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Sorting the wheat from the chaff

Sorting the wheat from the chaff

One of the (admittedly few) benefits for employers in times of recession is that there are more people looking for work – but that creates another problem: sifting through ten times as many applicants for each job.

Filed in Changing jobs

And while there are more people available, and plenty of them will be good people, the rules of economics dictate that organisations will shed the lesser talent first - so proportionally, when you advertise, you can expect more chaff than wheat.

Although people tend to think of recruitment companies such as Blue Eskimo as a means to find people (which is true enough) we believe that we add value in two key ways:

  • We free up clients' time so that they can get on with the things they really need to do - like running their own businesses.
  • We bring objective expertise to the recruitment process.

So, when it comes to sorting through applicants, we take away what can be a very time-consuming process and bring some outside expertise to bear on the problem.

There are two key stages - the first is sorting through the CVs, and the second is narrowing down the potential applicants to a shortlist. Actually, for us, the job is even bigger - as we will be proactively looking for people and would tend to both initially consider a greater number of CVs and also interview a greater number of people to build our shortlist.

Sorting through CVs

Sorting through CVs requires a very structured approach. The starting point is fully understanding the requirements of the role, so we'll have talked to the client in depth about this and have developed a profile of the kind of person we're looking for. Then we'll build up a library of potential candidates, either by advertising or searching within our candidate database.

Once we have our pile of CVs, we'll work through them - initially ignoring the candidate's name and personal information, for two reasons, the first is to avoid any subconscious bias, the second is to focus on the things that are important. Here are some of the ways we look at CVs:

  • We look for the number of jobs a person has held, and how long they've been in the role. We also check for gaps in employment - though we don't necessarily draw any conclusions from these.
  • We carefully check education and training - to see not only if the person has the required skills but also where that person has been directing their career, since most people's training tends to be focused on either their immediate needs or career end game.
  • We look for the experience the person has had in each role, and how that's built up over several jobs.

As we work through the CVs, we make notes and document questions that we will want to ask each person.

Generally we will sort CVs into three piles (most sort into two, yes or no) - one pile for those people who most closely match the job specification, one for those who meet some of the requirements and one for those who don't meet enough of the job requirements to warrant any further investigation. The reason for doing this is that once we've interviewed the people in the first pile, we may find that they're not as suitable as they appeared - and also because people with 'some skills' can actually be a good bet: they may be cheaper, more hungry, harder working in their determination to move up the career ladder.

Narrowing the list down

The next step is to talk to the people we've included in our list of potential candidates. Initially we'll be sounding out their availability - there's little point in taking things much further if (for example) someone has just moved jobs and really doesn't want to move on right now, however good they are.

Depending on the role, the amount of time we have and the client's brief, we will then interview the clients by telephone or in person - or a mix of both. Typically, though, the first stage will be a telephone interview.

We will generally create a list of potential people that is three to five times larger than an organisation would typically do when recruiting themselves - and then we'll interview two or three times as many people. The end result should be the same - in terms of a shortlist of the agreed number of viable candidates. The key thing here is to never present someone who just isn't suitable - there's no point. It's just plain annoying for the client and isn't going to help us to maintain a good relationship with either them or the candidate. And yes, candidates do sometimes want to be considered for something that we don't think they're suitable for - part of our job is to make sure that people are presented only for roles where they fit.

Staying in the loop

We don't think that our job is done once the shortlisted candidates are presented. If we stay in the loop, we can help with negotiations - or even broker the offer ourselves - and support candidates as they go through accepting the job, handing in their notice and then starting the new role. If the person is good, a counter-offer may well be made, and that needs to be handled well otherwise the person is lost - this is another area where we can add more value, partly because we'll have handled the scenario up-front and used the likelihood of a candidate accepting a counter-offer as part of our shortlist criteria but also because we're more used to helping candidates overcome counter-offers.

Yes, there's a cost to using an agency - but there's also a hidden (but large) cost to handling the recruitment internally. It's not all about cost though, the key thing we bring to the table is our expertise: recruitment is our only business; we know it inside out and we're very thorough.

At the end of the day, our clients and ourselves want one thing: to find exactly the right person - as we said at the start, to sort the wheat from the chaff.

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Working with the Learning & Performance Institute

Blue Eskimo enjoys a unique relationship with the Learning & Performance Institute, as its nominated recruitment provider. And, as a company that’s accredited by the LPI, we operate within its guidelines and uphold its standards.

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