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What can I do to increase the quality of the candidates I have to interview?

This is a question anyone who has been involved in the hiring process, has asked at some stage.


Before answering it, however, reframing the question might help.


Instead of “what can I do to increase the quality of my candidates”, how about “why is the quality of my candidates low?”


The answer to that is a combination of factors including:


  • Going to market with inconsistent and low-quality information
  • Issues with the recruitment process
  • The quality and capability of your recruiters
  • Having an overly competitive supply chain
  • Mismanaging candidate expectations.


So, what drives quality?


The first thing, as basic as it might sound, is to get crystal clear on what you want those people to be.


Ask yourself how much consideration as a business you have given to what quality is like.


Have you defined what good / bad, right / wrong, effective / ineffective looks like to you? What sort of businesses do your ideal candidates come from? What sort of attitudes do they have? And have you communicated those things to the individuals trying to find those people for you?


Get your message right


Standardised job descriptions lead to poor quality candidates. If you want quality candidates, you want to spend time tailoring each one. For example, if you’re looking for a project manager, going to your internal recruitment team or external supplier with a standard job description won’t accurately capture the type of person you want.


Granted, this comes with a caveat, as this exercise is, by its very nature, subjective. What one line manager considers good, might be very different to another line manager.


But that still doesn’t discount the fact that you must get really specific with your ask so that the people searching for those candidates on your behalf know exactly the type of individuals you are looking for.


You know, as well as we do, that despite having a specific requirement, for a particular individual, doing a particular role, what ends up being communicated about that individual is very generic. And generic, when what you want is specific, reduces the quality of your candidate.


Having the right information 


To stand even half a chance of getting quality candidates in front of you, the individuals or team that are searching for those individuals need to be armed with the right information. And often, that information gets lost in translation as part of the recruitment process, especially if there are multiple people involved in that process.


Picture this scenario: your line manager has a requirement and briefs your internal recruiter. Your internal recruiter then briefs the account manager in a recruitment business. That account manager then briefs his/her consultants or resource. And that, is what goes out to market.


Now imagine that scenario being replicated 2, 3, 5 or even 10 times as part of your competitive multiagency preferred supplier list (PSL), a selection of pre-assessed recruitment suppliers that your business has agreed to engage with.


Chinese whispers 


What do you think happens to the integrity of that information as it gets communicated from one person to the next?


And, if your internal recruitment team or external supplier is detached from the hiring manager, they won’t fully understand the exact nuances of what makes someone a good fit for a particular role anyway.


There is also the issue of inconsistency of information sharing by your internal team to your PSL, which adds to the variation in the quality of candidates that are submitted.


That’s why it’s imperative the information passed on from the get-go is sound, accurate, and consistent. The last thing you want is for your message to become eroded as a by-product of the process itself.


Even if the original information is accurate, the likelihood of zero degradation is slim, particularly by the time that information reaches the recruiter who is speaking to candidates.


Then there are times when the original information itself is inaccurate or poor quality before it even starts its communication journey. This is often driven by lack of time or attention to detail. If that’s your starting point, then the information being moved along the recruitment process sets you up for failure and reduces the quality of candidates even further.


Feedback loop


To make matters worse, this process can render your feedback loop ineffective. This means that any adaptations or changes to rectify inadequacies or inconsistencies in that information being communicated, which is driving poor quality, is hampered further. And this only serves to leave things as they are, if not make them worse.


Quality and capability of recruiters  


Then there is the quality, relevance, and capability of the people trying to fill those vacancies to consider. Even if a consultant or consultancy team is given an accurate brief, they might not know or really understand how to ask the right questions or do the right things to qualify a candidate for a particular brief.


Understanding the brief is critical. If your agencies don’t understand the brief or they understand it but aren’t able to qualify the right candidates against that briefing, then that will reduce the outcome.


You want to be confident that the account teams doing the recruiting understand the necessary concepts you’re looking for and are diligent about asking the right questions. You want them to have evidenced where they have done this before and to have worked in your industry.


One of the ways to mitigate for that is to ensure there is always a senior team member from every agency on your PSL, who is responsible for quality control of those candidates.


Competitive supply chain 


The very nature of a competitive PSL prioritises speed over quality.


Once a brief has been distributed from your internal team to your external list of suppliers, the objective for those suppliers is to get candidates, that broadly fit those requirements, submitted against that vacancy as fast as possible.


This way of engaging with your external supply chain strips the quality out of the process because they are incentivised by speed and volume, over quality. That’s why adding more suppliers to your PSL, to find better quality candidates, doesn’t work. Instead, it increases the volume and the necessity for speed, which in and of itself further reduces quality.


Candidate expectations 


Candidates drop out of the recruitment process all the time and good quality candidates even more so. There are many reasons for this but some of them come down to not meeting their expectations.


Speed – Quality candidates will not wait around for you forever. The longer it takes to get through the process or to get an offer out to them, the greater the chance another organisation will take them on, or they’ll decide to stay where they currently are.


Inconsistency in information – Candidates might be told one thing by a recruitment consultant and another by a line manager. If the information candidates receive along the recruitment process is inconsistent, this can sour the whole experience and cause dropouts, and by association you increase your chances of the best people dropping out.


You might have the best possible candidate in the market in your final shortlist, but if you don’t capture them in time, you might as well not have them in the process in the first place.


Rememberyou don’t get a second chance, to make a first impression.


If you want to capture the best people, you need the best process, you need the best approach.


Be proactive 


The other way to drive quality into recruitment is through the process itself.


Quality candidates are not easy to find. You need to be a lot more proactive in presenting your opportunity to the market and going out and finding them, rather than simply relying on the ones actively looking.


The candidates you want are most likely doing a good quality job elsewhere. What can you offer to improve their situation in some way? How can you entice them away from their current employer or your competitors?


At the end of the day, the best companies, with the most compelling message, delivered in a consistent way, to a predictable format, will attract the best people.



Interested in exploring what you can do to the increase the quality of candidates you have to interview? Fill out our contact form below to speak to the team.