NP Group Blog

SME Recruitment: Moving From Good To Great - Part 1

Posted by Jason Collins on Jun 12, 2018 12:02:27 PM
Jason Collins

The recruitment process can sometimes feel like an unmanageable phenomenon. There are so many moving parts, numerous stakeholders and plenty of technology to confuse things even further. For this blog, I want to break down the recruitment process and share some of the best kept secrets about how you, as an SME, can move your recruitment process from good to great. By implementing a few of these tips (which you don’t need external help for), you can improve the quality and volume of candidates you attract, as well as improving your brand recognition in the market.

Let’s start with the basics. What is the recruitment process? The diagram below explains in simple terms, the basic steps involved in a recruitment process.

recruitment process

I’ll break down each element a little more:

  • Requirement and requisition: Once you know you want to hire someone, you need to justify the request internally. This means building out a list of responsibilities the role will cover and gaining approval for the hire. In more sophisticated recruitment processes you may have to fill out a formal requisition or requirement document which when approved gives you the authority to begin candidate sourcing.


  • Candidate sourcing: When you do this well, you can locate and hire the best people for your business. This is a proactive part of the process, where you are either headhunting qualified, passive candidates, using various source channels, or are using job adverts to draw in the right kind of active candidates. This can be your candidates first experience of your brand so is an important part to get right. It also defines the rest of your recruitment process, whether or not you’re getting the right candidates for the job you’re hiring for.


  • Human Resources (HR) screening: Once a candidate has applied for your job, it is often the responsibility of HR (sometimes the line manager) to conduct initial screening. This can be a simple process of reviewing a CV and/or cover letter, to holding a short 15-minute screening phone interview finding more out about the candidate. The purpose is to determine if the applicant has the basic qualifications needed to do the job for which you are hiring.


  • Candidate interviews: There are so many ways to interview candidate I won’t bore you with them all in this blog! For this purpose, let’s assume the hiring manager is conducting one to one interviews. They’re generally use to assess the type of person the candidate is and delve a bit deeper into their experience. You know the candidate has the basic qualifications and experienced needed to do the, so this is about finding out more about them as a person, such as understanding their personality, character, mind-set, competencies, approach to challenges and previous successes. It is also important not to forget that this is a candidate driven market currently and this is set to continue for the foreseeable future. This face to face interview it your opportunity to ‘sell’ your organisation to them. If the candidate sitting in front of you is the one that you want, make sure that you are giving them a thorough understanding of the role, how they will progress their career and the benefits that they will realise when they join your organisation.


  • Psychometric tests: Once you’re confident the applicant is a good fit for both the job and your company, many companies conduct psychometric or online tests. These are a standard and scientific method to measure the applicant’s mental capabilities and behavioural style. From these results you can assess whether they meet a minimum benchmark you may have and if behaviourally, they will fit in with the culture and values of your organisation.


  • Offer & pre-employment checks: Once you’ve found the right candidate for your vacancy it’s time to make the offer and run your pre-employment checks. It’s important to remember that your candidate is likely to have other offers on the table, so you want to make this part of the process as smooth, engaging and enjoyable for them as possible. Many companies use external companies to run their pre-employment checks, whereas some use in-house resources.


  • Employee on-boarding: Your on-boarding process should be seamless and slick. If you want to retain the top talent, great employee onboarding is essential and preparation should start well before their first day. It can involve meeting the team in an informal setting, receiving details about their first day, first weeks and even meeting or having a preparation call with their new manager prior to their start date.


SME Recruitment_ Moving From Good to Great - Part 1

Now I’ve briefly explained each part of the process, let’s unpack the first category (I’ll cover off in greater detail brand recognition and candidate experience in the coming blogs).

Candidate attraction is the first part of the process, looking at candidate sourcing and HR screening. Note here, it could start when you are raising the requirement and requisition but that isn’t best practice! To go from good to great here, you want to be proactively sourcing highly qualified candidates continuously, not just when you have a requirement. There are three key areas to consider here: prepare a continuous hiring plan, target candidates through multiple channels and engage potential candidates at all times.

Your hiring plan is the starting point of candidate attraction. It’s about creating an enticing and engaging employee value proposition to go to market with. This needs to encompass your brand and bring to life your company’s values and culture. You then need to break it down into hiring plans specifically for different areas of the business. For example, when working with our clients at NP Group we may prepare one hiring plan to target data scientists and another to target software development professionals. Within each of these we would have clear defined career paths to take to the market alongside competitive benefits relevant to each of those professions. This is where your employee value proposition becomes really enticing! However, I can’t stress enough the importance of getting this right at a company level before breaking it down. This really should be the first step in your recruitment activity.

Next, you need to think about the candidates you want to target. It’s great to know you want to hire a data scientist, but what kind of person is that? What qualities, experience and education are you looking for? This is where segmentation comes in. A great way to start the segmentation process is to come up with candidate personas. Think about your existing employees who are in similar positions – what does good look like to you in this community? Start by building out a persona base on the attribute of those that you rate and then building it out from there. For example, a great employee at the moment might be dedicated and genuinely interested in your industry and your company’s development, but you also want to consider what motivates them outside of work. Do you have flexible working benefits? Child care? There are many options and by working out this level of detail you can make sure you’re targeting the right candidates to ensure your recruitment process is efficient as possible, so you won’t be wasting time on candidates who just don’t quite live up to your expectations. The next step in defining your target candidates is Market Mapping – something we here at NP Group are experts in. You can read more about market mapping from my colleague Laurence Ashby in his blogs here. To give you a brief overview, mapping the talent market involves looking at who your competitors are hiring, what packages they offer, salary benchmarks for the types of roles you are hiring into and addressing geographic boundaries.

Once you’ve got the targeted hiring plan, it’s time to reach out to the market and engage potential candidates. First and foremost, you go back to your hiring plan and launch and communicate your employee value proposition. This should be at the heart of all of your recruitment activity and should act as a consistent thread throughout your advertisements and engagements. This includes things such as your tone, standardised images and your brand values. Alongside this you also need to write your job description which links into the candidate persona you have created. The job description needs to compel your persona. For example, if you are hiring a Junior Data Scientist and know they will be a millennial, you need to showcase the working environment you provide and flexible working options. We’ve all seen the research and know these kinds of things are a must for millennials looking to join a workforce.

You then need to think about exactly where you are going to advertise your jobs and how you are going to find candidates, remember it isn’t as easy as just putting an advert out there anymore, you need to actively build a pool of candidates and nurture them through the journey. When you’re working on your candidate persona, you should be thinking about their digital footprint, where do they spend time online. This will then help to influence how you advertise your job online. Going back to the millennial example, we know that generation spend time on Instagram, so you may want to look at how you can build up your following or start advertising on the platform. Other platforms to consider are job boards (although they can be costly), digital adverts on other websites, utilising your own social networks (both corporate and personal), paid for social media advertising, display ads, industry events, corporate events hosted by yourself, recruitment agencies and of course your own company website. Finally, don’t forget about your own employees! They can be the best way to attract new employees into your company. The power of word of mouth is so often placed on a pedestal, but I really believe it deserves that position. At NP we work alongside our clients’ own employee referral programmes to ensure they are as attractive as possible and employees are educated about them and I encourage you to review yours and ensure it is widely understood and vacancies are well circulated.

With all of this in mind let’s look at a couple of examples, one good and one great. I’ll then give you some advice on a couple of small changes you could make to your existing recruitment process to help ensure you have a great method in place for attracting candidates.

One global transport company has a good generalist recruitment process in place. It works, but it’s not great. That’s because it’s not specific or targeted so they have a huge number of applications to sift through in order to find the perfectly qualified candidate for the role they are hiring for. Their candidate attraction and experience was very limited and as generalist recruiters they had limited knowledge about the type of candidates they were sourcing. Although they were making hires in the end, this approach led to an extended time to hire and high attrition. So good to have a process in place, but not great that it wasn’t optimised.

Now this next example might seem like a big investment, but when you compare the investment and returns to what you might spend with a recruitment agency to fill the roles, I think it can be justified. A emerging gaming company, were competing for top talent in a crowded market. They went through the process of creating candidate personas, mapping the talent market and had a really clear view of who they wanted to hire. In fact, they had a list of 100 candidates they thought were in the right geography, had the right experience and would be the right fit for their company. Their strategy was extremely personalised. They sent each of the 100 potential candidates an iPod with a personal message from their CEO inviting them to apply for a job. Out of the 100 sent, 90 responded to the email and 3 vacancies were filled. The result:- A much more efficient process, exceptionally quick time to hire, 3 top class hires made providing a fantastic ROI.

So, what could you do? I understand that investing in 100 iPods might not be feasible for every company! So, start by doing the simple things. Map your local talent pool. You can use LinkedIn as a cost effective way to do this. Make a unique introduction. It doesn’t have to be an iPod but could be a short video from yourself or the hiring manager saying hi, explaining the role, a bit about your company and inviting them for a coffee. Alternatively, you could run through leadership events within the profession of those you are trying to attract and build connections that way. Finally, ensure you invest. Great recruitment isn’t free, whatever way you look at it. You need to invest the time, resources and some amount of money to ensure you achieve great result. You invest in other areas of your business, recruitment shouldn’t be any different.

Topics: Recruitment