Want to win the talent war? Get your hiring practices right

A wrong hire is an expensive mistake - but it can be avoided

Recruitment seems easy enough. You post an opening on a jobs site, in flood the interested candidates and you select the best person.

The reality is often very different, as hiring talent is a far more nuanced and complicated process. A poor process may lead to candidate pools that are too sparse or inundated with applicants.

Hiring the right people enables a company to bring its vision to fruition. Hiring the wrong person can have disastrous results, especially in smaller companies with less capacity to subsume bad hires.

The external labour market greatly impacts on recruitment, but many talent shortage issues are at the behest of organisations that fail to implement a comprehensive recruitment system. The system in place will give you what the system was designed to give.


Having a strong hiring process will help you win the competition for talent, and research into hiring practices provides key lessons to attract and retain the right talent.

Identify your objective

Organisations often make the mistake in believing that the hiring process begins with the posting of a job advertisement. It’s a key activity but there are important steps that need to occur both before and after this stage.

Here are some of the most pertinent aspects of hiring that can enable organisations get the hires they need.

At the outset is the decision to identify your recruitment objectives. What is the job to be filled? What kind of individual are you looking to attract? Organisations regularly fail to explicitly consider the role they need to fill.

Take this example. A company identifies the need to appoint a production manager but, rather than thoroughly consider their specific requirements, they copy and paste a similar job description that other companies are advertising. The problem is the failure to consider in detail the company-specific requirements of the role and type of person who will fit the environment.

Similarly, organisations too often roll job descriptions over from past recruitment activity. This is poor practice as the role requirements now and into the future may have changed.

How often do we see cases of individuals possessing the key technical attributes required for a role but failing to perform, to fit in and potentially even damaging previously high performing teams? Hiring managers need to understand, inside-out, the company’s values and culture so they are in a position to source talent that is a good fit.

The more targeted and comprehensive the job description and person specification, the better chance of obtaining a relevant talent pool. Vagueness leads to hiring headaches simply because it will attract the wrong types of candidate.

Sell your value proposition

In the increasingly buoyant jobs market in Ireland, small to medium-sized enterprises may feel that their talent challenges are magnified when compared with those of multinational companies. The key for organisations is to understand their employee value proposition and to sell it.

The employee value proposition goes beyond basic pay and benefits. It factors in the company vision and values, career development opportunities, corporate social responsibility, flexible working etc. In effect, this sets out your sales pitch to prospective employees.

Hiring is a two-way process. The applicant is seeking to impress upon you their suitability for the role, but the organisation must impress upon the candidate why they would want to take up this job opportunity.

If you are unable to articulate with clarity the answer to the question, “why would I want to work in this company”, you are in a losing position before you start.

Once you are clear on the employee value proposition, you need to ensure you speak the right language in the relevant advertising mediums used to gain an applicant pool.

Where you place the advert is of crucial importance. It is important you understand your potential talent market and then target with appropriate forms of advertising. This may take the form of job postings on websites, in newspapers, on social media, but it may also require partnerships with higher education providers, engagement at professional networking events and so forth.

The key is that you think through the utility of the different channels and evaluate success afterwards so that you can revise accordingly for future recruitment activity.

The hiring process is not over yet

There is a danger that with a job offer being made and accepted, the hiring process ends. This is a falsehood which plagues organisations the world over.

There is considerable research evidence reporting voluntary employee turnover rates of between two and 50 per cent among people who are less than 12 months in post. So up to half of all hires may not still be with the organisation 12 months after they join and the majority of this cohort tend to be gone within six months.

If it is difficult to hire talent, you need to work even harder to retain them.

Why so? Often it is a failure to undertake the hiring process effectively, as discussed previously. It may also be due to letting new hires flounder once they are in the door. It is vitally important that employees are provided with strong support once they join.

For example, appropriate induction and supports (for instance a buddy or mentor system; checking in on how they are settling in regularly) will help them adjust to their new role and the organisation.

High turnover of newly-appointed staff has significant and obvious direct costs, by way of needing to restart the resource-intensive hiring process again. A more indirect cost is the negative impact it may have on your brand. If there is a significant turnover of staff, prospective job candidates may take a view that, rather than being an employer of choice, you are an employer to avoid.

Recruitment brings a job opening to the attention of potential candidates, influences whether they apply, affects whether they maintain interest in the role until a job offer is made, impacts on whether a job offer is accepted, and finally shapes their performance and intention to remain with the organisation. It needs to be invested in.

Anthony McDonnell is professor of management and head of the department of management and marketing at Cork University Business School, University College Cork