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Seeing Potential: The New Rules of Recruitment

When it comes to hiring new staff, many recruiters or HR departments follow a standard set of rules and processes because that’s the way it has always been done.

Some of these rules include only hiring people with a university education; or those with certain grades, a specific number of years’ experience or a squeaky clean track record.

Due to the unwritten rules behind recruitment, a person’s background will often hold them back in their career. It could be that they’ve served time in prison, have been out of work for a while, or just don’t have the academic education you’d expect.

To help employers across the UK break these habits, employee engagement specialists Best Companies recently organised an event called ‘Discovering Potential’, in conjunction with the Department for Work and Pensions, aimed at encouraging businesses to look beyond a person’s background to see their hidden talents.

A number of high-profile companies were invited to speak at the event, including COOK, Timpson and Ernst & Young, with many more were in attendance. All of these companies strive to think outside the box when it comes to their recruitment policies, and encourage others to do the same.

As the skills gap continues to increase, finding the right employees is the biggest challenge that many businesses face. Following in these companies’ footsteps could be the perfect way to win the war for talent.

Read on for three ways to start playing by the new rules of recruitment.

Look beyond the CV

Hear the word ‘recruitment’ and the majority of people will automatically think of interviews and CVs. The advantage of these, and the latter in particular, is that they act as a quick way for employers to filter through applications and shortlist the best. But many are arguing that CVs show a two-dimensional view, never allowing you to get to know the real person underneath.

At the recent DWP event in London, James Timpson from Timpson spoke about how their recruitment philosophy involves stripping back all the formalities and getting back to basics; finding out what that person is really like:

“We don’t bother with CVs. The only point of a CV for us is the name and phone number, the rest we don’t even read. We’re not bothered with psychometric testing; we don’t put you in a room with one-way mirrors and see how you interact with other people. All we are interested in is your personality. We get the right personality and it will fit into our culture and that person will really thrive in our culture.

“So all we do is sit down and have a 10-minute chat, and all I am trying to work out is ‘what is your personality?’”

Getting to know a person for who they truly are rather than what a piece of paper may say allows the company to make hires based on potential instead of experience.

Tip 1: Look for character traits rather than qualifications and assess a person’s true personality. Only you know whether or not you feel like you can trust them so make a decision based on your instincts instead of what has been written down for you.

Education isn’t everything

For many people, the only way to forge a strong career will be to attend university, get top grades, start at the bottom in a graduate role and work their way up the ladder. But now, more employers are realising that marks, grades and points aren’t necessarily the best way to determine whether someone will be a good hire.

Ernst & Young have made a name for themselves when it comes to hiring those straight out of university. Employing nearly 15,000 people in the UK and Ireland with approximately 1,800 places for graduates and school leavers, there’s little doubt that grades are a huge consideration for them.

However, in August 2015, Ernst & Young made waves announcing that they would be removing the academic filters that they had previously applied to candidates. In the past, they had insisted on 300 UCAS points and a 2:1 or a 1st in their degree but now these rules no longer apply.

Speaking at the ‘Discovering Potential’ event, Maggie Stilwell of Ernst & Young talked about how the academic filters in place could actually be hindering their recruitment process:

“You have to appreciate that this filter had served us very well over a number of years and I think people had got attached to it, as that is what ensures the quality of our people. But actually, on closer scrutiny, it became obvious that it was way too blunt an instrument and was screening out people that actually might be really successful with us and for us.”

The change is still in its early days, but Ernst & Young are already seeing the benefit. Of the 3,000 applications they have received in six weeks, 90% of those coming through would have achieved the required UCAS points, however that remaining 10%, approximately 50 people, wouldn’t have had the opportunity to join the team otherwise.

Tip 2: An academic history doesn’t always act as the best reflection of what a person is capable of in their career. Look beyond the grades and focus on what other talents that person may have to offer. Maybe they are a great team player, maybe their networking skills are second to none or maybe they just have that passion and drive you can’t possibly ignore.

Think outside the recruitment box

Because of the rigorous measures that are often in place in recruitment, employers can be guilty of imposing restrictions on the background types that they look towards. As a result, someone who may come from a disadvantaged background could find themselves overlooked, with their past standing in the way of their future. However, more employers are choosing to ignore these stereotypes, and are actively seeking to hire those outside the recruitment box.

Two such companies that have decided to break down these barriers are the aforementioned Timpson, and COOK, a family-run business specialising in premium frozen ready meals.

Timpson & COOK both work with local prisons to employ ex-offenders who are just being released, helping them to get their lives back on track. They discovered that many people were carrying their spent convictions around like baggage, with many concerned that it would affect their employment prospects, even if their time has been served. Rather than focusing on their convictions, something that many would do, these employers instead chose to give people a chance, one that has been paying off.

It is understandable that many employers may be wary of implementing this into their own recruitment process but they have little need to be.

Rosie Brown, People Director at COOK, summed up why businesses should be open to this innovative approach when she spoke about the five lessons COOK had learnt employing ex-offenders:

“Our biggest lesson was that employing people from under-served communities transforms lives, and it’s not only the ones you’d expect.”

Tip 3: Don’t be deterred from employing someone because they have made mistakes in the past. Not only are you preventing them from moving on but you may be restricting your business’s growth both financially and culturally.

We understand that implementing brand new rules of recruitment is not something that every company will be able to do straight away; it’s something that needs time, consideration and careful planning.

However, the above are just three tips you could follow to help you kickstart the process of hiring people beyond your usual criteria. Just be sure to take your time. Think about how you could strengthen ties with local groups or prisons or how can you make your company more welcoming to the diverse society we live in. The benefits of accepting diversity will go far beyond your own company, enabling you to discover the potential you may never knew existed.