As an established and growing business, we find ourselves regularly recruiting, often at graduate level. It has long been our aim that our recruitment process need only hire for positions that have been created through business expansion, rather than replacing former staff. Happily, this is now the case more often than not within our company. Through this process, I have acquired some insight into the job market, particularly for graduates.
When hiring at the graduate level, it is not necessarily the priority to look for a particular skill set, but someone who has the right attitude to develop. For this, a very relaxed interview style is preferred, taking the time to get to know the candidate as an individual. By taking the time to find out more about the candidate in this way, it is possible to more easily establish whether they would be a good fit for the business. Importantly, establishing whether they fit the values and ethos of the company. Once this decision is made, it demonstrates good faith to communicate the outcome to the candidate in a timely manner.
When we were recruiting in the summer, we decided not to advertise the positions widely, but through a few universities to establish the level of interest. We received enough applications to give us choice but not enough to inundate us. We then made our choice of who to interview and sent out the invitations. On the whole it was a very positive experience but there was one candidate who stood out, and for all the wrong reasons. This was also despite having a good CV and covering email. It became obvious that they had applied for any job advertised and appeared to have very little knowledge of who we were and what we did, due to a lack of even cursory research. It was a very disappointing experience for all concerned, and a warning for graduates generally.
Comparatively, one of our successful candidates did not hide the fact that their working knowledge of the more technical aspects of the business was lacking. However, they had researched the company in-depth, and their questions reflected this. During our first discussion I ended up giving them more focused information which they took away and used for more specific research in preparation for our next discussion. This attitude was what made them successful as they were open and up front with us from the beginning. They also demonstrated their enthusiasm and work ethic during this process which was great to see.
Looking back on another of the successful candidates, it did occur to us that the position on offer may not have been their ideal role. Rather, they were applying for jobs in the right sort of area to get launch their career. We were convinced of this candidate’s pragmatism and work-ethic, and as such felt reassured that this person could grow within our company for years to come. This is in contrast to others of their age, who seem to only apply for jobs that fulfil all their criteria. It is not necessarily the case that younger people have unreasonable expectations for their working environment generally. However, many seem to think that their absolute ideal role is there for them straight out of university, which is often not realistic.
It is also interesting to note that work/life balance is important to those starting out. I am all for this, but to hear it expressed at this early stage worries me. I firmly believe that generally speaking employees should work roughly their set hours. However, nobody finishes a task at exactly 5.30pm every day. Generally, we take a somewhat flexible approach to within plus or minus 15/20 minutes of the working day. The main priority is that the tasks are done to a high standard. If this is done at 5.15pm, so be it. The other side of this coin is that if a task requires an employee to work until 5.45pm, this should be done for the benefit of the business.
Whilst no one should have to do overtime on a regular basis. It must also be clear to individuals that if you want to progress, then hard graft is a necessity. As CEO I was once asked if someone could change their working hours to finish at 5pm so that she could do all the shopping/cleaning etc in the evenings so that their weekend was kept clear for fun. The request itself was not unreasonable just the justification for it! I’m always looking for people who ask the question – what do I need to do to get paid and what do I need to do to get rewarded. This may be the difference between a good employee, and a great employee.
Having stated the expectations on the candidates themselves, I believe businesses too must hold themselves to a high standard. Even when recruiting at the graduate level where many applicants are applying for the same job, it is necessary for businesses to ensure they conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. Perhaps it is our size that allows our business to be so adaptable, but many organisations still do not acknowledge receipt of application in any way or take too long in deciding to proceed. Indeed, some candidates receive invitations to interviews for jobs that they applied for months prior. This not only means that those companies wait too long and miss out on the best candidates, but it also reflects badly on the company generally.
In the current job market, each application can easily take over two hours. Organisations frequently appear to have an interactive portal that must be completed for the post advertised. This is of course in addition to the time it takes to look for the job and to carry out the appropriate research. Applying for jobs can be in itself a full-time occupation. From an employer’s point of view, I can see why having consistent information in the same format for each applicant is beneficial. However, this filter can also make them ‘blind’, perhaps we could be losing something in the process. We must remember that we are employing humans not robots. It is healthy to give candidates the opportunity to put across some of their personality in their applications.
My target is to employ people with the right attitude and train them accordingly and push/pull them up the ladder so that they can participate in our success. Our aim is that the only recruitment that we do is for new positions as we grow and not replacements.
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