Despite the current buzz about values-based recruitment, do you really know how to go about recruiting for the values and behaviours that fit your organisation?
Most organisations have a procedure for recruitment and selection. But does yours really help you find the people who are a perfect fit for your organisation? People whose behaviours embody your organisational values, fuelling the best performance and working culture you could wish for?
“We endeavour to find people with the right qualities that will fit our culture,” says Julie Breed, Head of HR at the Investors in People Champion organisation Greenfields Community Housing. “It means they’ll be happy and fulfilled while they’re with us, empowered to make a difference, be quickly able to deliver great services to our tenants and customers – and we’ll be able to help them reach their full potential.”
Values-based recruitment has become something we know is important in principle – but how do you actually go about recruiting for values and behaviour? While qualifications, skills and experience are much more clear-cut and concrete to identify, how can we objectively measure something as seemingly intangible as a person’s values and behaviours?
Know what you’re looking for
Obvious as it may sound, it’s important to dig a bit deeper and interrogate what you’re looking for in your ideal candidate. On top of their skills and experience, what behaviours and characteristics are important for success in certain departments and specific roles? Discuss this with colleagues at every level of the business, from senior managers to the team who’d be working with the new starter.
And be realistic about how this may differ across particular roles, sectors and industries. “Behavioural based interviews, assessments and so on are critical for customer facing service industries, influencing how applicants will act in their future role,” says Andy Sheil, managing director for Investors in People Champion, Just Ask Estate Services in Surrey. “But recruiting on skill and qualification may be more important in other industries. For example, if you’re looking for an engineer with the qualifications and experience to manufacture a widget within certain tolerances, behaviours may become less important – and skill the main priority.”
Unpack your values
If you haven’t approached recruitment in this way before, this is a good opportunity to take a step back and re-examine your organisation’s values. What are they? How do they project what you want to achieve and ‘what’s it’s like to work here’?
Once you’re completely happy with your values, you’ll need to consider what personal behaviours relate to each one – how might we see those values in action? For instance, one of the values for HSBC, another leading Investors in People accredited organisation, is ‘open’. But instead of just saying the word ‘open’, they expand on how it translates to colleagues’ behaviour: “We expect you to be honest and straight talking. You treat others with respect and fairness. You listen to their ideas, show genuine appreciation of their needs and collaborate effectively for the benefit of the team.”
It’s vital to follow your values statements through into a culture and behaviours that genuinely demonstrate the words used. Otherwise, you’re more likely to have meaningless posters on the wall than an effective strategy to reinforce performance through people.
Shout it from the rooftops
So now you’ve got a much clearer picture of the values, characteristics and behaviours that you’re looking for. If you want the best chance of finding the perfect candidate, don’t keep these values and behaviours criteria to yourself. Make sure that your ‘this is how we do things’ rings loud and clear on your website pages, job advertisements and job descriptions. For example, if one of your values is ‘friendly’, do your words reflect this or are they overly formal, distant or even intimidating?
Make your culture and values clear in all your communications about a particular role and then see if applicants take the opportunity to respond appropriately and demonstrate their fit. The more specific you are about what you’re looking for, the more applicants will want to show you why they’re the perfect match.
And when it comes to putting your specific job advertisement ‘out there’, don’t miss the opportunity of inviting personal contact. So much is done digitally these days, but it’s amazing what you can pick up about someone’s personality from a quick phone call.
Design your selection process accordingly
There are lots of different ways you can ‘test’ candidates’ behaviours – providing a welcome break from the monotony of standard interview questions at the same time. Here are just a few, drawn from recruitment techniques I’ve seen in a number of values-driven organisations:
- Values-based questions. Ask candidates to describe their typical reactions to situations, real or imagined – it’ll often reflect a truer self than conventional interview questions exploring skills and/or knowledge only. Avoid questions that simply ask for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer – make sure your questions invite the candidate to expand on their reply and give reasons for it.
- Personality questionnaires and psychometric tests. These determine aptitude and can all be used to categorise preferences and attributes. Most personality questionnaires test for personality traits and determine characteristics that describe an individual’s behaviour, exhibited in a variety of situations. “Use psychometrics purposefully,” says Shiel. “Know which instruments do what and consult an expert if needed. You can receive a good return on your investment if your chances of selecting the right people all of the time increases.”
- Formal and informal activities. These provide a platform for candidates to demonstrate experience, application and common behaviours related to situations. These could include:
- Roving focus groups where relevant discussions take place on rotation. You’ll need some others to contribute to this activity, so it’s a great way of getting stakeholders, volunteers and others involved in the process and meeting potential candidates.
- Scenarios where candidates discuss a common situation with each other and come to some conclusions about intended action.
- Team-focused meet and greet sessions. Getting your team to contribute to the recruitment process is a valuable way of observing initial interactions between the candidate and existing members, as well as getting feedback from each member to reflect on their own experience of the activity.
Make sure your shortlisted candidates know what to expect so they can prepare accordingly – although you may want to keep some elements ‘secret’ if you want to test how they cope with the unexpected.
Many leading organisations include a guide to each different stage in their selection process on their websites, available for all to see. So at each step, candidates will be aware of precisely where they are and what to expect next.
And finally: “Give everybody feedback so they learn from the experience,” says Shiel. If you’re asking people to undertake challenging (and sometimes unusual) tasks to reveal more about what really makes them tick, it’s only fair to give them constructive feedback to help their future development. Otherwise, what impression might it leave of your organisation and how you really live your values?