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Tools & Tips

Candidate Selection
Adequate preparation is key to selecting the best candidates
by Virginia Choi, managing consultant and country manager,
Tamty McGill Consultants International Limited

Companies often underestimate the expense of the hiring process. Recruiting one candidate can cost up to seven times the monthly salary of that particular position. It is therefore important to plan thoroughly to avoid making poor selection decisions.

Tamty McGill Consultants International Limited proposes three key points when preparing to select suitable candidates:

1. Define selection criteria
2. Determine assessment methods
3. Ensure consistent selection criteria

Defining selection criteria

First and foremost, it is important to define the job and the "specifications" required to perform the role through job analysis. By adopting and applying a consistent competency framework, companies can make sure that they recruit the right candidates.

A competency framework comprises a set of specific behaviours, arising from the underlying characteristics or attributes of an individual that are relevant to successful job performance. These may include personality, ability, motivation, values, knowledge and skills.

In a related study, Tamty McGill arranged 53 separate competencies into five core clusters, helping to distinguish between competencies that would be merely nice to have and those that are essential to successful job performance.

The company notes that eight to 10 competencies are sufficient for any position. Companies should ensure that line managers are involved in discussions on defining selection criteria in order to involve them in the process.

Determining assessment methods

Once the selection criteria have been defined, the assessment tools need to be determined. In doing this, the following factors must be considered:

  • predictability
  • reliability
  • validity
  • discriminability
  • benchmarking data (norms)
  • research basis
  • administration process
  • cost

An assessment centre constitutes a combination of tests, exercises, questionnaires and interviews for identifying specific competencies. Results are usually reliable and valid, but the process can be costly.

The most popular and widely used assessment method are job interviews. More than 95 per cent of organisations conduct interviews as part of their selection process. Structured interviews can produce outstanding results. A competency-based interview is specifically structured to assess candidates’ skills. During this type of interviews, applicants are engaged in discussions about specific issues and situations the interviewers can draw a conclusion based on such applicants’ behaviours and attitudes.

Personality questionnaires measure the personal characteristics of candidates in a work-related context. This is a time-saving and cost-effective method of assessment, as it can be completed online. There are several different types of personality questionnaires. The Chinese Personality at Work (CPW) questionnaire, for example, focuses particularly on personality traits relevant to traditional Chinese working behaviour and can be specifically linked to competencies.

Companies are advised to assess each competency using at least two different assessment methods.

Consistent selection criteria

Once appropriate assessment methods have been selected, all parties involved in the selection process should be made aware of the selection criteria. They should also be well versed with relevant legislation. Organisations should ensure that assessors and interviewers involved in short-listing and interviewing are trained on the selection methods used. They should have a good understanding of the selection criteria and a general idea of the kind and level of information they need to obtain to satisfy the criteria.

It may be useful to prepare assessment forms to be used for the assessment centre and during interviews. For example, a simple one-page interview assessment form can provide a starting point for assessing candidates during a panel interview.

It is recommended that both human resources practitioners and line managers involved in selection attend training workshops to learn more about assessments, development centres and competency based interviewing.

Recruitment is an expensive exercise and a slow response may mean that you lose the best candidates. It is important to set appropriate timelines for short-listing and interviews.

Article contributed by Tamty McGill Consultants International Limited