Don’t Recruit – Retain! 4 Strategies For Finding and Keeping Top Talent (part 1)

hiring staff

This is part 1 of a 2 part series on recruitment and retention.  This article focuses on the recruitment process and part 2 will focus on retention strategies.

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recruitment & retention

“Good employees are so hard to find.”

I hear this every day in my coaching practice. Agency owners hire new employees who either don’t make it past the probationary period or leave before their one-year anniversary is up. In some cases, an agency goes through hours of interviews without feeling confident enough to extend a job offer.

It’s true that currently it’s super challenging to find good people, especially in an uncertain economy. When overall conditions are bad, everyone clings to their job like a life raft. No one’s going to jump ship when the chances of sinking are too high. When times are good, there are more opportunities for them to choose from. 

Many agencies believe that their location is a key barrier but truth be told, it doesn’t matter where you’re located. If you’re in the city, there’s a bigger talent pool but a lot of competition from other employers. In more rural areas, your hiring choices are more limited and, even if you extend your reach, you may not find someone willing to relocate.

Chances are that as an employer, you’ve been through this seemingly endless cycle of job ads, CVs, and job interviews that are soon followed by exit interviews or no hires at all. Not only is it frustrating, but it’s also expensive and can affect morale among staff who have to shoulder extra duties until you bring someone else on board.

How can you fix it? By optimising your recruiting process.

Hiring Optimisation - Why It’s Essential

Hiring

A streamlined and consistent hiring strategy is a vital element in any successful recruiting programme. When you can access the right talent, set up interviews promptly, and extend the job offer soon afterwards, you can realise the benefits outlined below.

Protect The Bottom Line

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, whenever a company replaces an employee, it costs an average of six to nine months’ salary. If you’ve engaged a manager at £40,000 a year, that's up £30,000 in recruiting and training expenses.

The cost of unfilled positions is also significant. A vacant revenue-generating role, such as an account manager, represents money lost. If you have to pay freelancers to do the work in between hirings, you could be facing high costs. Lost productivity and diminished quality of customer or client service can also translate into reduced company earnings.

These are all financial challenges that can be eliminated when you use a more effective recruiting strategy.

Get The Top Talent Before Your Competitor Can

When you have access to higher-quality candidates and can present them with a job offer soon after a successful interview process, you can prevent competitors from scooping up the talent that could take your company to the next level.

The delay between interview and job offer is bigger than most employers realise. A survey by the Accounting Principals revealed that over half of the U.S. hiring managers and HR personnel polled said that it took them over a month to complete a typical hire. In the UK, it can take up to three months. When an ideal candidate waits too long to receive a job offer, it gives a poor impression of your agency and increases the likelihood that you will lose top talent to a competitor.

Keep Out Of Legal Trouble

Poor hiring decisions can have legal consequences. If a new hire doesn’t work out, they may accuse you of misleading them into accepting a role that wasn’t a good fit or claim that you dealt with them in bad faith, or the way you exited them was not fair. Since dealing with employment tribunals can cost a UK employer £8500 on average, preventing a wrong hire in the first place can protect your company’s bottom line as well as its reputation and internal staff morale.

These are all reasons why you need an optimised recruitment strategy. Now let me show you how to make it happen.

Step One: Know Your Ideal Candidate

Be clear on what you want before you start looking. I’m not talking about the job description, which you probably know by heart. I’m referring to the ideal candidate.

Candidate profiles are blueprints that map out your preferred skills and personality traits for the role. Do you want someone who is an independent thinker? Savvy on social media? An outgoing people person? I liken these profiles to the customer personas that sales and marketing professionals use to define the ideal customer for their product or service.

An accurate and appealing job description can attract candidates with the right hard skills, but soft skills are equally important, and a candidate profile can help enhance the quality of your shortlist.

Step Two: Use a Recruitment Agency

If you’ve ever had to sift through tons of rubbish CVs, you know what a huge time waster the DIY hiring route can be (both in terms of your time and ultimately, money). This is not a time when you want to be cutting corners: working with a recruitment company will save you time and money.

Many of the most successful agencies use recruitment companies to assist them in finding and keeping top talent. Reasons include:

Access to the quality candidates. Recruitment agencies can help you reach both active and passive candidates. Those who are actively looking for a new job tend to register with agencies, who often have access to highly-qualified passive prospects who could be tempted to join your team. In addition, these companies know how to optimise a vacancy advert so that it ranks highly for the appropriate job search.

Shortlisting management. A recruitment agency will sift through all incoming CVs for you, rejecting unsuitable ones and responding to any queries about the role. You won’t have to waste your own time and resources dealing with unproductive hiring duties.

Assistance with speciality occupations. Sometimes you need an employee with a unique or specific skillset. Engaging a recruitment agency that understands your industry can ensure that all shortlisted candidates will be fully qualified ones.

Many recruitment agencies also offer specialty services such as salary benchmarking, which helps ensure that you’re offering a competitive wage, and psychometric tests, which give unique insights into the natural talents and abilities of prospective hires.

Now I acknowledge it can be hard to find a great recruitment agency so make sure you meet several and pick one who ‘gets’ your market space and doesn’t over promise.

Step Three: Interview Strategically

When the agency has sent you a list of pre-screened candidates, it’s time to interview them. If you’ve worked with a reputable agency that understands your needs and your industry, you can feel reasonably certain that you’ll be interviewing people who have the necessary education, experience, and qualifications for the position. Now you want to focus on who they are, and why they should want to work for you.

Here are some tips for conducting a strategic interview.

Avoid the standard questions. If possible, avoid typical questions like “Where do you want to be in five years?” or “Tell me about your proudest accomplishment.” Chances are that you’ll get a rehearsed response. When you ask something that they won’t anticipate, you’ll have a good idea of how they deal with the unexpected. Do they freeze and stutter? Or do they think about the question before giving a good response?

Have them expand on their answers. In most cases, the first answer they give you is one that they’ve practiced. Encourage them to expand by remaining silent or asking, “What else?” Unrehearsed answers will give you insights into how they really think, especially under pressure.  Silence can be your friend here – if you don’t fill the gap then they will (a tip I learned from my PR days and a tool that journalists use to get the juicy inside gossip!).

Obtain practical information. Scenario-based questions are an excellent way to anticipate how the candidate will react to a variety of job-related challenges. If you say to a prospective manager, “How do you motivate an employee who is underperforming?” you’ll have a better understanding of how they manage people. In addition, questions like “What obstacles did you face on your last project and how did you overcome them?” can give you insights into accomplishments that may not be on their CV.  Also don’t be afraid to ask them to do some ‘homework’ and have them present to you (and dig in to understand HOW they went about preparing the presentation)

Screen for cultural fit. Every agency has its own culture, and ideally you want to hire someone who shares the same values as the company. They’ll be more engaged, and studies have shown that an engaged workforce can improve business performance by 30%.

Don’t forget to sell yourself and the agency during the interview too. A key part of your company brand is the benefits that you offer, such as: 

Don’t forget the emotional benefits too. Tell the candidate why your employees enjoy working for your agency. Talk about any valued traditions, such as sports teams, volunteer organisations, and employee-driven initiatives. You can even have one of your employees join in at this stage of the interview to share their positive feelings about their job and the company.

Step Four: Don’t Delay That Job Offer

If you feel positively about a candidate, don’t wait too long to extend an offer. According to ERE, the highest-quality job applicants are off the market in an average of 10 days. If your company waits too long, you’re going to miss out. 

As an employer, you may be wary of making a quick hiring decision, but if your preferred candidate is going to be in high demand because of the value they will add, cut out any unnecessary stages of the recruitment process and be prepared to hire sooner. High performers in the top 5% of a company’s workforce can deliver 26% of its total output.

Conclusion

Finding top talent presents a challenge for employers across the globe. While the right hire can make a huge and positive contribution towards the development of your company, the wrong one will hold it back. By optimising your hiring process, you can source the top performers needed to stand out in the most competitive industries.

I hope you found this article useful. In the next one, I’ll discuss the ways that you can increase employee retention and develop a work culture that increases loyalty and job satisfaction. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please post them below and I’ll be pleased to answer them.

This is part one of a 2-part series on recruitment and retention.  In the next installment we are going to focus on strategies to keep your staff for the long term. 

    Rob Da Costa

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