Getting the Right People
Selection & Hiring
Plan the selection process
Selection is the process of screening applicants to ensure that the most appropriate candidate is hired.
The first step in the selection process is to review the information (resume, application form) provided by all job applicants to determine which applicants meet the minimum qualifications as stated in the job posting. No further consideration will be given to those who do not meet the minimum qualifications. (In fact, it is a good idea to say in your advertisements that only those candidates who meet the job requirements will be considered.) Those job applicants who meet or exceed the minimum job qualifications are then assessed to decide which ones will be short-listed for a job interview.
The most common methods of selection for all positions include an interview followed by a reference check.
Other selection techniques used during the interview phase are: work samples, written tests, in basket exercises, oral presentation, and personality or aptitude tests. After making a conditional offer, additional selection techniques can include: criminal records check, driver's records check. Written consent is required before requesting records checks.
Working with a selection panel
Engaging other people in a selection process can be very helpful. You may want to include a senior staff member, a board member and a potential co-worker, for example. When you invite panel members to participate, let them know how much time it will take and what their role will be. Their contribution can include:
- Helping to develop selection criteria
- Screening resumes
- Preparing interview questions
- Participating in interviews
- Assessing each candidate against the selection criteria
- Providing input about the final selection
When working with a selection panel:
Prepare for the interviews
Prepare a list of questions to ask during the interview (see the HR Toolkit's Sample Interview Questions). Develop key questions to explore past job performance, covering all essential functions. Also, prepare follow-up questions. Use a variety of approaches to get different kinds of information, tailoring questions to open up a topic for conversation or to confirm information.
When you call the job applicants on the short list to set up an interview, tell each person the salary range for the position, if this information was not part of the job posting. Then ask them if they would like to proceed to an interview given the salary you have to offer. This way, you should avoid interviewing people who later refuse a job offer on the basis of salary.
Conduct the interviews
Choose an appropriate environment for the interviews and ensure that you will not be interrupted. If you are interviewing internal candidates, consider doing it off-site.
Think of the interview as a business conversation. Make sure you use the same interview format and setting for every candidate, and that interview appointments are the same length.
Welcome the candidate and provide her/him with an overview or "road map" for the interview. Ask your questions, then sit back and listen. Ideally, you should talk no more than 20% of the time. Use follow-up questions to have the candidate expand on their answers. Comment on what the candidate says to let them know you are interested and to encourage discussion. You may want to consider using an Interview Rating Guide to evaluate the answers given by each person that you interview.
Conclude the interview by thanking the candidate and explaining the next steps. Ask for their permission to contact references.
Be aware of bias in the interview process
The following is a list of common biases that can occur when interviewing candidates:
Leniency/ Strictness Bias occurs given people differ in how they evaluate people; some interviews are very liberal and lenient, while others are critical and demanding. This bias tends to raise or lower the scores of people who are interviewed.
Halo Effect occurs when the interviewer lets one favoured qualification, trait, or experience influence all other factors, resulting in an unduly high overall performance rating.
Horns Effect, similar to the halo effect, allows one disfavoured qualification, trait, or experience take precedence and result in an unfairly low candidate rating.
Similarity Effect occurs when an evaluator rates a candidate based on characteristics the appraiser sees in themselves. Interviewers have an unconscious tendency to favor people who are physically and professionally similar to them.
Appraiser Biases occurs when an evaluation is based on individual demographic differences. Personal beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, and preferences can lead to unfair evaluations of candidates.
Primacy Effect is associated with "the first impression,” interviewers' first impressions of a candidate can often play a powerful role in their subsequent assessment.
Contrast Effect occurs when one's individual ranking is based on one's position relative to others in the group. If the interview pool consists of a number of outstanding candidates, it is extremely difficult for an average candidate to be picked as number one, but in a substandard pool, the average candidate may inexplicably stand out.
All selection or screening methods must be based on the essential tasks and skills for the position (as outlined in the job description) and comply with human rights legislation.
Check the references of your final candidates
Checking references carefully and thoroughly is one way to avoid hiring the wrong person. It may seem easier to accept letters of recommendation that address a candidate's abilities and experience. However, talking to people will allow you to probe issues deeply enough to get a fuller sense of the candidate's values, nature, approach to work and how they interact with others. Telephone interviews are the best way to get more depth about the candidate's character and background.
Reference checks are a last opportunity to verify information the candidate has provided, validate their personal suitability and explore any areas of concern. Talk to references before you make an offer. Let the candidate know you will be doing this. Be sure to find out if there is anyone the candidate would prefer you not speak to - for example, a current boss or current colleagues.
Prepare a list of questions for references (see the HR Toolkit's sample questions for references (PDF 40KB). Ask about information on the candidate's resume and about topics discussed during the interview. Ask for insights into the candidate's character, examples of good work they have done and areas that need development. If you keep the conversation casual but professional, you are likely to get more information. Record the reference's responses. Remember that any notes that you take when talking to a reference must comply with human rights legislation.Potential candidates may have the right to see what references have said about them so keep accurate notes.
At the beginning of your conversation, explain to the reference the importance of the position you are hiring for and tell them you appreciate their honesty. At the end, thank them for the time they have spent talking to you and for their help .
A useful book about screening volunteers and employees in nonprofit organizations:
Graff, Linda. Beyond Police Checks. Linda Graff and Associates Inc., 1999
Make your decision and review it
Evaluate final candidates against each other after you have rated them against the criteria to identify the best candidate based on skills, worker characteristics and organizational fit. Review all your notes and write up your decision.
Keep all of your recruitment and selection materials on file for at least two years.
Make sure your decision is nondiscriminatory, complies with provincial and federal laws and your hiring policies and is based on sound judgment.
Discuss the decision with colleagues or others who participated in the interviews and/or other stages of the hiring process.
Make the offer
Call the candidate to make an offer. Inform all other final candidates by phone of the outcome of the recruitment process. Offer to give them constructive feedback on the interview.
Do the paperwork
Confirm your offer and the candidate's acceptance in writing. A written contract is the ounce of prevention that helps to avoid disputes. It spells out your expectations of employees and the obligations you have to each other. A written contract can take many forms - a letter, a proposal or a formal agreement, for example. For your convenience, you can prepare a standard contract to use with all employees and tailor it for specific jobs by filling in blank spaces or attaching pages that cover the details.
Ask legal counsel to review your contract letters.
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