There is no silver bullet to recruiting the perfect candidate, according to industry veteran Andrew Banks, who explained that companies should adopt a process akin to a 100 point-check in order to improve talent acquisition success.
While the process of recruiting the right people is far from a perfect science, many companies would do well to rethink their approach to talent acquisition, said Banks.
“I’ve always found it amazing that we can send probes to Mars and land people on the moon,” he said.
“But something that is so intrinsically important to people – finding a career that is best suited to them so they can earn a good living and feel safe and secure – seems to elude us.
“The lack of frameworks and frankly science around how people look for and find the right jobs for themselves, and how companies go about recruiting, has always stunned me,” he said.
Banks, who has spent decades building successful businesses in the recruiting profession, said he followed a “100-point check” approach to assessing and recruiting the right candidates for roles.
The first 20 points comprise a thorough and well-rounded interview, Banks explained: “A good interview means dialogue both ways, so the candidate asks the right questions, and the interviewer asks the right questions,” he said.
“This is not simply asking questions about what the candidate has done; it’s more about ‘What are you really looking for?’, ‘Why are you looking at this moment?’, ‘What gets the best out of you?’, What kind of boss makes you successful?’, What kind of culture works best for you?’ – and then ask about strengths and weaknesses.”
Reference checking is worth another 40 points, and Banks said this needs to be correlated to past performance and drill down into key insights gathered about the candidate during the interview process.
“This is not simply asking the questions ‘Would you re-employ them?’, but rather asking ‘What are they really good at?’, ‘What are their weaknesses?’, and ‘Where do you think they could have done better?’ for example,” he said.
“Something that is so intrinsically important to people – finding a career that is best suited to them so they can earn a good living and feel safe and secure – seems to elude us”
A strong behavioural assessment is worth an additional 20 points, Banks said.
“This needs to go deeper than just asking ‘What’s your IQ?’; it should be a sensible and well-rounded behavioural assessment about how the candidate thinks and how they critically problem solve,” he said.
The final 20 points comes down to cultural fit for the organisation, which Banks said is typically harder to assess.
“Every candidate is different; you can take someone who is successful in one environment and put them into a different one, but if that environment isn’t suited to them it is very hard to get a good match and the high performance that comes with this,” said Banks, who observed that this last 20 per cent factor has historically been very elusive.
“Now, on a good day, if you get all of this right and the candidate is being honest about their own thoughts and the employer is really in the moment and not just rushing doing an interview in-between two business appointments, if the reference checking is thorough, if the behavioural assessment is honest and open, and if you get a cultural match – then that is 100/100,” he said.
“We both know that that is probably idealistic in the real world, but the aim of the game is to get 70-80/100 most of the time, and hope that this starts to work for the organisation and for the individual as they start to grow into the role,” said Banks.
The role of technology in recruiting
Banks also said technology is playing an increasingly important role in recruiting, and observed that it can help enormously in the recruitment process – however, it can also be a two-edged sword.
“Technology can amplify, speed up and make accessible clever tools, but like anything else, in the hands of a good practitioner it can add value, but in the hands of a bad practitioner, it can be awful,” he said.
“For example, I’m wary of technology that tends to label people and paint them into a corner and label them as X.
“Technology can amplify, speed up and make accessible clever tools, but like anything else, in the hands of a good practitioner it can add value, but in the hands of a bad practitioner, it can be awful”
“I’ll use Myers Briggs as an example, which I think is a very useful teambuilding tool, but I don’t accept that it is a very good recruiting tool because being an ENTJ (or whatever type you are) doesn’t tell you exactly how you will work,” he said.
Technology can assist at both ends of the recruitment process, from screening and shortlisting, through to assessing culture fit, according to Banks, who has recently invested in a new platform called Shortlyster, which is a hiring optimisation platform that matches and ranks candidates and businesses together through smart data.
“This comes back to the point about the 20 per cent out of 100 on the cultural mix; it’s not about judging candidates or employers but rather objectively assessing the likely real cultural fit between the two,” said Banks, who explained that the platform requires employers to answer 15-20 questions about what it’s really like to work in their company from a values and culture perspective (such as how they like to manage and delegate, or how decision making is carried out).
“It forces the company to think about these things and for all the line managers – presumably signed off by the HR and potentially the CEO – to agree what those cultural factors look like.
“We aren’t telling them what it looks like, but they decide what it looks like for company X or Y.
“And then on the applicant side – whether they be a seasoned professional or an inexperienced job hunter, we simply ask them to look at the same questions but from the other side of that coin, to see which cultural factors they relate to best.”
“So now we have an inexpensive, online filter that I couldn’t have possibly offered to my clients in the 90s, because the technology wasn’t there.
“So this technology is able to help identify culture matches on top of all the other moving parts of skills, competence, passion and personality – and it simply improves the chances that candidates will do well in your company if everything else works out,” said Banks.
Banks observed that there is a general scepticism about online psychometric testing and said it can be hard to convince everyone about which test is going to be right or wrong, but for companies looking to establish a benchmark around culture fit then Shortlyster can be helpful as it is unique to the company.
“If you and I were sitting in a room with 20 people and we wanted to agree on 15 labels that we all agree on with regards to makes this company tick in terms of culture, teamwork and management, for example, then that’s how we get agreement on real and consistent insights into a company’s culture,” he said.
“This is a much better approach than a rambling conversation with a line manager who might be describing their company’s culture versus another manager in a different part of the company who might be describing it slightly differently; the candidate would not be hearing it in the same way.”
“It’s always important to remember that size does matter, because different approaches are required based on company size and also geographic dispersion”
The future of recruitment for HR
From a global perspective, Banks also said there was room for improvement in how most Australian organisations go about recruiting the right candidates.
“Recruitment is a challenge,” he said.
“I spend a lot of time in the US, and not many Australian CEOs have to cope with employing 100,000-300,000 people which they do in the States.
“When comparing ourselves to the States or to Europe it’s always important to remember that size does matter, because different approaches are required based on company size and also geographic dispersion.”
Australians companies are generally “quite sophisticated” being part a smaller society with a workforce of only 12-14 million people, though Banks said Australia is an expensive workforce and it is important for companies to keep up with the latest recruiting and HR trends in order to remain competitive.
“I think the one thing that companies need to take more seriously – and this is including Australia, Europe and the US, from Board and executive team levels down – is thinking deeply about the frameworks they use for matching talent against what they need as a business,” said Banks.
“They throw different bits at it, like talent pooling and outsourcing, and they understand churn and the issues associated with that, but rarely do I hear that CEOs have got their finger on the pulse across the whole range of issues that need to have if you’re going to get that right.”
Workforce models are also changing, with the permanent jobs market fading and the rise of the gig economy and other employment models, he added.
“Five to ten years from now, particularly with AI coming into play, we need to stop thinking about work from a traditional jobs and careers perspective, but more about types of work in terms of things that we are passionate about,” said Banks, who predicted employment models will become more and more fragmented.
“Companies will start to isolate work to be done, and not necessarily jobs and careers. That’s the first thing,” he said.
“That might sound awful because people want security in a job, but on the other hand it will offer remote work and flexibility on scales not seen before – far more than my parents had and we had.
“If you told my grandmother, who was born in 1901, that you would take your intellectual property and load it into this digital document that goes into the thing called the World Wide Web – and then jobs can find you, she would have laughed. We now take that for granted.”
“We need to stop thinking about work from a traditional jobs and careers perspective, but more about types of work in terms of things that we are passionate about”
Banks also said that the traditional resume will change, with individuals piecing together their career history and interests to look more like a “digital Rubik’s Cube” with multifaceted sides detailing different kinds of career experience and other interests including social media.
This digital information would then be indexed by systems which specialise in matching the right talent with open opportunities – and the process of reaching out to people would be automated and ask individuals: “Have you thought about doing an assignment for us, or a piece of work? We have a job here that is perfect for you,” he predicted.
“So, technology will continue to play an important role in matching supply and demand.”
In the process, Banks advised HR leaders to remain current and open-minded about what technology can do for them.
“It’s not going away, so be part of it,” he said.
“I think I’d like HR practitioners can be both quantitative than qualitative; it’s always great to know your net promoter score and to have digital platforms for talent pooling – but we need to get better at assessing soft skills, aspirations and passion, and not just skills, experience and knowledge.
“In my experience, people are getting hired because of their skills or knowledge, and are failing because they are a bad match on their culture and attributes – and that’s where technology can now play a role in helping to improve fit in a meaningful and objective way,” he said.