First and most importantly, new recruits must fit into your company culture; being your values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours as a group – NZ or worldwide.  Are you part of a structured corporate environment or a fluid, fast-paced small team? Do you have a commercially focused, industry body or non-profit environment?  What accountability, performance and stakeholder interaction styles do you practice?  Are flexible work hours, at home days and casual attire part of your culture? Open discussion around these areas will help with knowing what environment your candidate prefers.

Team dynamics are also vital. Typically, a well-functioning team will comprise people with a mixture of strengths and work preferences.  There are organisers, planners, implementers, evaluators, problem solvers, administrators and critics.  There is little efficiency in a team consisting of great ideas people working only with great planners. Some people have multiple strengths in these areas, others only one or two. It is best to evaluate where the strength gaps are inside your team before deciding which new recruit to engage.

Very rarely do we find people who meet the exact experience parameters that match each role’s Position Description. Few people move from an existing role to an equivalent one in a different company. They aspire to a more senior role, to find a better personal role fit or to take on less responsibility as they age. To be successful, your candidate needs to have the appropriate transferrable skills. An example of this is with someone who aspires to step up to a team leadership position. What skills does a team leader require for this role? The list could include influencing ability, mentoring and coaching skills, problem resolution experience, expertise in forecasting and budget building, change management skills. Finding out what experience people have had in these areas, either in a non-work environment or separately during their career will help you assess whether they will be likely to succeed in a position they have not yet held and in which areas they will need support if they are successful.

Looking at past behaviours is an excellent way to help assess candidates. It is common sense that past behaviours are indicators of future behaviour. When we know how a person has managed a specific situation in the past, whether successfully or not, we will gain an understanding of how they will do so in the future. Each behavioural question should be asked in four parts, being “Give a specific example of a time when…?”, “How did you….?”, “What was the result of ….?” and “What did you learn, and how would you….?”.

After we have assessed a candidate’s  team fit potential, work experience, transferrable skills and past behaviours, it is important to check that our impressions are accurate. Psychometric assessments are valuable tools that add a further dimension to the recruitment process. They assess personality traits, team and leadership styles, likely behaviours and cognitive ability.  These assessments are uncannily accurate and also relatively difficult for the candidate to fool.

Reference checks can be the most unreliable part of your recruitment process. To minimise the risk of hearing incorrect things, it is important speak with the people who will give you the most relevant information. Don’t just accept the names of those listed; ask your candidate if they are comfortable with you ringing the people you see as most appropriate. Past line managers who can verify the achievements, position parameters and behaviours of the candidate are best. It is helpful to have a list of questions which will verify what you have assessed so far, including whether there have been any events which they as referees are unable to speak about.

The assessment process is often a stressful time for everyone involved. Your candidates will appreciate and respond to timely communication, honesty and relevant feedback. Successful or otherwise, they should feel they have engaged in a positive experience.

Article featured in Agribusiness Magazine May/June 2018