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Hiring the Right Candidate: Why a Flexible Approach is Key

Success in recruitment is easily stated: finding the right candidate for the job. However, the path to finding that candidate can be challenging. There are never any guarantees and whether a person is ultimately right for a particular role will only be known for certain some way down the line.

Minimising Risk via Objectivity

Recruitment involves risk both on the part of the prospective employer and on the part of the prospective employee. Each will have invested time and money in the recruitment process and both have a vested interest in wanting their new relationship to succeed.

Finding the right candidate is rarely straightforward. Assuming an initial pool of suitable candidates is available – which, in itself, can prove a challenge given the dearth of suitably-qualified candidates for certain roles in certain locations – the focus shifts towards establishing their relative strengths and weaknesses. This is where most efforts have been made to objectify the recruitment process and to reduce the risk of hiring the wrong person.

The use of anonymised (or “blind”) CVs, standardised interviews, interview panels, psychometric testing and assessment centres can undoubtedly play a valuable part in making the selection process more objective and less subject to individual bias or prejudice. It would be wrong, however, to believe that objective assessments alone can ensure that the right person is hired. Even the strongest of candidates, from an objective perspective, may still fail in a new role. Equally, there is always the danger that quality candidates may be overlooked or screened out in the early stages if objective criteria are too rigid.

That said, greater objectivity in the recruitment process is undoubtedly welcomed by hiring managers and candidates alike; the former because it provides greater comfort to them that their ultimate decision is the right one and the latter because it makes for a fairer selection process.

The Need for Subjective Judgments

It is, of course, impossible to eliminate subjectivity from the recruitment process and it would be wrong to seek to do so. Technical knowledge can be tested and standardised interview questions and psychometric testing can give a good indication of whether a particular individual would be suited to a role and a good fit culturally for a business, but subjective judgments must still be made.

Some quality candidates will not be suited to an objective, box-ticking exercise and could easily be overlooked were subjective assessments not made. In legal recruitment, for example, too strict an insistence on a certain number of years’ post qualification experience could mean that candidates with a wealth of skills and experience gained earlier in their careers in other fields could be missed. Similarly, those qualified overseas or looking to return to work after a career break could be disadvantaged. These candidates may have a greater maturity, broader skill sets and the potential to offer far more to an employer than the supposed ideal candidate. Sometimes, it really is better to take a chance on a candidate with a more unusual career history, but that requires a judgment call. It may simply boil down to a gut feeling that one individual has more to offer, or would be a better fit, than another.

A Flexible Approach

Hiring managers must ensure that there is flexibility in their recruitment processes to secure the best talent for their businesses. They must not be so blinkered by an objective, box-ticking exercise that they fail to spot real talent that can lie outside the chosen parameters on their person specification. This is particularly so when suitable candidates are thin on the ground, perhaps because there are few in the location in question or because the person specification been too narrowly framed.

Subjective assessments of the merits of candidates can help to prevent strong candidates with atypical career histories being screened out in the early stages of the selection process. Subjective judgments also invariably inform the final decision on which of the shortlisted candidates to employ.

Recruitment is not a science and a flexible approach is the best way to maximise the chances of hiring the right candidate.

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