Thoughts on ways to improve the management of professional services firms

Monday, August 28, 2006

People Management in Professional Services - Recruitment

Recruitment can be an expensive business often involving agency charges as well as scarce staff time. Too often, simple failures in recruitment and subsequent induction actions add to these costs while also reducing the chances of a successful outcome. Many firms have well developed recruitment and induction processes, but a surprising number do not. My aim in this post is to provide a simple check list of the things that I have found to be important starting with recruitment.

Recruitment should be seen in part as a marketing exercise. The people taking part are your guests. You want them to go away impressed with your firm so that they will talk to others in positive terms about you. This holds for both support and professional staff appointments.

The check list:

  1. If you do not already have one, draw up a simple project plan setting out the recruitment steps. You can revise this at the end of the process and then use it as a template for next time.
  2. Define what you want from the position in terms of the core roles of the job, how you are going to measure results from those roles, what knowledge, skills, judgment and attitudes are required to carry out those roles. Specify any obligatory requirements or qualifications that the person must meet/have.
  3. Decide what initial information you want from applicants for short-listing purposes. Some organisations require all applicants to fill out extensive documentation. In my view, this is a waste of time. A CV plus short covering letter should be sufficient in the first instance. If you are using an agency, ensure that the agency is properly briefed on your requirements. Not only does this aid efficiency, but if the agency is impressed with your approach, they will do a better job on selling you to key applicants.
  4. Decide how many applicants you are going to interview. Five to six is usually sufficient.
  5. Establish a short listing process assuming you have the luxury of multiple applicants. This can be done simply by quickly assessing each application against the criteria you have set and against already assessed applications putting applications into a ranked pile. At this stage you are looking to exclude, not include.
  6. Define your interview process. Who should participate? You need a standard set of questions so that you can compare like with like. From experience, it helps to put all applicants into a table summarising key features for each candidate against the selection criteria that you have set. It also helps if you get applicants to come to interview a little early and give them a short document to read describing the firm, the key things that you are looking for. This gives them time to think in advance of interview.
  7. Define your follow up processes including reference checks, how you will let unsuccessful applicants know, how you will give them feedback, specific appointment processes to be followed for the successful candidate.
  8. Set up your interview schedule. In general, 45 minutes is about right for interview time, but you must allow time - at least fifteen minutes - after each interview for review and ranking. Otherwise candidates blur together. This also allows panel members to have a short break. Proper time also needs to be allowed in advance of the first interview for the panel to discuss process. Ensure that reception is properly briefed on people being interviewed and the process.
  9. Keep the interviews themselves tight. Too often, interviews run over time limiting subsequent discussion.
  10. Then implement the follow up processes as quickly as possible.

I recognise that there is nothing especially profound in these steps. However, it is surprising how often they are breached.

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