How formal should hiring processes be?

There is plenty of advice available on how candidates should dress and act during an interview if they want to get the job.

Generally, people are urged to stay on the side of formality when looking to make a good impression, but should this extend to hiring processes? While some companies will use a mixture of online tests, competency tasks and face-to-face interviews to make a decision, others merely rely on word of mouth recommendations.

But is there a correct way to conduct recruitment?

Informal hiring

Some business managers do not view 21st century technology as an essential part of the hiring process. While many will encourage emailed CVs followed by sector-specific tasks to be carried out online, others prefer the enthusiasm involved in having to show up at a location in person.

It depends on what a company's key selling point is. For example, if excellent service to customers is what marks out an organisation in a competitive market, hiring managers will be keen to get a read on a person to see how they react to certain circumstances. Informal hiring - which can vary from word of mouth to headhunting - may limit the pool of candidates, but if they are all of a very high calibre, does it matter?

Formal hiring

Creating an engaging job description and using various marketing strategies to make sure it reaches a wide network of job hunters is an established way of securing top quality candidates. But research by Creditsafe has found only a quarter of recruiters check CVs to make sure they are accurate, highlighting a potential problem with this method.

By giving hiring managers the task of narrowing down the field of candidates, organisations should be confident they are only going to interview people who have skills and work histories that closely match the job description.

One of the main benefits of formal hiring process that focus on functional or technical expertise is that it gives companies the chance to sift through candidates and eliminate those without the necessary drive and motivation. Asking for specific examples on every question will typically give an indication of how people have applied themselves in previous roles.

On the flip side, by applying very formal hiring approach, companies run the risk of eliminating some highly credible candidates through some questionable qualifying criteria – such as having not worked in the specific industry recently. Most professionals agree that the HR challenges that exist across various industries are very similar (and the skills highly transferable), yet they rule out a large proportion of those candidates at the very start of the process.

Is there a middle ground?

The bottom line is that as long as excellent candidates are found, the process can be judged to be successful. HR managers should be looking to create an environment where candidates are able to showcase their talents, rather than one that rewards those who consistently interview well. Certain companies and managers will have their own ideas about the best way to conduct recruitment, and so they are entitled to make the process as formal as they think it needs to be.

However, putting your processes to the test is the best way to benchmark their suitability. Identify any problems or skills gaps that keep cropping up and put measures in place to deal with them. Don't forget, recruitment is always changing and so constant evaluation of how your company hires is key to long-term success.