Knowing Your Candidate

Ed Allnutt, MD EMEA at Xref on an identity challenge.

Knowing Your Candidate

UK & Europe

We’ve all heard the business gurus. Ask them what the most important asset is in business and the most likely response is ‘people’. No surprises there after all we work in ‘Human’ Resources. I won't go in to defining the role of HR and nor is this article about getting the most out of your people. It’s about getting the most ‘right’ people in the first place? 

Several years ago Jack Welch made the observation that there were four types of employees – Google it. The premise of the observation was that buying into corporate culture was more important to continued success than outright performance. It’s an interesting subject and one that Mr Welch is far more qualified to talk about than I am ever likely to be.

So how well do we really know who we’re hiring and will they buy in to our corporate culture? Yes, probation periods do provide an ultimate failsafe for both employers and candidates alike but surely it’s far better to onboard new hires with confidence that they’ll fit? Many recruiters I work with talk of a ‘drink test’, a kind of additional interview that essentially supports the notion that a recruiter would happily go for a drink with their candidate. In some sectors and for some roles this happy social equilibrium is, indeed, important. In others, of course, it’s completely irrelevant. So what can employers and recruiters do?

What does the recruitment process look like for your business? Is the traditional two-stage interview process working for you? Who are your candidates meeting with? Are you getting feedback from a diverse few in the business? What information are you or your recruiter providing to the candidate? What questions are you asking? 

The challenge is more difficult than ever. Candidates are better prepared (not always but in general), they’ve done their research, they know what type of questions to expect and how to answer them. You finish your first interview and you’re impressed, but an hour later you realise that you don’t know all that much about them.

At this stage it’s time to think more about the candidate’s background. For many companies this now means social media. With the meteoric rise in the likes of Facebook and Instagram there have never been more ways of delving into someone’s past and social life. But does dressing up as a sailor on a friend’s stag night really say anything about their project management skills? Probably not, but it can give you further clues as to what you should be asking them. Whilst industry as a whole tries to get its head around the use of social media as a screening tool perhaps we should take a look at a more traditional approach. 

A referral or a referee is an excellent source of information. Modern referencing seems to have lost its way, veering down the path of verification checks rather than producing insightful data. Yet the application of modern technology with proven traditional methodologies can produce more. Alongside advances in technology used for referencing we now have more choice in other areas such as online testing, assessment and evaluation. Then there’s the new wave of video interviewing platforms and organisations that will scrape someone’s public social media presence for you.

I for one am interested to see where the use of social media in employee selection goes. Presently though, I can’t think of a better way of understanding a candidate’s ability than through a well thought out interviewing process, appropriate to the role and business, accompanied by feedback from relevant referees; be they employment, personal, academic or otherwise.

When it comes to knowing people, people know best. Keep it simple and ask someone who already has the answers. Then make your own mind up.




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