Again, it is a long time since I last wrote for this blog. This time it is concerning an excessive recruitment process.
A friend, not the same one as had the issue with the Belgian authorities, applied for a new job. An agency was recruiting for a new Head of Human Relations; which was a new position for them as they had been expanding their workforce. As an agency, the job came with public, civil-servant conditions of employment.
I don’t know how many applicants there were, but this agency had the smart idea to run a test on its selected candidates. Now this is quite usual and even can be good practice as it puts candidates into a stress situation and shows how they cope. It can also allow for a direct comparison between candidates and their depth of knowledge on specific subjects. So I have no problem with a test. I have used them myself for recruitment.
But this test was 4 hours long! This seems rather excessive and whilst it allows a serious examination of the candidate’s skills and knowledge, I wonder how much additional value comes from a test of 4 hours compared to one of, say, 1 hour? Not much I suspect if the test is well thought out.
So, a significant effort required from all applicants and the interviewers to both sit and evaluate the results. But that is not all. This is merely a pre-selection. Based upon the results, the candidates will be down-selected to come back for interviews another time. So the tests are just the second step of the process – the first being the selection of candidates for the test based on their cv’s and letters of motivation.
For this second step, there were 50 candidates; 50 applicants sitting in a room for 4 hours completing the test. 50 papers to mark and evaluate to pass to the next stage where there will be 15 for interview. Now, no one can accuse this employer of being casual about recruitment.
But what a waste of effort. We can imagine that each candidate has taken a day off to attend this test / interview / selection. So that is 50 man days of non-productive effort lost. Isn’t this irresponsible? Not to mention the time required to evaluate the results. I find it hard to imagine a company I know committing the effort required to run such a process.
However, my surprise was that this is considered normal. My friend was not in least put-out and was more surprised at my surprise. So we can imagine this same process being repeated in various organisations around the country. How many man days of productivity lost? How much additional confidence in the selection of the “right” candidate?
For me, the likelihood of getting the best person by such a process in increased minimally by having so many candidates. Surely, a responsible recruitment process would be able to balance the broader needs against its own goals. For example, one where the employer selects maybe 5 or 6 candidates from the long list. Where they follow a single process where candidates are tested and interviewed on the same day. Where maybe the best 2 or3 are called back for a second interview. I am not an expert, but such a process strikes me as being fair, reasonable, and still likely to offer a high probability of finding the best candidate.
Of course this is a public organisation so fair and reasonable give way to taking no risks and no accountability.