There are record numbers of applicants vying for every vacancy — with between 26 and 71 people trying for each of the most competitive roles (Personnel Today, 2015). To make the best decisions for your company, your selection process needs to be robust and adaptable.
Who are you looking for?
The goal of selection is to find the person who most closely fits your ideal profile for a particular role. So the first step in selection is creating a ‘person specification,’ where you decide what this ideal profile looks like.
Does the role need skills specific to your industry? A particular length of experience? A distinct personality type? These details can inform your person specification. You can check for these attributes at various stages of the selection process.
Selection usually includes at least two steps: shortlisting from your pool of (eligible) applicants, and choosing your preferred candidate from the shortlist.
To shortlist, you might use online applications and psychometric test results. Later on, you might use interviews or an assessment centre to make your final decision.
You can use psychometric testing to gather ‘scientific’ data about your candidates. These tests are designed to rate an applicant’s aptitude, intelligence or personal traits.
There are many types of psychometric test, and they are commonly available online. However, it’s a good idea to have an occupational psychologist or other trained individual help analyse the results. This will help to ensure that the data is useful to you as a recruiter, and that it is used correctly and fairly.
If you have lots of candidates, an assessment centre can help whittle down your list. Assessment usually take place over the course of a day, and including individual and group exercises observed by the selection panel.
Assessment tasks should be related to the job specification, and allow you to understand how candidates perform in a realistic context. For example, you might include written exercises, presentations on a pre-determined subject or group problem-solving activities.
Interviews provide an opportunity to learn about candidates more personally. They can be conducted over the phone, via internet telephony or in person, and allow you to gauge whether the candidate is a good fit for your organisation. This includes deciding how their personality might gel with your company’s culture — and that of their prospective team.
An interview is also a valuable opportunity for your candidate to form an impression of you as a company and potential workplace.
Best practice in selection
An effective selection process is fair, thorough and unbiased. It makes your vacancy available to as many qualified and competent applicants as possible — making it more likely that you will find your ‘ideal fit’.
You might wish to consider the following tips during your selection process:
- Avoid being led by personal preference alone. Instinct can be useful in selecting employees, but don’t be distracted from your person specification.
- Use measurable skills to directly compare candidates in a systematic way. If using qualitative criteria, find a way to directly compare without introducing bias.
- Bear in mind your company objectives. Any new employees are likely to need skills that meet growing or changing needs.
- Be open to flexible working. Where feasible, the option to work part-time, in a job-share or remotely can widen your pool of applicants and reflect positively on your company as an employer.