Recruit your way out of a recession

Downturns make for volatile times in recruitment with, not surprisingly, general migration from the private to the public sector.

Blair: recruitment challenge
Blair: recruitment challenge

In PR the number of applications for posts in public bodies has risen as agencies have frozen head counts, or in some cases made cutbacks.

Some public sector comms jobs have been attracting record numbers of candidates. The upside of this is that if business allows, this is a good time to prepare for the upturn and recruit.

For those lucky enough to be doing so, the challenge is sorting through more candidates, rather than finding them in the first place - a real reversal of the situation a year ago.

This poses its own challenges in terms of getting the recruitment process right. A recent Harvard study found that half of organisations were still using 'gut feel' to make recruitment decisions, while more than ten per cent insisted on 21 interviews or more.

So what is the best way to find the right person? Here is a five-step approach. First, anticipate and look ahead, do not hire at the last minute. Tie your recruitment into the business plan and draw from a wide pool of contacts or consultants.

Second, be specific about the job description and tasks, but do not be indiscriminate or set an impossibly high bar by demanding candidates are 'excellent' at everything.

Third, be structured and rigorous in your interview process - include senior input and use reference checks (although 21 interviews is probably over the top).

Fourth, once selected, demonstrate support for the candidate's interests and involve HR in sorting the package.

And finally, do not abandon the process once the offer is accepted - make sure mentoring and induction systems are in place, and be prepared to review and tweak the process each time.

There are messages in here for candidates as well as recruiters. After all, how you are handled during recruitment is a good indication of how you will be treated once you have signed on the dotted line.

Luke Blair is a director at the London Communications Agency

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