- Russell Beswick
It’s tempting to hire the best biller on paper, or the graduate with the best exam results. But look beyond grades and numbers and think about attitude and employability skills, advises Russell Beswick
In a competitive market, recruitment consultancies, like many organisations, are increasingly recognising the importance of hiring the right talent. To secure long term success, it’s essential that you’re able to pick out the best candidate, perhaps out of hundreds of applications. However, it can often be a challenge to know what qualities to look for.
Over the past few months, there’s been much discussion in the media, with the importance of grades versus skills being hotly debated. Research carried out by the University of Warwick and the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU), for instance, has suggested that a first degree grade offers graduates better employment prospects. However, at the same time, it’s recognised that there is a real danger in placing too much emphasis on qualifications. Universities, for example, are under increased pressure to rewrite degree courses to offer a greater emphasis on practical skills.
But while grades are important, they often only tell half the story. They reveal little about the transferable skills needed in a demanding and practical role such as recruitment, and here at ConSol we’ve learnt that the candidates with the best degree grades don’t necessarily become the highest billers. Because of this, it’s fundamental to think about a candidate’s employability skills when it comes to sourcing entry level talent.
Attitude is everything
Ultimately, we look for one overarching trait throughout our whole interview process: attitude. While knowledge and skills are essential, they can normally be trained and developed. A study attributed to Harvard University found that people are employed 85 per cent of the time because of their attitude, and just 15 per cent of the time because of how ‘clever’ they are. Attitude encompasses so much that makes a recruiter successful – drive, dynamism, determination, motivation to achieve, to name just a few are traits we see in our top billers.
We have also found that there is a direct correlation between new talent displaying our company values and later individual success. Our values are: Professional Delivery, Collaboration, Accountability, Innovation and Domain Expertise.
So how do we translate this into our hiring strategy and how could you do the same?
Devise or review your company values
Even if your values exist, quite often you may find they are a forgotten reference on your home page. We set up a working group of experienced billers, who looked at our company vision, the traits of those who were successful in the business and ultimately what behaviours our staff would need to display to get us to our goal of becoming the global leader for innovative and collaborative staffing solutions. This process achieves buy-in and focus and is a platform for development of a robust hiring process.
What indicators suggest the building blocks behind your values can be seen within your candidate? For example our ‘collaboration’ value has many facets. We looked first at ‘client collaboration’ which, for us, means working with a customer who has complex requirements to develop a relationship that results in a successful outcome for both parties. It’s important to define indicators for all of your values and compare these to the questions you ask at interview.
Tighten up the interview process
We use a blend of traditional competency based interview questions together with activities designed to allow the candidate to demonstrate the competence. For ‘client collaboration’ this is as follows:
Example question: Tell me about a time where you have worked with the needs of a senior, a peer or working group to reach a balanced outcome? And then, to drive out the competency: Who was the group? What was the situation? How did your objectives differ? What was the final outcome? What did you learn?
With graduates, they can draw upon experiences from anywhere, not just university. So two candidates might be given slightly different briefs and objectives and told to work together to reach a final goal. For example one may be tasked to sell a ‘product’ quickly, the other to ‘get the best price’ – Do they try to win at all costs? How consultative is their approach? How do they reach an agreement? The candidates then review the exercise and provide self-critique, which helps us with one of our other values ‘accountability’.
Ensure your values are developed with training
After bringing in new hires who exemplify your values during the interview process, it’s now the role of your training to go beyond task and process and imbed the values. We introduce our values on day one of the induction process and link them to all exercises.
Define measures of success – go beyond their billings
In addition to training, regular assessment whether formal or otherwise is critical. We carry out end of training knowledge checks together with online self-assessments, driven by the individual so learners know that the training cannot be ‘lost.’ New talent is encouraged to provide evidence and examples of how they have displayed our values in their day to day tasks when in monthly reviews with their manager.
It’s possible to identify and assess key traits prior to taking on a hire, which can be invaluable in your consultancy. However, we have demonstrated it shouldn’t stop there. If you want your emerging talent to grow with your company and bring success, it’s important to recognise the traits, develop them, and assess them through a structured Learning programme. Only then will you ensure you have the best team in place to gain competitive advantage in a challenging market.
Russell Beswick is Learning and Development Manager at ConSol Partners