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  • Bruce Malcom

Effective Talent Acquisition in 2020

Six 20/20 Resolutions

20/20 vision is a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at that distance. The last thing you want to be in business is short-sighted!


Resolution #1: Peek at your recruitment process.


This may seem VERY obvious, but does the way you are handling recruiting make sense? I know, I know, “This is the way we have ALWAYS done it!” But is the way you’ve always done it effective? I am not certain who said it first, however its worth repeating here - “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

Ask yourself whether all the right people are involved? Should recruiting always include the mayor and council? Does  everyone involved have a clear understanding of what to expect and what their role will be in the hiring process? Are there things you could do to speed up employee selection without compromising the quality or effectiveness of your recruiting efforts? If you updated things (and not just for the sake of it), could that lead to a more positive candidate experience (more about this later)? 


Resolution #2: Look! Do your homework  on the positions!


Some of Canada’s 3,573 municipalities are lucky enough to have HR assist their hiring  managers when recruiting for open positions. But the vast majority don’t have a Human Resources department. Whether you are in HR or simply the person charged with the responsibility of hiring, chances are you’re not an expert in every field for which you are recruiting … and that’s okay, just as long as you do your homework. 

According to iCIMS, a recruiting trend data company, the vast majority of those who have the responsibility of recruiting feel they have a good understanding of the jobs they are recruiting for, but 61% of their bosses disagree! 


You don’t have to have expert-level knowledge of  every job, but you do need to know enough to evaluate a potential candidate’s suitability – at least on a broad scale. If you are  in HR, and you really want to help, have a face-to-face or a phone-to-phone with the hiring manager. Find out the good, the bad, and the ugly about the job. You know something about job descriptions even if you don’t know that particular job …  make sure the job description accurately reflects the job. What skills will someone need? Are there important things to relate to a candidate that aren’t necessarily in the job description (long hours, supervisory responsibilities, travel, etc.)? Are there any questions that need to be asked during the interview? It would be helpful, if possible, for you to speak with the incumbent. If you are the hiring manager working with HR, don’t assume that they will automatically know what the job is all about; make sure to give them some of the key details of the job. The more EVERYONE knows about the job, the better chance you have of finding and hiring the candidate who will be the best fit.


Resolution #3: See that you have a recruitment strategy.


Having a plan – in this case a recruitment strategy – is the best way to find the right candidate. It will also help you manage your time effectively. Brainstorm potential sources – get referrals from staff. Are there associations that could be a good resource? Work out, in advance, what each person’s role will be as you go through the recruitment process. And manage expectations. Be clear with everyone, and make sure they know what is expected of them in terms of giving and getting timely feedback. Make certain that interview schedules work for all involved. Wouldn’t it be frustrating to lose a good candidate through a lack of planning or poor communication? Recruitment can be  time consuming. There is often a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Keep your hiring team up to date. As Yogi Berra, the famous New York Yankees catcher, used to say, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”


Resolution #4: Keep employees in the loop.


Does your municipality have an employee referral program? According to one source, most organizations think employee referral is a fantastic idea. Here’s the rub: only about two per cent of those organizations come anywhere close to meeting their referral hiring goals. I am told that, most of the time, employees don’t even know which jobs are open. Whether your municipality has a formal referral program or not, it would likely pay to let your staff know when positions open up, and if you have one, remind them about the referral program. Make sure that it’s easy for staff to submit referrals. Sometimes the VERY BEST referral program is public recognition soon after new staff is hired.  


Resolution #5: Look At everyone’s interviewing skills.


Make sure they are on point. What approach does your municipality take toward the interview? Do you follow a pattern and ask questions in a deliberate way, or do you just wing it? As mentioned in my article The Granddaddy Question of Them All, I have noticed over the years that some of the very best candidates I have had going into an interview quite often fell flat at “showtime.” I observed too, that this often occurred when they had to answer the lame questions included by well-meaning aspiring interview panelists who had Google searched questions like: “Why should we hire you?” or “What is your greatest strength?” or this gem, “Tell me about yourself?”


Really finding out what makes a candidate tick during an interview is a skill that must be learned and practiced. Start by making certain  that everyone in your municipality who is conducting interviews understands what an open-ended question is, and that they are aware of behaviorally based interview questions. These are questions that quite often begin with, “Tell me about a time when you … “. They usually focus on how a candidate handled various work situations in the past, and are based on the reality that past performance is the best predictor of future behavior. Candidates are asked to provide specific examples of job-related situations. Getting answers to these types of questions will help the interviewer assess real observable actions, attitudes, and possible outcomes.


Resolution #6: Have vision Create a top notch “candidate experience”


With baby boomers leaving the room in record numbers, 2019 was a candidate’s job market, and municipal employers across Canada predict that 2020 will be more of the same. This shortage of good people to fill key positions  is causing those in leadership to consider a new approach - treating those who are thinking about work in municipal government are like “customers” . Broadly speaking Customer Service Experience is defined as the sentiment associated with a company’s ability to provide a positive experience for their customers…


The guiding principles of great customer service experience are threefold… first, acknowledging it has value – second a company wide resolve to serve the customer  and third being watchful for ways to build a positive customer experience.


So, here’s the BIG question: Are you treating your candidates like customers? If not, you should be! The “candidate experience” is the term that is now used to describe how a candidate feels during the recruitment process. Workplace Trends reports that 60 percent of candidates report having a poor hiring experience. Candidates need to feel valued throughout the entire process. If they don’t, not only will they move on to another town, but in the process, they are also HIGHLY likely to share this shoddy experience with others on social media or on any number employer review sites. Your municipality’s reputation is at stake. Just a little extra effort on your part will go a long way. If you have been around for a while, you have experienced people not treating you with respect – it doesn’t feel good at all.  Communication and follow up are the KEY to a pleasant candidate experience.


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ANY new year’s resolution involves doing some things differently and making some big and even some small changes to get the results we hope for. Change is never easy. You might even meet some resistance along the way. If making smart hires by doing things differently, and bringing in the best talent for your municipality is a priority, the commitment to shift your thinking will be worth it.


Resolve to make 2020 the year of your municipality’s best talent acquisition yet!

If, as part of your talent acquisition plan, hiring an executive search firm could become part of the equation, consider calling Ravenhill Smith! We specialize in municipal recruiting, and we’ve done so since 2006. Our connections across Canada are wide and deep!

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