The hiring market in the UK is as fluid as it has been in a long time. The relentless pace of technology is a given; but add to that the uncertainty of Brexit (candidates arriving from Europe before the door closes, others bailing out) and IR35 (do contractors jump into perm roles? What will the model be for contract engagements? What is going to happen to that market?) and identifying the right person at the right time in the right place can be really hard work.

Hard work I’m here to do by the way – call me!

(As another rider I’m not planning to write about either Brexit or IR35 here – those are massively contentious problems in their own right and frankly if you know the answers you’re doing better than me)

One upshot of all of that is that it can be hard to secure the person you want. You can go all the way through the process of identifying, interviewing and offering the ideal person – and then find yourself with nothing because they either rejected your offer, or accepted it and then bailed.

That’s been an occupational hazard of recruitment for at least the 25 years I’ve been doing it, and I presume forever. Anyone who’s been in the game more than about 6 months will have their war stories – and I’ll be frank, it’s happened to me a couple of times in the last few months and I’m not happy about it. Think of this article as catharsis.

We might as well be honest about it up front – you can’t make people do what you want. So there will always be some who slip through the net. But there are, I think, four key things that companies can do to maximise their chances of getting the right person. So here they are:

1. Move quickly. Let’s say you’ve finally found your perfect Data Scientist. She lives in the right area, salary expectations are aligned, phone interview went well. Now what? Well – now get on with it. Don’t disappear for 2 weeks without explanation. Don’t have an open ended interview process which seems unlikely ever to end. DO keep it moving, be flexible, be up front about how many rounds and who they need to meet, and progress it. There’s no need to suddenly panic and rush it through in 24 hours – that can spook a good candidate. Just be pragmatic, pacey and clearly engaged. Be, in fact, how you want them to be. This is a reciprocal process. Show them that you’d be good to work for.

2. Understand your USP. Why would someone choose your company and this role? Know that, and sell it. By the way, that will mean accepting that some people won’t want it; if your USP is that you have an incredibly cool and buzzy office near Silicon Roundabout and the team is really close, you’ll lose the person who wants to work from home. But that’s OK because they’re not the right hire for you anyway. Make sure you can articulate your opportunity, and that you can differentiate it: it’s all very well being a Series A start up but what if the candidate is talking to two Series A start ups? Why would they choose yours? Why is being a Sys Admin at your bank better than being one at another?

3. Don’t drown in process. Particularly in big organisations, there is paperwork that needs to be done. But you’ve got to get that done on your time. Asking a candidate with three offers to wait 3 days because that’s how long HR’s agreed turnaround is, is hopeless. It’s just three days for them to contemplate how dire it must be to work for a company where you can’t get anything done. And three days for their other offers to get in their head. Approvals, paperwork, admin; it’s all got to be slick and manageable, and it’s got to fit with the expectation you set up front. You don’t want to be hiring the person who’s the only one left at the end of your admin.

4. Be realistic. Just wanting someone who has the 47 different attributes you’d like doesn’t make them exist. But being enthusiastic about the person who can cover most of the bases and has the drive and wherewithall to pick up the rest goes a long way. No-one wants to be hired begrudgingly. Stepping up into a job the company’s excited for you to take on is really motivating; and everyone can win. Burning every candidate in the market waiting for a unicorn can be very damaging.

I could sum that all up really by saying “treat people like people”. If you engage positively, swiftly, openly and enthusiastically, most people will respond in kind. And the ones that don’t…..perhaps it’s a mercy they didn’t join.

At Vocative Consulting, we work alongside companies to help them find the very best IT hires for critical roles – we believe recruitment is an art, not just a science.

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