Three steps to improved candidate selection

June 2011 » Columns » SEARCH SAVVY
Jeremy Clarke

In a recent interview, the question was asked: “What takes higher priority for you — speed or quality?” I’ve thought about that question and concluded that the question is somewhat deceiving because it assumes that speed and quality cannot occupy the same enterprise simultaneously. The obvious inference is that one must be forfeited to some extent to achieve the other.

This inference may be accurate in many circumstances, but when acquiring talent, the best A/E/P firms in this sphere are careful to acknowledge the synergy — not the dichotomy — shared by speed and quality, and they strategically map their selection process with that understanding in mind. Top firms insatiably seek and identify inefficiencies in their selection process so as to engineer a candidate-delivery system by which the best candidates in the market are identified, introduced, assessed, and hired quickly and aggressively. Why? Because they know that the best candidates come with a limited “shelf-life.” They know that top talent is in significant demand, and they intentionally engineer delivery systems that facilitate aggressive selection. Their selection process is finely tuned so that they can turn a candidate on a dime, and that singular attribute distinguishes them in the war for talent.

I’m not suggesting speed at the expense of good evaluation. I am suggesting efficiency — achieving the same level of candidate quality in a better economy of time and effort. The speed by which selection elements are executed is directly proportionate to the efficiency of your candidate-delivery system, and ultimately, your capacity to capture the best candidates. This is the intrinsic relationship between speed and quality in the recruiting space.

Having established this premise, the obvious question is: “Where/how does a firm begin in an effort to evaluate the process efficiency (PE) of its candidate-delivery system?” This seemingly daunting evaluation actually is rather simple. In fact, there are really only two metrics that need to be examined: time-to-present (TTP) and time-to-fill (TTF). TTP measures the time required for a recruiter to identify and present the winning candidate into the manager’s selection process; TTF traditionally measures the total time required to fill a position from the date the position is posted until offer acceptance. With this in mind, the efficiency of your selection process is just a matter of basic math between the two measurements: PE = (TTP/TTF) x 100 (as a percentage).

Tracking TTP and TTF requires a little diligence on the part of your recruiting/human resources team, but it’s not much to ask considering the return on effort. After all, you cannot hope to improve what you are not willing to measure, right? Once your firm has established a median PE based on your own market dynamics, you can begin strategically introducing candidate-selection process components in a way that allows you to evaluate the validity of those components. As a generic starting point, a good PE is about 80 percent. A higher percentage is always better, and a lower percentage may reveal that some inefficiency could be hindering your firm from capitalizing quickly on top-level talent.

That said, here are three simple suggestions for leveraging easy and effective improvements to your selection process:

Map your current process on a white board and count the number of candidate-screening points it takes to get to the offer stage. As a general rule, the process should be limited to: 1) recruiter telephone interview; 2) hiring manager telephone interview; 3) onsite interview; 4) offer. If your process has six or more screening points, it’s inefficient and you’ll likely lose good talent.

Identify key stake holders to participate in the selection process and disallow all others. It never ceases to amaze me to hear about candidates having to make multiple onsite visits to interview with random employees who have a peripheral stake at best in the final selection. It’s inefficient and costly.

Communicate the candidate-selection process clearly across the entire selection team. Everyone should know what the selection map looks like, and everyone should know their expectations in the process. I’ve found service level agreements (SLAs) to be helpful tools toward holding stakeholders accountable to timeliness and efficiency.

Deploying these three simple adjustments, accompanied by incremental measurement, will improve your PE radically and will position you to engineer a candidate-delivery system that facilitates aggressive and confident selection.

Jeremy Clarke is director, Executive Search Consulting for ZweigWhite. He can be contacted at 479-582-5700 or jclarke@zweigwhite.com.


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