Understanding the New Science of Recruitment



Recruiting highly talented employees has become more than an art, it has now become a science. Taking a scientific approach means utilizing a number of strong measureable recruitment and selection strategies in order to attract candidates to your organization. Years ago, behavioral descriptive interviewing was introduced and has proven to be remarkably successful in helping organizations select the best candidate with the right fit for any position. The science has grown exponentially since then and there are now several more-effective recruitment and selection strategies that are far more advanced than simply asking the right questions.

For instance, in my professional practice one of the first steps I take is to identify the organizational culture as well as the cultural and skill competencies required for success. This then gives our recruiters the guidelines by which to compare candidates.

The next effective strategy is to define your organization’s value proposition. By this I mean the promise and/or “psychological contract” you are offering potential employees. In other words, what makes you different? What makes your organization attractive? What expectations are you establishing for a potential employee? Why would candidates want to work with you? The answers to these questions are found in the organizational culture analysis.

On occasion, I compare executive search and management recruitment to sport fishing. The recruiter begins by casting a clear, persuasive, and appealing job ad out into the public hoping that it attracts candidates and creates a few nibbles of interest. However, each and every potential candidate or “fish” who views the job ad will perceive the value proposition from a different perspective based on their own personal needs, desires, and career motivators. While candidate beliefs are very subjective, they definitely influence whether or not the individual will “bite” and apply for the job.

However, once there are sufficient “bites” or interest in the job, the challenge for a recruiting manager is to accurately and effectively screen candidates as quickly and as thoroughly as possible at the beginning of the recruitment process. In addition to résumé and telephone screening, one additional and very successful strategy is the practice of “top grading.” This requires candidates to complete and submit a comprehensive set of questions to the interviewers. This provides an opportunity to see how each candidate thinks, what they reveal about their skills and accomplishments, and to gain insight into their problem solving, critical thinking, as well as analytical and writing skills.

A further strategy is to provide candidates with sufficient and correct information about job expectations. This is typically accomplished by behavioral interviewing strategies and/or the conduct of “realistic job interviews.” This requires providing more information to the candidate as to the exact duties and responsibilities of the potential job. For instance, if the job role will deal with conflict, the recruiter might describe a scenario by providing a background situation and then following up with a behavioral question.

Some organizations introduce candidates to their potential work world by creating a number of interview opportunities with different members of their potential colleagues. They may also choose to conduct plant or office tours, or they will provide videos and/or some type of online educational viewing.

Still other organizations are returning to an older strategy called the “inbasket” approach. With this method, each candidate is asked to review and analyze a sample case study that closely matches the nature of work they will be doing on the job. For more senior executives, this “inbasket” approach can be very comprehensive and include formal presentations in front of the selection committee. All in all, an “inbasket” strategy allows recruiters to determine how well each candidate applies comparable skills to the real tasks they would be doing on the job.

As indicated earlier, recruitment and selection today is much more of a science than an art. However, managers in charge of hiring are not concerned with quantity. They want quality candidates. The only way to assure this is to apply scientifically proven personality, leadership and communication style assessments, inbasket case studies, “top grading” candidate questionnaires, and behavioral interviewing strategies.


Paul Croteau, managing partner, is known as one of Manitoba’s leading executive search professionals. His more than 25 years of experience in the recruitment of senior management and executive leadership professionals are the foundation to his solid reputation for developing a deep understanding of his clients’ needs, enabling him to provide exceptional service and successfully meet the complex challenge of matching the right leader to his clients’ business needs.

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