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Managing expectations leads to better recruitment outcomes

You have a key role to fill in your team. All you need to do is post the job advertisement you used last time, and the applications will come flooding in. What could be simpler? There is undoubtedly an ideal candidate in the mind of most recruiters, and a dream job role for many candidates. You can better match the two by managing expectations on both sides during the recruitment process, helping to create a firm basis for the future right from the start.

Getting off to a good start

Take time to think about the advertisement. This may be the first thing a prospective candidate sees from your organization, and it will be obvious if it is outdated or has been put together in a rush. It should contain a concise summary of the role and its context within the business. Your job advert should be crafted in the tone of voice used for your marketing communications. You are selling the same company to prospective employees as well as customers. How closely are your recruitment communications aligned with your brand?

Provide some insight into the culture and values of the organisation through what you say about yourselves. And make it easier for prospective candidates to carry out some background research by including links to your website, posts and articles, and to any relevant media coverage. Do not rely entirely on a candidate’s enthusiasm to find out everything about your organisation. The best applicants will be busy, and may move on if your advert doesn’t offer them a clear picture of what is on offer.

While you may have some flexibility about working hours, whether the role is full or part time, or whether it is fixed term or permanent, it is worth stating your expectations at this early stage. Candidates may not be as flexible as you, and will need to know whether it is worth their while to apply.

Time management

Timescales in the recruitment process can be long, or you may need to rush through for an immediate start. Manage expectations of when the successful candidate would be expected to start to avoid meeting insurmountable obstacles. Some candidates are required to provide long notice periods, while others may be available immediately. Set out the recruitment process you intend to follow and how long you expect it to take. Be clear about how you will respond to applications, and whether you will reply to all applicants. It is good practice to contact everyone, but organisations with high volumes of applications to process may provide a date after which anyone who has not been contacted should be deemed to have been unsuccessful.

Through the glass door

It is a common mistake to imagine that candidates are the only ones being assessed as part of an interview process. Remember that your organisation is also being evaluated, so pay attention to the way you organise the day. First impressions count both ways and candidates will talk about their experiences to others whether they are successful or not. Set out the timetable for the day, explaining who your candidates can expect to meet, how many candidates you are seeing, and whether the process will include an assessment centre, tour, presentation or other task.

During the interview, it will be vital to share your expectations with candidates, particularly in terms of working hours and salary. Flexibility may be one of the biggest issues in finding the right match for your role, so it is worth exploring this thoroughly at the interview stage.

Pay and remuneration, including any bonus scheme, should also be discussed to firmly manage expectations on both sides. There may be benefits of which your candidate is unaware that could increase the appeal of your organisation. Tell them about your pension scheme, healthcare programme, discounts or staff facilities, and never miss an opportunity to show your organisation in the best light.

Allow time for questions and ensure that you explore value-based issues as part of the process to make sure that your candidate understands the culture of your organisation. Check their awareness of key legal issues such as equality and diversity, safeguarding or data protection. Setting out expectations of the way you work at this early stage will be invaluable during induction and probation.

Always ensure that your candidate has the essential skills and qualifications they claimed on their application form. If they will be required to travel between sites or to visit customers, check that they have a full driving licence. Are there any mandatory qualifications that your industry demands? There may be an opportunity to offer additional training to the right candidate, providing it won’t delay their ability to start work.

Follow your lead

The recruitment process does not end with the interview. Let your candidates know how quickly they can expect to hear your decision, and honour your stated timescales. When a job offer has been accepted, send a contract to the successful candidate as quickly as possible. They may need to resign from their current post and prepare a handover. Provide timely feedback to those you don’t appoint, thank them for their interest and provide encouragement if you can, always leaving a good impression of your organisation.