Thinking about the job

Before you think about employing someone, whether you are a new company just starting out or a well-established one about to take on your third or fourth employee, it is really important to consider the hidden costs which you will incur. This may come as a shock, but the true cost of a new employee is likely to be more than 150% of their gross salary.

Consider that you will have to pay employees NI at 12.8%, probably a pension contribution of around 5%, and likely also provide “soft benefits” such as medical insurance, club memberships, laptop and/or mobile, company cars, etc. The average worker is absent for 53 days out of 252 for annual leave, training, sick leave, funerals, jury service, and the like.

Other costs may include a bonus scheme, death in service insurance costs, and maternity and paternity leave. Letting employees know what they really cost can help them appreciate the true worth of being employed by the company, and can increase their job satisfaction.

This is also worth bearing in mind before you start the interview process. It is amazing how little time companies spend hiring a new employee but how much time is spent dispensing of someone’s services.

Selling the Job to an Interested Candidate
At the time of writing (May 2014), qualified candidates are scarcer than usual, particularly in the fields of PR, design and digital; applicants who would normally be considering their next move are putting long-term career goals to one side and seeking security from their current role. For this reason, it is important that both the organisation and the potential employee know what they want to get out of the job. In actuality, though unknown to most potential employers or hiring managers, retaining good staff ideally begins during the very early stages of the recruitment process.

It definitely pays off to think about what makes your opportunity stand out amongst all of the other open positions. In a candidate-driven market, it is vital to dedicate time to writing a job description that really sells your agency or department, culture, and the key role that the job plays in your company’s success.

Think about the career development you can offer, such as specific training courses leading to national qualifications, or tailored job-related personal development programmes. Alternatively, the candidate may be hooked by something low key that characterises such as a modern working environment, company laptop, mobile phone, or something as simple as fresh fruit or snacks available at work.

It is wise to invest time to ensure that everyone involved in the recruiting process knows the most salient reasons why someone should work for your company or on your team. Make sure that they can represent your opportunity, either in print or in person, as well as you can. If you are working with a recruiter, set mutual expectations and provide an honest appraisal of your company and role – the better the insight, the more effective we will be in providing candidates that suit your criteria. Find out what you can expect in return and what the average time is to fill a position for your type of opening. This can vary widely depending on the role and seniority within the company.

On average, in-house marketing and agency roles at Account Executive level can be filled within 4 weeks, but at more senior levels the process can sometimes take two to three months. We have seen the creative industry suffer quite badly when recruiting for mid and senior-level designers, both digital and offline, with some opportunities being open for up to six months.This means that if you get the chance to hire a really good candidate, it is vital to make sure the opportunity is pitched correctly, fully understood, and its true worth appreciated.

Today’s data shows that ‘offer salaries’ are picking up at their sharpest rate for almost seven years, but permanent staff availability fell at the sharpest rate since 2004. This is clear evidence that candidates will only be encouraged to move by a role with genuine substance and longevity, or an increase in salary which is in line with both their experience and present market conditions.

It is also worth bearing in mind that we see many offers fall down at a very late stage of the interview process, as many as 1 in 3, due to misunderstandings regarding salary. It is imperative to discuss salary at a very early stage of the interview process. If you are not in a position to offer an extensive range of benefits, then other perks such as flexi-time, early finish on a Friday, yearly bonus, birthday off, or free parking, which may sound insignificant, are likely to be appreciated – these can help employees manage their time better, and may be more likely to both sway them to your opening and encourage them to stick around for the long term. It is a given fact: candidates can be swayed by softer benefits as much as by money.

A credible and experienced candidate, without question, will have more than one job opportunity in the pipeline and quite often more than one offer, and it can be the smallest thing that swings it your way. Candidates will always be partly motivated by money, but in the long run money doesn’t compensate for a bad-tempered office manager or an unhappy atmosphere. Successful recruitment always involves having a sound plan in place which ensures that candidates are moved through the interview process quickly, are kept fully in the picture, and are not kept waiting for weeks on end before being asked back for a second interview.

Once you have made your verbal offer, ensure that a written one is sent out within 24 to 48 hours – a candidate can be lost to a competitor or existing employer by delaying a written offer.

Pitfalls to avoid
Over the years we have seen many employers lose potential candidates before, during, and after the interview process. The following are the main reasons why, at account management and more senior levels in particular:

1. Non-disclosure of salary – the days of putting “negotiable” are gone. It is perfectly acceptable to insert a guide or salary band but a credible candidate will quickly lose interest in the early stages due to a role having no definitive salary attached to it.

2. Lack of job description – it is a fatal error for an employer not to produce a job description if they want a candidate to take the process seriously. Companies that produce a fair and descriptive job specification will always attract more suitably skilled candidates.

3. Drawn out interview process – it is the most sure fire way to lose candidates. Start as you mean to go on and set a deadline for applications, a specific time period for interviews, and a date for final interviews and decisions. You will need to allow some flexibility but a definitive time line focuses the mind and enhances the process.

4. Panel interviews – at first interview stage, candidates find it intimidating to be interviewed by more than one or two people. It may be necessary at a second or third stage, but not round one.

5. Inflexible interview times – you can’t expect certain candidates, particularly those in senior and demanding roles, to attend interviews in the middle of the day. Try to be helpful and accommodating – this will definitely lead to a positive reaction from a potential candidate. You could consider Skype or a telephone interview in the early stages to get the ball rolling, which will also demonstrate interest and commitment.

6. Application forms & psychometric tests – for certain roles, these are big turn offs in the initial stages. It is acceptable at the later stages of the process, but during phase one they can make a candidate lose enthusiasm rapidly. Psychometric tests are useful if you are trained in how to assess and understand the results, but they are only critical for certain profession, not all.

7. Asking irrelevant questions – brain-teaser questions have become obsolete and don’t predict anything. They now only serve to make the interviewer look smart.

8. One-way interview process – allow candidates to participate in the interview, in more ways than just answering questions. Candidates like to get a feel for the role and culture of a company – the sooner they can receive answers and helpful information, the better performance they will give in an interview. Having a two-way interview process will not only benefit the candidate, but it will benefit your organisation as well by helping to ensure that the hiring decision is a good choice for both parties.

9. Sterile environment – this will only add angst to the candidate’s performance, and can discourage them from taking away a favourable impression of your company.

10. Feedback – saving the best and most important for last, in our experience lack of feedback is the most common complaint from a candidate’s perspective. Lack of feedback, or the amount of time it takes to provide negative or positive feedback, will kill their interest with immediate effect!

The most credible candidates will almost always have alternatives if your organisation doesn’t appear to match with their interests and values – this is why it is incredibly important to not take candidates for granted. Interviews are a reflection of your company’s attitude towards employees and are where most employers tend to lose candidates most often. It’s vital to operate a positive interview process and avoid the common pitfalls/mistakes that can turn off your top candidates!