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How to Avoid a Churn and Burn Approach to Hiring

How to Avoid a Churn and Burn Approach to Hiring

Over the 20+ years that I’ve been in the recruiting game, one thing I have seen is just how reactive (not to mention how often extremely rushed) the recruitment (and in particular the interview) process is within so many organisations.

As a hiring manager have you ever really stopped to think just how important it is to find the best people for your business? Not just someone who happens to be immediately available or who you just think looks too perfect on paper to possibly let get away.

As the weeks go by with a position still unfilled, the hiring manager often starts to panic. Then what happens is that someone who almost meets the criteria set out in the job brief (and by almost I mean aside from having a pulse and a clean shirt is so far off the mark it isn’t funny) and has a semi-impressive résume gets hired.

In the recruitment world this is often referred to as a “bums on seats” or “churn and burn” approach …

If they’ve got a pulse and can start on Monday, let’s get them in!” … Seriously!

There are too many traps or temptations a hiring manager can fall into. Fortunately the majority of these can be avoided by taking the recruitment and interview process more seriously, looking at potential candidates objectively and most importantly not rushing through the process.

1. Defining success from the outset

It’s much better for your business in the long run to perhaps wait a bit longer to find the perfect person, than to fill the vacancy with a poor hire.

Did you know that the cost to any business of a poor hire is between 3-4 times what you paid them while they were in the business? Perhaps knowing that will now make you take the recruitment process more seriously.

As an employer looking to hire somebody new into your business, even before you start the search you should be able to define your new team member’s performance in terms of the successes you want them to achieve. This can be applied to every single role in your business.

Having a well-written job description will certainly help you assess a candidate’s ability to actually get the job. However in order to determine whether a candidate will excel in the role, you need to define your expectations of their success in that particular role from the outset.

2. Control your emotions

Research shows that the majority of recruiting errors are due to the hiring manager (or interviewer) relying too much on personal biases, opinions, gut feel or first impressions.

It is critical for any hiring manager to control their emotions during an interview.

During an interview try to spend at least 30 to 40 minutes assessing the candidate’s previous work history in terms of key competencies and accomplishments. Looking back at past performance is the best way to determine how someone will react in a similar situation in the future. Avoid hypothetical questions at all costs.

3. The 5 questions you must ask in every interview

You need to ascertain exactly why the candidate has chosen to meet with you. Too often the interviewer is so excited by the fact that someone has actually applied for their role, that they fail to find out what happened in their last position, or more specifically what they are hoping to gain out of their next career move.

Whilst these 5 questions don’t focus at all on a candidate’s past behaviour or personal attributes, they will tell you (very quickly) just how serious the person sitting in front of you is about their job search and ultimately about working for your organisation.

  1. Why are you really sitting in front of me today? The answer to this question will reveal whether your candidate is running away from something (eg a hostile working environment, bad manager, job they have grown to dislike etc), or whether they are running toward something (eg a better job, a new career direction, or a new challenge through a more senior position etc).
  2. What are you ideally looking for in your next position? This is where you basically ask your candidate to create a wish list for their next role.
  3. What salary are you on now? It’s an unfortunate fact but the majority of people will typically ‘stretch the truth’ slightly in response to this particular question. Even if it’s just by a few thousand dollars, candidates will always inflate their current salary. Fortunately there is a way to prevent this. Ask for proof.
  4. Who else is involved in your decision making process? No matter how independent or confident a candidate may appear to be to you, nobody ever makes a decision about a job change completely on their own. So it’s your job to find out who else is involved.
  5. How will your manager react when you resign? Again this might seem like bit of an odd question to ask the first time you meet a candidate, but it will tell you a lot.

4. Check references … vigilantly

Don’t simply rely on a written reference. It could have been written by anyone. For any candidate you are seriously considering bringing on board, make sure you carry out two verbal reference checks and when you do, keep these things in mind:

  • Make sure you are dialling a landline rather than a mobile number, so you know you are calling the office of the candidate’s previous employer and not just one their friends or colleagues;
  • Make sure you have the candidate’s permission to speak with the referee about them;
  • Confirm basic details such as the position title, the period they were employed and their level of experience;
  • Always ask open-ended questions, so the referee must elaborate, rather than simply answering yes or no;
  • Ask about the candidate’s reliability, punctuality, attendance record, sociability, attention to detail, time management skills, key strengths, possible areas where improvement could be made etc;
  • Ask the referee why the candidate left their employment;
  • Document the referee’s responses for later comparison with the key selection criteria;
  • Listen carefully for what the referee doesn’t say about the candidate. This omission could be intentional, if it is an area where your candidate doesn’t excel.
  • Ask the referee if they would re-employ the candidate, given the opportunity. Their reaction and response to this question will reveal a lot.

By following these suggestions and taking precautionary steps such as those outlined above, you may be able to stop any train wrecks before they happen and, at the end of the day, be quietly confident that you have hired the right candidate for the job.

Cofounder at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for 20 years. Follow me @paul_slezak.