Friday, 16 March 2012


Recruiting the best people is critical to the success of any business, so there was a great deal of interest this week when the National Local Government Customer Service Network invited an industry expert in recruiting, Anita Radisic of Humanis Group, to offer insights into effective recruitment practices in the current environment.

A key change in recent years has been the proliferation of professional resume writing services. A brilliant resume guarantees nothing anymore, and participants at the seminar recounted times when applicants selected for interview appeared to be unaware of the contents of their submissions!

Private and public sector differences were also apparent, with Councils bound by tighter external scrutiny of processes and quite varied HR guidelines about how they could contact applicants, how fast a position could be offered, and how long the details of a shortlisted candidate could be kept on file if initially unsuccessful. In the private sector, for example, Anita recommended leaving no more than 10 days between interviews and the offer of a position, but it this could take up to 3 months in the public sector, with the real risk of losing the best candidates.

Anita offered the following tips for effective recruitment:

Be clear about the essential criteria and sift for a close match
  • Check resumes for relevance to the job specifications, but don't exclude candidates for failing to meet a small part of the brief until you have considered their capability; if the can easily obtain those skills and have the right attitude, they may still be the best fit for the job.
  • Look for examples to demonstrate the skills claimed.
  • Avoid over-qualified people unless you can offer career paths; the job needs to be within the capabilities of the candidate yet still represent some challenge or improvement to keep people even in the medium term.
 Pre-screening is essential
  • Telephone screen all promising candidates after the first review of submissions. Ask why they applied, why they want to make a change, and raise the likely remuneration early - you need to be sure that they have the right attitude and would be likely to accept the job, if offered. The whole recruitment process is a lot of work, so the culling process is all about finding people with the right skill set who will be a good cultural fit to the organisation, and not wasting time.
The interview shortlist
  • Check references and invite only a very short list of qualifying candidates for an interview, perhaps up to 5. Schedule all interviews on one day, if possible, and explain to candidate that you will be taking notes during the interview.
  • People interviewed should meet the job skill requirements already, so you will be checking for attitude and 'fit' with the business and making sure that the resume accurately reflects their experience. Problem solving scenarios can be a good way to assess higher level skill sets. Check that claimed qualifications were actually completed. 

  • Following the interview, where possible, set tests for specific skills. For example, Humanis does this for standard office software, typing, or ability to do a trial balance for accounts positions, where these skills are a requirement. 

  • Discuss remuneration and conditions, when and how you will contact the candidate with your decision, and invite candidates to ask questions about the job, the work, and the organisation.
The Decision
  • Make a decision soon, ideally in the next day or so, and contact the preferred candidate with your offer. If they do not immediately accept, there may be issues that were not adequately raised from the outset (location, remunerations and work aspirations) and you may have a problem, so do not allow much time for prevarication.

  • Advise all outcomes of the outcome in writing promptly. Anita recommends a short explanation that another candidate proved a better fit for the position along with helpful feedback where the applicant was weaker, but to avoid getting into correspondence on the topic by restating the reason given, if questioned further. 

Recruitment at Well Done

Recruitment is critical for us, too, at Well Done, because we offer such complex and tailored services to a wide range of clients. The standard agent profile for the call centre industry is well regarded at Well Done, but is not in itself, sufficient to ensure success. 

Beyond telephone manner and computer skills, we look for resilience, common sense, reliability and team work in potential staff. Temperament is also important, as not everyone can cope with answering calls for a variety of organisations without knowing which one will be next; the agents who thrive in our work typically enjoy this challenge. Often personal referral by someone who works here can be beneficial, because the candidate can have a better understanding of what the work involves, and a buddy on hand to help.

The work is rostered 24x7, and lends itself to a variety of work-life equations. Age and work continuity are no barrier; we have students, carers, and mature age people who bring a variety of life experiences to the job in our call centres. Engagement with the work and reliability are very important; we make a big commitment to ongoing training, so developing and retaining staff is a key focus.

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