Finding the right person to fit a particular role, while ensuring they suit the company’s culture, can be complicated
Companies often use recruitment agencies to find the best person for their positions but others, such as mobile app and web development company Appster, spend up to 22 hours to secure the best fit.
Appster uses a unique recruitment model, developed by co-founders Mark McDonald and Josiah Humphreys, to find their “A-grade” employees.
The pair, who established Appster when they were aged 18 and 19 in 2011, have grown from being garage-based app developers to employing 150 people in Australia, India and the US.
Ensuring they recruit well, no matter how long it takes, means retention rates are higher because they find people who suit their business.
“It takes up to 22 hours, but … the average cost to a Fortune 500 company of mis-hiring at executive level is estimated to cost 27 times more than a yearly executive’s pay,” McDonald says.
“It actually saves us a lot of time because we do the work up-front.”
Although it does not sound a time-efficient recruitment method, McDonald and Humphreys are ensuring they recruit well.
Their unique system is thorough. First they analyse the characteristics of their ideal candidate, based on experiences with previous staff. These attributes relate not just to skills, but attitude, whether they will lead to career progression, necessary distinctive traits to make them an A player, and how they will fit Appster’s culture.
From their brainstorming, they spend up to three hours compiling a scorecard containing up to 100 questions and characteristics, and then advertise through LinkedIn, job boards and personal networks.
They throw a few screener questions at potential candidates, ruling out up to 90 per cent of those who fail to respond to questions about career goals and what they may be good at, or reveal their weaknesses.
“We might ask ‘who was your direct report in that role and what would they rate you out of 10 if we were to ask them’,” Humphreys says. “You have to be transparent … you can’t pull the wool over our eyes because we’ll probably check with them anyway.”
Those who make it past these screener questions are subject to a 30 to 60-minute interview to determine if they can perform in the role and whether they would be a good cultural fit. They are also encouraged to ask questions and competency testing is introduced if the role is technical.
The 5 per cent who make it to the next stage then spend half a day at the Appster offices with a potential colleague, manager, executive and often someone they will not have any dealings with at all, to ensure they fit Appster’s culture. That results in a group discussion with those who have spent time with the candidate.
McDonald says the next step is a tandem interview lasting up to five hours, where one person asks questions and the second observes body language, how they fit the scorecard and analyses responses.
“There’s no way that one person hiring is going to know how every person will work out and who won’t work out,” he says.
There are then reference checks and further competency testing under working conditions.
While it sounds complex and time-consuming, Humphreys insists it is not, and he justifies the time commitment as a benefit for his evolving business.
“When we tell people the time and the investment we put in they say we’re crazy, but we know for a fact we could never go back because it saves us so much time and cost,” Humphreys says.
Corporate training and performance specialist Happening People advises companies on recruitment strategies.
Managing director Sam Day says few put enough time into recruitment, which can be detrimental to growth, productivity and turnover.
“If people have two interviews, outside of a phone interview, and they may have had a psychometric test, you’ve met with a candidate for two hours and then you’re placing them next to where you’re going to sit for most of your waking hours,” Day says.
Day says processes need to be robust, whether they are implemented by internal human resources staff or subcontracted to an external company. One of the biggest mistakes employers make, he says, is for managers to retain autonomy when making hiring decisions, and recruiting people most like them.
“You end up with a subculture in the organisation, and it becomes a them-and-us subculture,” he says. “You end up with silos that have subcultures and they fight with each other.”
Day recommends an eight-step recruitment process, including assessing the role and creating competencies to suit the organisation’s needs, screening, involving multiple stakeholders to ensure people are not hiring their clones, and vigorous reference checking.
Morgan McKinley joint managing director Vanessa Harding-Farrenberg says some companies rush through the hiring process.
“It can’t be near enough is good enough, rather than finding someone that’s going to add value in the long term,” Harding-Farrenberg says. She says companies must ensure the job description is clear to ensure they attract the right people, and that there are multiple people involved with interview processes. “You need to have interviews with line managers, with stakeholders, someone for a human resources perspective to make sure they’re the right cultural fit for the organisation,” she says. “And there’s a role for assessments. If it’s a strategic person maybe it’s a business case they need to put together for you.”
Harding-Farrenberg says recruiters need to ensure they can see through the jargon a candidate might use, because many people know the buzz words but might not have the skills. You might sift through hundreds of resumes, but you’ll need to be able to identify the best ones.
Another important step is thoroughly checking references.
“It helps to understand how they fit in, what sort of management style is going to get the best out of them.”
Originally published in The Australian