January 17, 2019

Hiring: Lessons from an HR advisory firm

Welcome to 2019 – we hope you’ve managed to recharge and refresh, and like us, you’re ready for another great year. Like many businesses, you may be hiring. You could be doing this in-house or through an HR company. Either way, few things are harder for any business than finding good people. So if you’re worried about how you’re going to find and attract your next hire, we thought we’d share the six-step approach we use here at Catalina Consultants.

1. An informal chat

Often the very best people come to us through word of mouth. They also often first come to our attention when we don’t have a role to fill. So, whenever we’re interested in someone who’s been recommended to us, we always begin things with an informal chat. Usually, we’d do this in a cafe or somewhere neutral and comfortable for the person that we’re speaking to. We wouldn’t usually bring them into the office at this very preliminary stage.

At this meeting, we let the potential employee do most of the talking. We do this by asking general questions about the kind of work they’re doing, why they might want to leave, what they’re looking for in a new role and generally keep it big picture. If we think they’re a good match We can keep their details on file and check in with them regularly to ensure they are still potentially interested in working with us. Obviously, where we’re already looking to fill a role we would head straight to step two.

2. The hygiene call

So you’ve advertised a job and the CVs are starting to flood in. Now, once you’ve found someone you think could perform the role, it’s time for what we call ‘the hygiene call’ or phone screen. This is where you or your HR consultant can check the basics – whether they have the right to work, what kind of notice they have to give, what attracted them to the business and the role and what their salary expectations are. It’s also where you can tell them about business and the prospective role, the location and in broad terms what your business might be looking for.

At Catalina Consultants, it’s one of our senior consultants usually makes this call. They’ll be listening intently to the candidate’s responses to make sure their communication skills are up to scratch and that what they said in their application checks out. It’s also a good opportunity to align salary expectations at the outset. For some, this will be where the journey ends but if we like what we hear, we’ll invite them in for a formal interview.

3. The first round interview

Again, it’s generally our senior consultants who’ll conduct the first round interviews.

The first round interview is probably the single most challenging part of the hiring process and also the stage more employers get wrong than any other. Often interviewers do too much of the talking and not enough listening and observing.

The first round interview should always be face-to-face if possible. Ideally, when it comes to best HR practice, have two people in the interview as well: one as the primary interviewer and the other taking notes. The interviewer should be listening intently and asking follow up questions to make sure that the candidate gives comprehensive answers. The note taker should be doing just that – making sure they get everything down and have the best notes possible. They should also be watching out for things like body language, interest and engagement.

At Catalina Consultants, we generally feel that the first interview is focused on behavioural and competency-based questions for around 70 per cent of the time, with 20 per cent focused around explaining the business and the remaining 10 per cent allocated for questions from the candidate. We’d generally allow 45 minutes to run the first interview. If we’re interviewing multiple candidates we often try to run interviews one after the other on the hour. This gives us around 15 minutes to discuss our impressions before the next candidate arrives.

4. The second round interview

Once we’ve narrowed the field down to just a few candidates, we’ll have a second round hiring interview. It’s usually where someone like myself might come back into the picture and run this important step. It’s here that we want to make sure that the person who fills the role, will not only be capable of performing the role, but they’ll get along with our team. Additionally, we ideally want someone that people are going to like working with or for. In short, we’re striving for competency and rapport.

It’s here where we can check if the person is genuinely interested in the job. Are they curious about what they’ll be doing? Are they intrigued where our business is headed? Finally, we would ask some pointed follow-up questions based on the notes from the first round interview too.

If we’re hiring for a senior position, we may follow this up with a short third round interview, so that the senior team get the opportunity to meet the person before we make a decision. But, if we go down this path, make sure it’s done shortly after the second round. Quality candidates often receive multiple offers and if you procrastinate at this stage, you’re likely to find the person you want is no longer available.

5. Psychometric testing

We never hire anyone without a psychometric test, no matter how senior or junior the role. For administrative staff, this may just be a simple personality test (I like the 16PF here) but for more senior hires, we go further.

A psychometric test can uncover things that may not be apparent in an interview. For instance, the introvert who’s super intelligent and diligent but doesn’t like blowing their own trumpet or the candidate who communicates brilliantly but never turns up on time.

Beyond that, they can give an indication of workstyle and preferences – whether they’re self-starters who can work autonomously, how they deal with stress and whether there are any red flags in their work style. It’s certainly not the be-all but it’s another piece of information gathering to help us make the best decision.

6. Reference checking

Finally, we always check in with at least two referees and we put these people under the microscope too. We ask them about any niggling doubts we still might have and we’ll get specific. It won’t be a general, ‘he was a great bloke and worked hard’ kind of chat.

We’ll also always make sure that the people we were speaking to worked closely with the candidate and that they had a direct supervisory role with the candidate. A current or recent boss is significantly more valuable than someone five years ago. So if we can’t speak to someone who’s known them lately, this could raise concerns and we’ll want to know why.

And finally…

Always remember when hiring a new team member, those good candidates won’t hang around waiting. Even with a six-step process like this, we usually manage to go from advertising to hiring in a matter of weeks. So you might be thinking, what’s our strike rate? Well, honestly we’ve made a hiring mistake here and there, but we would say that Catalina Consultants is one of the best HR consultants in Sydney – not biased at all!

If you’re ready to hire someone new in 2019 or think we can help with your recruitment processes, please get in touch.

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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