This makes them more productive and more loyal, which decreases employee turnover.

However, internal recruitment does come with some disadvantages. The big one is that you’re not getting an outsider’s perspective on the industry that can help provide new insights and innovations. Internal recruitment can also create jealousy, as employees may feel like they lost out on a well-deserved promotion to a less skilled coworker. Finally, internal recruiting also means you still have a position to fill to replace the employee you promoted or transferred.

There are a few different internal recruitment methods you can use. An internal job board, either physical or online, can help alert internal candidates to new postings. You can also create formal referral programs for employees. Consider including a referral bonus if the new hire makes it past their 90-day review period, for example. A formal career progression plan can also assist with internal recruitment.

External recruitment sources

Sometimes, you can’t fill a position internally, or you need to backfill a position after promoting or transferring someone. External recruitment is when you assess an available pool of candidates outside of your organization to see if any of them have the skills or qualifications for the open position.

Recruiting from outside the organization has several advantages, most notably a fresh perspective. For example, say you hire someone as a senior manager, and they immediately identify a process that can be streamlined, saving everyone in the department a lot of time. An external hire can also increase the overall performance of the team by bringing in more expertise or skills.

External recruitment has disadvantages, though. For starters, it might take a while for someone from outside the organization to get up to speed and adjust to the way the organization runs. They’ll need more training because they’re not just learning the specifics of their role, but also the specific systems and processes in place.

It may take more time for these employees to get started on the job because they’ll have to give notice to their current employer. And an external hire can also spark jealousy in existing employees, particularly those who thought they deserved a promotion and now must deal with an outsider as their superior (even if the new hire is better qualified for the position).

There are a lot of different external recruitment methods you can use. One is using job boards or want ads. This can include posting a job on a site like Indeed.com, on a local news outlet’s job board, or on an industry association’s job board. Open positions can also be posted on your company’s website under a heading like “Careers.”

And you can use social media to find external candidates. In addition to posting the open position on a network like LinkedIn, you can reach out to potential candidates who have the skills you’re looking for and are open to hearing about new opportunities.

Another external recruitment method is going to job fairs. These let you meet a large number of potential employees in person, without having to sift through resumes. You have to pay a fee for most job fairs, but you get to see candidates in person and get a feel for whether or not someone would be a good cultural fit. It’s a great opportunity to find entry-level employees and hire fresh college graduates.

Using a recruiter or employment agency is also a viable option for external recruitment. If you have higher-level positions to fill, a recruiter likely has a network of people open to exploring a new position or has the means to find someone who may be a good fit.

But finding people willing to apply to a position is one thing; actually making sure they’re a good fit for the company or the position is another. The next section will discuss how to improve the candidate prescreening process so that you can streamline your recruiting efforts.

Improving the candidate prescreening process

Finding people to apply to open positions is one thing, but making sure they’re the right fit for the organization is another. The prescreening process can help you learn more about a candidate before you conduct a more extensive interview and help you filter out candidates that aren’t qualified for the position or raise red flags.

A candidate’s journey through the prescreening process will vary depending on the type of employee you’re looking to hire: a generalist or a specialist. Some positions will require deep knowledge of certain areas, while others necessitate a broad range of knowledge.

Prescreening is important because a resume doesn’t tell the whole story of a candidate. With a bit of creativity, resumes can be tailored to every position and make a person sound like they’re just right for the job. But a good prescreening process can help you cut through the creative fiction and weed out candidates who don’t actually have the qualifications you require.

One way to prescreen candidates is to hold a brief phone interview to discuss their experience and the position they’re applying for. If you use JotForm, you can send them a link to a form, which will make it easier for you to schedule these prescreening interviews and keep track of them. The form collects standard data, like email addresses and phone numbers, so you don’t have to worry about not having the contact information for your next phone screener in front of you.

During this interview, ask the candidate a series of questions to determine if you want to move them along in the recruitment process. No two prescreening interviews will be the same. You’ll need to ask the questions that work best for the position you’re trying to fill. Here are some typical screening interview questions:

  • What professional tasks are you best at?
  • What are your strongest knowledge areas?
  • What are your educational qualifications?
  • What skills do you have that are best suited for this position?
  • Why did you leave your previous job (or are leaving your current job)?
  • What’s the most attractive part of this job to you?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What are your weaknesses, and do you have an example of when you overcame one?
  • What is your ideal manager like?
  • What normally frustrates you the most in your work life?
  • What makes a job fun?
  • What are your professional development goals?
  • What’s something you wish you’d done differently at a previous position?
  • How would you describe your work style?
  • What’s the minimum starting salary you’re looking for?
  • When can you start work?
  • Can you provide a sample of previous work you’ve done?

The typical prescreening interview should take less than 30 minutes.

If you want to speed the process along, you can also provide the candidate with an online interview questionnaire form prior to the phone screening. Again, this should be something that can be completed in 30 minutes or less.

The idea is to gauge whether the candidate is qualified and can progress to the next step in your recruitment process. How they answer the questions — or even react to the idea of a prescreening interview — is a good way to gauge their suitability for the position.

For example, a prescreening interview can raise all sorts of red flags in a candidate. If they don’t have questions for you, exhibit a lack of enthusiasm, or even make negative comments, you can quickly remove them from the candidate pool.

The resume screening process

Prescreening also extends to the resume review process. Sorting through resumes is a good way to find qualified candidates for a screening interview. You should make it as easy as possible for candidates to submit their resumes, and you can do that with a resume submission form.

Once you have the resumes, you can screen them by hand or use software to look for patterns. A typical job opening may receive a lot of resumes from unqualified candidates — but top talent usually gets snapped up quickly, which means that if you don’t have an efficient resume screening process in place, you could miss out on the best candidate for the job.

Recruiters have to deal with a lot of resumes and need to be able to identify qualified hires based on, in most cases, a single sheet of paper. Here are a few tips to improve the resume screening process:

Evaluate for minimum qualifications first

Skimming resumes for minimum qualifications can help you weed out unqualified candidates quickly. For example, if one of the minimum qualifications for the position is a Bachelor’s degree, you can set aside any resumes that don’t list a degree and continue to the next step of the resume screening process.

Screen for preferred qualifications

This step in the process is a little more in depth, as you’ll need to read some of the resume. One of the preferred qualifications may be previous industry experience, so you’ll review the resumes that made it through the minimum qualifications screening for experience in the industry.

Set keywords for resume screening

If you decide to use technology to help you weed through resumes, you’ll need to set keywords to flag. For example, the position you’re hiring for may require a strong knowledge of Adobe Creative Cloud. Set that as a keyword so that the software pulls those resumes out for you to review further.

When you feel like you’ve found the right candidate, don’t hesitate to move them to the next step in the recruitment process. Good hires are hard to find, even more so in a strong economy. If a resume catches your eye and hits all the right notes, schedule a screening interview to see if the candidate is as good in person as they are on paper. Otherwise, you might miss an opportunity to bring on a great fit for the team.

Once you’ve identified the candidates who could be standout employees, the next step is to thoroughly evaluate them outside the interview. The next section will discuss how to improve the candidate evaluation process so you can make sure they’re a good fit.

How to improve the candidate evaluation process

Have you ever had that one hire who looked great on paper, said all the right things — and then turned out to be the proverbial bad apple? This happens more often than you’d think.

Harvard Business School has labeled these types of employees “toxic.” Their study found that avoiding a toxic hire can save $12,500. But the cost of just one bad apple affects more than the bottom line; it affects other employees’ morale and productivity. In fact, 12 percent of employees will leave their jobs due to a toxic coworker.

That’s why the candidate evaluation process is so important. It weeds out a potential toxic employee and makes sure that the candidate is likely to be a good fit.

There are a lot of different types of toxic employees out there: the overconfident ones, the underconfident ones, the slackers, the gossipers, and the bullies. That’s not the kind of thing you can see in a resume or hear about in a single job interview.

Check references

Everyone knows you should ask for references, but checking references is especially helpful to get a full picture of the candidate.

Reference checks can verify the information provided by the candidate and provide insight into their abilities and performance at previous positions. This is one way to find out if what’s on the candidate’s resume doesn’t match up to their skills and abilities — or find out the candidate might be toxic to your organization in other ways.

It’s fairly easy to set up forms so candidates can provide reference information and consent to having their references checked. The references can provide feedback on the candidate through forms as well. You can create a reference check authorization with an electronic signature field and an employee reference request for the people the candidate has provided as references. This helps streamline the process, particularly if you find yourself playing phone tag with the references your candidate provided.

Pay attention to any red flags that come up when you’re checking references. For example, if a candidate doesn’t want to provide references, or if the reference declines to fill out the form, you may want to reconsider whether the candidate is a good fit for your organization.

Get employee feedback

The candidate you hire will interact with a specific group of employees — so get feedback from those employees before bringing someone on board. Bring them into the interview process and encourage them to interact with the candidates, ask them questions, and get a feel for their personalities. They’re the ones who know the day-to-day responsibilities of the position and what kind of personality will thrive in their environment.

For example, you might have a fantastic first interview with the candidate. However, once they’re in a room with their potential coworkers, they turn into a know-it-all who tries to one-up everyone else in the room. Your star performers in the department tense up. They wouldn’t enjoy working with the candidate — at all. Bringing them in to meet the candidate can help you dodge that kind of bullet.

Before you set up these interviews, make it easy for employees to provide feedback with a form that helps them evaluate the candidate. Include fields for them to note what questions the candidate asked and how the questions were asked, such as a question about the supervisor’s management style.

Let them rate the candidate on how well they articulated themselves and how prepared and enthusiastic they seemed about the position. You can even set up the feedback forms to be anonymous so that the employees won’t hold back and will tell you if the candidate would be a truly horrendous addition to the company.

Reject a job application politely

As you go through the candidate evaluation process, you’ll come across deal-breakers that mean a candidate wouldn’t be a good fit for your organization. Rather than never returning their calls and disappearing into the ether, reject their application politely.

Knowing how to do this and how to provide job interview feedback is good for your organization and for the candidate. Not only are you presenting your company as professional and compassionate, but you’re also helping the candidate to correct any mistakes they made during the process.

To reject a candidate as painlessly as possible, do it as soon as you can. Think of it as ripping the Band-Aid off the wound. This also avoids stringing them along so they can continue their job search. Pick up the phone and thank the candidate for the time and effort they put into the process, particularly if they made it all the way to the employee interviews.

Use the feedback to let them know why you’re going in a different direction, but keep it brief. Be honest with them — but tactful. For example, if, according to feedback forms, the candidate came across as bossy and arrogant during the interview, let them know that they wouldn’t be a good cultural fit because teamwork and humility are key values for the organization. But make sure you also provide some positive feedback, such as how impressive their industry knowledge is.

You can also use this time to ask the candidate for feedback on your own recruitment process. Find out what worked and what didn’t so that you can continue to refine your processes. All too often, companies provide feedback to candidates but miss this opportunity to learn about how their organization appears to the candidates themselves.

The candidate evaluation process is a deep dive into the viability of a candidate. Once they’ve passed the resume screening and initial prescreening interview, it’s important to learn as much as possible about their personality and work style by checking references and letting their future peers evaluate them. Otherwise, you could end up with the wrong fit for the organization.

Conclusion

The recruitment process is critical because it’s how organizations find top talent. Finding quality candidates who are also good cultural fits can be difficult, but it’s not impossible.

It’s important to know the best practices for recruiting, such as industry trends and how to fine-tune job descriptions. You should also have a recruitment plan in place.

The first step is to identify your recruitment needs. Determine where your organization’s skills gaps are. Employee performance reviews can be helpful when identifying skills gaps.

There are both internal and external sources for candidates. Internal candidates already know the company well, but external candidates can bring an outside perspective.

Improving the candidate prescreening process will help filter out unqualified candidates. Resume screening and screening interviews can help you identify red flags, as well as find candidates to progress to the next step in the recruitment process.

Reference checks and employee feedback on candidates are both critical to avoid hiring “toxic” employees.

Recruiting top talent can be challenging, but if you know your recruitment needs, use both internal and external sources to recruit for positions, use the prescreening process, and evaluate candidates thoroughly, you’ll find it that much easier to hire the right fit for the job and your organization.

This article is originally published on Dec 13, 2019, and updated on Jan 03, 2020.

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