tranzition executive recruitment

                          Best Practice Recruitment and Selection

(more than just advertisement and interview!)


“If you make a mistake in hiring, and you recognise and rectify the mistake within six months, the cost of replacing that employee is two and one-half times the person’s annual salary.”

Dr Pierre Mornell, 45 Effective Waysof Hiring Smart (1998).



Experts agree that the cost of a poor appointment is significantly higher than the cost of the appointee’s annual salary.  Is it any wonder then that seasoned recruiters insist, “better no appointment than a bad appointment”?


Although there is no 100% reliable and valid approach to recruitment and selection that guarantees that you will find and choose the best person for the job, there are strategies that can be implemented to improve the likelihood of a good appointment, including:


·         A well-designed position and comprehensive position description, including selection criteria

-       to ensure an attractive, challenging and rewarding role for the appointee

-       to effectively communicate the requirements of the role to applicants and the ultimate appointee

-       to clarify the role for the selection committee charged with making the appointment


·         A competitive remuneration/benefits package and good working conditions

-       when it comes to remuneration, it’s true that ‘you get what you pay for’

-       however, there’s more to an attractive package than salary, so consider other financial and non-financial benefits that may attract the best candidates, including: a performance-based bonus scheme, salary packaging, flexible working options, etc


·         Effective marketing of the role to potential candidates, including through:

-       standard media advertisements

-       internal canvassing

-       the organisation’s website and/or newsletter

-       relevant professional associations, eg: via listservs, websites, journals, networking, etc

-       a recruitment company with expertise in your field


·         A competent selection committee

-       a selection committee rather than a single interviewer allows for the interviewing burden to be shared, a range of stakeholders to be involved, and a more robust decision, through group deliberation and consensus, to result

-       selection committee composition, depending on the type of role and organisation, may include the supervisor/manager, human resources manager, a colleague in a similar role, a subordinate, an internal or external client, a board member, a representative of the relevant professional association, etc (between two and four members is ideal)

-       selection committee members should be trained/inducted in the organisation’s recruitment and selection policies, procedures and techniques


·         Effective shortlisting

-       if candidates have been asked to submit a statement addressing the selection criteria for the role, the shortlisting process is considerably easier

-       some organisations ‘level the playing field’ further by requesting that candidates submit applications in a prescribed format or on a standard form

-       it is wise not to be unduly influenced by fancy presentation – for a small fee, you can have your CV polished up without improving your actual skills or experience at all!

-       by using the selection criteria, the committee should assess which candidates (on paper) demonstrate the skills and experience to perform the role effectively


·         Effective interviewing

-       interview questions that are behaviourally focused (eg:  “describe a time when you…?”, “give us an example of how you…?”), elicit responses that provide more reliable indicators of future behaviour than hypothetical questions (eg: “what would you do if…?”, “how would you handle…?”), which tells you more about who can think on their feet and give the response they think you are looking for

-       leading questions (eg: “how strong are your skills in…?”) and closed questions (those that can be answered “yes”, “no”, or with another equally concise response, are best avoided)

-       explore the same topic areas with each candidate, but avoid too rigid an interview script, as the committee should feel free to follow-up on candidate responses with probing questions, or skip questions if the candidate has already supplied that information in response to a previous question

-       avoid personal questions that aren’t directly relevant to the job (eg: don’t ask “do you have children?”, but if it is relevant, you may ask “this role involves regular travel at short notice, including some overnight stays – will you be able to meet the demands of this role outside of standard working hours?”)

-       use body language that puts the candidate at ease (smile, maintain eye contact, nod, lean forward)

-       remain open minded, but don’t ignore your intuition (if something about a candidate disconcerts you, explore it with follow-up/probing questions)


·         Reference checking – take it seriously!

-       use reference checking after the interview stage to confirm the committee’s decision, or to decide between the strongest candidates from the interview phase

-       follow up on any issues or concerns that arose during the interview by exploring claims made by the candidate/s with their referees

-       if a candidate has not nominated their current or most recent supervisor/manager as a referee, ask the candidate if you can contact that person (if they are the preferred candidate and the purpose of referee checking is to confirm their appointability, permission should be forthcoming – if it isn’t, be concerned that the candidate has something to hide)

-       as with the candidates, ask behaviourally based, open questions

-       build rapport and trust with referees, so that they feel more comfortable giving honest feedback


·         Other useful selection techniques

-       depending on the role, consider testing the preferred candidate (or all shortlisted candidates) as an additional selection tool

-       testing options may include (depending on the role): skills testing, aptitude testing, psychological/personality testing, work style/team profiling, etc – some tests can be developed and administered in-house; some may be purchased off-the-shelf and administered and scored by a staff member; while others must be administered, scored and summarised by a trained professional

-       when time and circumstances permit, it  can be useful to invite the preferred candidate to spend a day at the workplace, getting to know colleagues and the job (and be observed through this process), before confirming their appointment


·         A word about recruitment companies

-       don’t underestimate the value a professional recruiter can add to the recruitment and selection process, including: marketing the role and organisation to a broader pool of candidates than traditional advertising may reach (the most suitable candidates may not be actively seeking employment, so may not see or respond to standard recruitment advertising); expertly matching the skills/experience required by the role with that offered by candidates in the market; screening/testing/pre-interviewing/reference-checking candidates so that only the most suitable are recommended for interview by the selection committee

-       although recruitment companies charge a fee for their services, they can save you time and effort and allow you to get on with your “real”  job, and further reduce the risk of a bad appointment



A final word on the subject of recruitment and selection – it is far better to invest time and resources in making a good appointment than waste them later in trying to fix a bad one!




By Trevor Neville, Principal, and Kirsten Ferguson (Human Resource Management Consultant), TranZition Professional and Executive Recruitment, Level 3 Waterfront Place, 1 Eagle Street, Brisbane Qld 4000. Email:  Web:



trevor neville linked in

The FREE TranZition™ Report

TheTranZition™ Report covers the latest HR and employment issues in your sector, lists Available Candidates and for a bit of fun, has some trivia!

free tranzition report

Sign up below for your copy:

TranZition™ Report Comments

“Thanks so much for your newsletter; it is a great mix of entertainment and opportunities” Sandra T

“Thanks for the newsletters - I enjoy them and the trivia makes me feel partially stupid, which is also good for the ego.” Brian F

“I really like your newsletter. Well done, to the point and very interesting. Keep it that way.” Diane B

“It’s good to have some little reminders about things like performance appraisals – my staff is due soon.” Kathy T

“I look forward to the next newsletter” Dominic B