Hiring the right people is incredibly important, especially if you are a growing training provider. Hiring the wrong person can have tremendous impact in terms of time, money and reputation. Something you want to avoid if you can at all help it.
Some of the advice below may seem like common sense, but it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re doing when in the midst of the recruitment process, especially if you’re new to being involved from this side.
- Don’t hire based on what they can remember in the interview
Yes, there are lots of things candidates need to remember, especially if they are going to do the job successfully. However, we’re all aware that there is a lot to remember in FE and I’m sure we’ve all been in an interview where something important has escaped us in the moment. At the end of the day, you’re interviewing to find out if you think they can do the job well, not whether they have perfect recall. As long as forgetting it isn’t something that should set off alarm bells, remember that forgetting something today doesn’t mean they have forgotten it completely. Focus on the evidence of their capabilities and skills, rather than their factual recall.
2.Don’t hire them for what they already know
When you hire someone new, while you naturally want to hire someone capable who will be able to complete the job satisfactorily, don’t forget that how they will develop and how much potential they have is equally important. Experience is extremely useful, but don’t discount the newly graduated full of drive and enthusiasm purely because they lack it. You can take their rough edges and smooth them into a more polished shape, you can take their drive and hone it, using their creativity and enthusiasm to lead the way with innovation, and you can take the gaps in their knowledge and repertoires and fill them with experience and further training.
Don’t overvalue present skills and undervalue future growth.
Think carefully at the start of the recruitment process and draft your job adverts and specifications carefully, focusing on exactly the type of candidate you would like, ensuring your criteria specifies which skills and experiences are essential or desired, but remember to allow for some flexibility. Have these before you as you start the shortlisting process to keep in mind what it is exactly you are looking for.
Before you begin to interview your shortlisted candidates, think carefully about what you are looking for in the interview – how you would expect your ideal candidates to behave and react, what sort of answers or ideas they may give, etc. Read through the applications again and remind yourself of who you are interviewing. Perhaps have targeted questions ready for each candidate based on the information they have given you.
The all-important questions
During the interview itself, it’s important to be clear about what you are looking for and think about the questions that will get the best answers, and also what you would like those answers to reveal.
Are you confident they can learn how to do the job? Are they going to get better at it with time?
Relevant experience should be seen as a plus not an essential requirement as you will be able to offer any successful candidate that experience. Look for the skills they will need to be successful at the role they are applying for. If they’re weak in the experience area, find something they are knowledgeable or enthusiastic about and get them to talk about it – it’s more important that they can show they can communicate ideas clearly, can demonstrate enthusiasm and can understand complex ideas, than they have X many years in the classroom or industry area.
You’re also looking to find out how they learn and how quickly. Working in FE is like any other career; there’s always something new to learn. This is particularly important if you are recruiting assessors or teachers, as they will constantly be keeping up to date with curriculum and assessment changes, as well as teaching practices. Look for evidence that they are able to learn new skills relatively quickly, but more importantly, they are able to apply them successfully too. They may have demonstrated this through increased responsibilities or feedback demonstrating their progression over time, for example.
Ideal candidates should be ones who know what they don’t know. How do they react to criticism? Are they aware of their strengths and weaknesses? Are they actively working to develop and improve and is their evidence of their improvement over time? How do they react when out of their depth or presented with something new or unexpected? You should be looking for candidates who seek ways to improve and want to learn and develop. Perhaps they ask about professional development opportunities, or their background indicates that they have done this in the past. They should react positively to feedback, even if constructive criticism, and deal well with new and unexpected things, as rarely will their day/ work follow a predictable pattern – they must be ready for regular surprises.
Part of the team
As well as their ability to do the job and do it well, and also their capability to develop and improve as time goes on, it’s important to find someone who will fit the team you already have and the culture you want to foster. You could have a candidate with an exemplary employment record, who ticks all the boxes professionally in terms of experience and qualifications, who gave you perfect answers, but if they don’t fit the culture, then neither of you will be completely happy or comfortable.
Unfortunately, like judging their job capabilities, judging whether they will ‘fit’ correctly or not is difficult and often more of a gut feeling than something tangible. Since they need to suit your mission and ethos, makes sure they understand, respect and believe in your values. Can they describe situations where they have demonstrated them previously or explain how they match their experience/ working style? Can they explain why you appeal to them as an employer, is another useful question. It should reveal whether they have done their homework as it were and to what degree. Have they researched you more in depth than just the information found in your ‘about us’ section on your website or the details you provided with the application? Can they answer questions about your identity as a training provider, what your aims are, what barriers you may face, your position, and the like?
- Always ask for situations where they have displayed the characteristics and skills you’ve asked for and they’ve claimed to have. Look for specifics in their answers. Beware answers which are vague or sound too rehearsed.
- Stick to the job specification. You don’t want to give the right person the wrong job, it won’t do either of you any good, meaning you want to avoid being wowed by someone but their skills and experiences don’t really match the vacancy you currently have, no matter how great they would be to work with. It’s also a good idea to keep it as your focus, as it’s easy to lose track in the midst of a round of interviews.
- Second interviews can be really useful. They can give you further opportunities to explore personality, background, cultural fit and your gut instincts. You’re going to want to look for candidates who build on what they have already discussed and shared with you, those who are eager to exhibit what they can do and why they are the right person for the job.
- There’s no hard and fast rule to guaranteeing you hire the right person – you just have to give it your best shot. Hopefully though, these tips and strategies will help you avoid hiring the wrong person most of the time.