Getting all of the facts right with recruitment

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CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE In the LinkedIn era, it sometimes seems that people can claim to be whatever they want.  Gurus, magicians, czars and ninjas abound, along with impressive-sounding degrees from high-powered universities.

From an employer’s point of view, it might feel that social media and the abundance of information available online makes it harder, not easier, to get at the facts when recruiting staff.

It makes the importance of doing the right checks during the recruitment process more vital than ever before.  While there are now many tools – of varying merit and perceptiveness – to assess and analyse personality and behavioural aspects during recruitment, it’s imperative not to forget the technical side as well.

Indeed, the “old-fashioned” way of doing things – picking up the phone and doing some basic checks – is often still the best way.

Talk to referees

Employers sometimes underestimate the importance of checking references and referees.   They think that because the referee has been nominated by the job candidate, they are only going to say good things about the person.

While this may be generally true, it doesn’t mean that useful information can’t be gleaned.

It’s important not to take short-cuts with this step.  For instance, I’ve heard of employers sending questionnaires via email to referees, but in my view this is a waste of time.

There is nothing more valuable than picking up the phone and engaging the referee in dialogue.  Asking questions in this way allows employers to probe for more information, or pick up on hesitations that may hint at potential concerns.  A lot can develop from a conversation.

Check qualifications

It may sound obvious, but employers should always check that candidates have the qualifications that they claim to possess.  For instance, both the Chartered Accountants ANZ (CAANZ) and CPA Australia will provide confirmation on whether an individual is qualified.

There are also companies that can provide qualification checks for employers.  It may also be a good idea to think about police checks if the role being recruited for means the candidate will be exposed to sensitive financial information.

Pick your battles

Keep in mind that there may be times when embellishment during a job interview is acceptable.  It’s a good idea to consider in advance where a job candidate might exaggerate or misrepresent the truth, and whether you are comfortable with this.

For example, it’s fairly common practice for job seekers to give a small boost to their salary when asked what they are currently earning.  Some employers might be comfortable with this, and even view it as a sign of confidence.  However, it’s worthwhile making sure you have done your homework on what you are willing to offer as a salary, and not get diverted.

On the other hand, a job candidate who lies about their experience in key areas should be treated with caution.  While it may also show confidence, it also displays duplicity and deceit.  It may also expose the company to problems in the future.

Other areas may be more grey.  As an example, a common question asked in interviews is “what are your weaknesses?”.  Some employers may appreciate brutal honesty during the interview process; others may prefer interviewees to turn this question to their advantage and use it as a way to highlight their work ethic, for example, or their attention to detail.

Trust your instinct

Finally, employers should trust their instinct.  If something feels a bit wrong, don’t ignore it.  There may be signs that suggest a potential problem that, on paper, isn’t obvious.  If in doubt, it’s always best to wait for the right person to come along.

Tèa Lehman, group recruitment manager, HLB Mann Judd Sydney

First published in Accountants Daily: