A company is only as good as the people it keeps and they will ultimately determine its success. In my mind, that makes recruitment the single most important business decision you will ever make and yet I regularly see firms leaving the entire process down to human interpretation.

As an interviewer, your goal is to match the candidate’s ambition, personality, and experience to the requirements of the job and business. The key is being able to tell the great people from the great talkers.

Every interviewer goes into a meeting with the best intentions, hoping to find the ideal person, but, in my experience, the most common mistakes are made when there is a lack of structure and consistency in the process.

One way to avoid this is to plan interviews so all candidates receive the same questions. Eliminating the likelihood of the conversation straying too far from the agenda is a proven way to increase reliability and compare candidates evenly. This will help you to be more accurate in your prediction of future job success.

When interviewing, the best candidates will be well prepared and trying to make a good impression. With their guard up, it’s your job to get under their skin and find out what they’re like.

Build a strong rapport from the start. If candidates trust you, they’ll relax and that will make it easier for you to dig into the detail of their answers and flow into topics they haven’t previously rehearsed.

This not only helps you to get a feel for their communication skills, but it uncovers potentially unseen aspects of their personality and behaviour, which is crucial to making sure they are the right fit for your business.

Try opening with a request for their personal and professional goals; and how they see the role fitting in with these.

Ask them to tell you about a situation that has brought out the best in them; giving examples and sharing the experience they feel makes them ideal for your company. Other behavioural questions could be: What attracted you to this role? What are your motivations? What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Whatever you opt for, make sure you ask for details within the answers, as this is the best way to separate people who like to embellish the truth. Liars don’t like to get into specifics as they know they are more likely to get caught out. People telling the truth will be happy to drill deep as they are answering the questions honestly.

Once you’re happy that someone can do the job, move into uncharted waters. Ask about any mistakes they’ve made. This is a great test of self-awareness and will show the scope of which someone is willing to take ownership of their actions; and whether they learn from their errors.

I like to ask who the smartest person they know is (and why). By getting people to explain this you’ll not only find out about their networks, but also the values and personality traits they aspire towards.

Find out what it is that gets them out of bed on a weekend. People’s passions outside of work are critical to fitting in well to any team environment.

Are they entrepreneurial? Examples of innovative ideas they’ve put into practice will help you measure whether they’re a self-starter, commercially-minded, or have a healthy attitude towards calculated risk.

Of course, these are just a few examples to try and help you, but whatever you discuss, don’t forget that interviews are a chance to find out more for both parties. While you aim to work out what makes someone tick, they will most likely be doing the same to you, so make sure you give a good impression of your business.

Right now, the accountancy job market is active. It’s moving fast, employers know the skills they want, and those in search of a new role have – in the main – made up their mind to move quickly.

It sounds idyllic; and you’d be forgiven for thinking it is easy to find the right hire but, with high demand for niche skills, it is only those who are adaptable and can move quickly that are thriving.

Increased competition for talented people, by its nature, puts job seekers in the driving seat. If someone with the right skill set becomes available, they can very quickly have several opportunities to consider and, for a recruiting firm, this creates a problem.

Delayed decision-making, the need to seek authorisation, or a lack of time devoted to moving the stages of recruitment forward means you are highly likely to miss out on the best people. They won’t wait to see what ‘might’ happen.

If you want your recruitment to be more successful, you need to ensure your processes are robust and fit for today’s purpose:

Plan ahead

Avoid reactionary recruitment wherever possible by future planning. For example, in 2020, we understandably saw a reduction in trainee recruitment. Fast-forward three years and you can expect to see a black hole in the number of qualified accountants available. It pays to keep a constant eye on the market and to regularly review staffing risks against your business goals. I’d suggest starting by mapping out your team and their skills versus your needs now and in the medium-term. You’ll soon be able to build a plan that gets you ahead of the game.

Adapt your style

Different situations call for different approaches, so make sure your methods stay fit for purpose. Simply offering video interviews in a pandemic isn’t enough. You need to modify the way you build a rapport and demonstrate the culture of your business. Have you adapted the job specification to reflect home-working? How do you plan to induct new employees and integrate them into your team without the opportunity to meet people face-to-face? These are questions that need to be answered before you start recruiting and employers doing this will reap the benefits.

Communicate clearly

A regular flow of clear and honest information is crucial to building trust. Show respect to each applicant by keeping them up-to-date with timings and progress and providing useful feedback. Every communication counts as you are effectively demonstrating the level of care your organisation has for its staff. Communicate consistently throughout the process and – regardless of the outcome – you will create positive advocates for your business.

Remember it is a partnership

People become valuable and loyal to a company because they’ve developed a mutually beneficial alliance. Whether the motivation is future progression, support with study or an increased salary, if you’re helping employees to fulfil their career dreams they will work hard for you to achieve yours and, over time, you will build a reputation as a highly attractive place for aspirational and talented people to work.

Act quickly

In a candidate-led market, you need to be decisive. Good people will vanish as quickly as they appear, so make sure it’s to join you. There’s nothing more disengaging than attending an interview, being impressed and then not hearing back for days. If you like someone, tell them before someone else does.

When times change, the way you recruit needs to change but, ultimately, good recruitment comes down to being prepared, proactive and treating people the right way.

Being fleet of foot is very important right now, but you must also remain honest and genuine in your attempts to help people achieve their ambitions in tandem with reaching your goals. That’s how you can truly build a trusting relationship, as well as a reputation as a great employer and place to work.

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