Casting your net wide

How to avoid losing quality candidates when recruiting at volume

Words by Daniel Cave | Design by Matt Bonnar


The quantity versus quality debate rages on in recruitment. Should you post your job advert everywhere, in the vain hope that it might be chanced upon by the person you actually want in your company, or do you carefully craft a LinkedIn invite message to the candidate you actually want? Do you bring everyone in for assessment, hoping that a few stars make their way through, or do you only invite a small percentage of all applicants to the interview and testing stage. In both instances, it can be tempting to do the former, thinking that volume is the best way to go as it will eventually throw up the needed hire – right? Additionally, for huge firms that require an influx of new talent each year, recruiting at volume is often inescapable so it can be tempting to case the net as wide as possible in order to get the best incoming talent.

However, this brings a plethora of problems with it. Dr. Alan Bourne, CEO and Founder of Sova Assessment understands this. “Volume recruiting has historically been problematic,” he says. “[Some of the biggest issues are] applicant numbers exceeding way beyond capacity, clunky and fragmented assessment techniques plagued with the potential for inherent bias, as well as a lack of measurable markers to assess the success of a hire in relation to delivering back against business objectives.”

It begs the question, about what can be done to ensure that just because you’re recruiting en masse top talent isn’t put off because you don’t offer the correct, or a poor, candidate experience? In Hays’ What Workers Want Report 2018, research, from almost 15,000 responses, found that almost two-thirds of applicants had been deterred from completing their application because of a poor recruitment experience. Indeed, almost half of candidates say they didn’t go after a role because of a negative first impression. One of the best ways to mitigate against this is, according to Bourne, is to understand the importance of the employee and see the recruitment process as an extension of the employee offering. “It is crucial that employer brand is central, not incidental to the recruitment process,” he explains.


Bourne continues: “In many cases, the recruitment process will be the first meaningful engagement a candidate has with a brand. Potential employees deserve, and will come to expect, a degree of value exchange in the recruitment process, so offering fragmented, clunky and inconsistent assessments that provide no sense of what your brand stands for, simply won’t cut the mustard when competing for those star hires.” To help improve the process, and get the candidate a firm really needs, Bourne believes bespoke assessment tools are needed, as well as improvements throughout the whole recruitment experience, so top talent doesn’t ‘drop off’ during the process.


The importance of employer brand in volume recruiting

With over 2,000 employees, TalkTalk is always going to have high demand for new talent. They are also competing on a ‘talent tight’ employment landscape. Therefore what employers can offer potential hires is a key differentiator. Offering learning throughout the employee lifecycle is now key. Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends 2019 Report found that 89% of respondents cited learning as important or very important.

This is part of the reason that TalkTalk highlights its learning offering in the recruitment process. Ian Turner, Talent Director at TalkTalk says: “I think its absolutely critical that we give an offering to any potential recruit at TalkTalk that we’re going to develop them and help them on their career journey whether that be for one job with us or five or six jobs with us over a number of years, it’s absolutely got to be part of that attraction.”


In fact, Bourne believes that proper assessment and testing ensures that the right fit of candidates are being recruited. He recalls a legal firm that presumed the most appropriate entry-level hires would be those with experience at other legal firms. Yet, assessments over time gave the firm access to data which highlighted that the best hires were those with a background in customer service. According to Bourne, the best assessments focus on “soft skills”, those which candidates with customer service experience had, and can give firms access to talent which is crucial for “future proofing [their] organisation.”“The good news is that, thanks to machine learning, we can now apply much more sophisticated, fully integrated and measurable assessments to the recruitment process,” he adds.


Yet, in the modern recruitment landscape – where contracting, gig economy and temporary arrangements are increasing in use – ensuring that all candidates get a positive experience and are properly assessed, regardless of how they might engage with your organisation, is difficult. This can impact an organisation’s long-term standing with top talent. Peter Cheese, Chief Executive at CIPD, the UK’s largest HR body, notes that when a business has an acute need for talent it can often turn to procurement to fill the gaps – which means critical parts of the traditional recruitment process are bypassed altogether.

“In the past, if we had a gap we might’ve thought ‘let’s get a contractor in and bring them in via procurement’,” Cheese says. Yet, he believes this indents on an individuals experience – “If I’m a contractor for six months at a company and am treated badly and never included in anything, no induction and no one cares what I do; of course I’m going to reflect that to other people,”- as the Hays’ survey notes, could turn them off in the long run. He believes HR, and resourcing, need to think about the candidate experience that those on non-full-time contracts will be getting. The implication being that top talent is deterred from potentially applying for future work at the firm because it wasn’t treated well. “We have to think about this stuff more strategically and more holistically. These are strategic issues that have to change today and how we understand these different models within organisations,” he adds.


The importance of assessment

Like Bourne, Jon Hull, Head of Resourcing Delivery at Nationwide believes assessment is key. He explains that at the highly-rated bank implementing automated assessment has given candidates a better understanding of what the role entails and whether it is for them. On the flipside, this gives Nationwide a better understanding of whether they would be successful in the role – which might help, partly, explain its impressive customer scores.

He says: ““We use modern, automated assessment tools and methods for our graduate and customer facing hiring. Its transformed the candidate experience, giving them realistic insight to what the demands of the job really are and tests these dimensions, resulting in better predictability of success in role, speed of hire and quality outcomes.”


It’s this strategic thinking that Bourne believes is crucial when recruiting at volume. He believes that organisations should be considering the specific business need they have – not just today but for tomorrow. He says: “There is an unfortunate legacy of tackling volume hires by focusing largely on quantity, rather than taking a strategic and future facing approach to assess quality of candidates and the long-term value being added to the business.” He believes that to circumvent this issue, properly assessing your talent is crucial as it highlights exactly what the business needs. “If a business does not measure the success of a hire (and many don’t), it is not able to accurately assess if it is in fact making the right hires to meet the needs of the organisation, which are likely to be ever-changing,” Bourne explains.” This makes for a poor experience for both the organisation and the candidate.”


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