Why PR gets recruitment wrong
3rd March 2015
How much would it cost your business if you hired the wrong person? At least double the cost of recruiting them in the first place: “The upfront costs of recruitment to the business such as advertising, agency fees, on-boarding, induction, and training can double in the case of a bad hire,” says Lucinda Moores, practice director at specialist PR and communications recruiter VMA Group.
Moores goes on: “Then, of course, there is the management time involved in trying to get the candidate to fit – plus having to go through an exit process. Often the wrong hire can be a disruptive influence on the rest of the team resulting in a negative impact on productivity – a much longer-term consequence.”
Another cost may be harder to evaluate but could be most damaging, as Catherine Maskell, head of marketing at recruitment agency REED says: “Within such a client and public-facing industry as PR, the wrong hire can also result in reputational damage for the company or its clients.”
Stephanie King, head of the Recruitment Practice and BlueSky PR agrees, adding: “One of the fundamentals of good client management is familiarity and understanding – no customer is going to appreciate numerous new faces on their account.”
One crucial way to avoid hiring the wrong person is to get the interview process right. VMA’s Moores advises: “Make sure all the stakeholders of the business are involved – particularly the challenging ones so that there are no surprises once the candidate starts. Think carefully about what you want to assess – cultural fit is about matching the values and behaviours of an organisation, so how are you going to assess that? Have multiple stages of interview with different stakeholders and avoid the same questions. Getting the right balance can be tricky – but too few or too many can both end up being costly. The best advice I was ever given when making a hiring decision was to ask myself: ‘Am I excited about bringing this candidate into my team’? If the answer is ‘no’ then you should reconsider.”
REED’s Maskell highlights the importance of knowing what to ask in an interview: "Much risk can be taken away by knowing the right questions to ask in an interview. Ask candidates about their favourite publications, for instance, to get a feel for their passions: are they familiar with industry news? Supplement this with relevant exercises: are they able to deliver a short pitch successfully as part of their interview? Most importantly, test for the skills and experience that you know the role demands.”
Before the interview, there is the application. Maskell emphasises the value of thoroughly checking CVs: “In a recent case a US businessman obtained high-level roles with fake references, simply because the companies that employed him didn't carry out the proper checks. Our own data found that 24 per cent of 90,000 CVs analysed contained untruths. In the first instance, something as simple as checking a candidate's social media profiles can help spot discrepancies, which would have the added benefit of drawing to light anything unsavoury that might spell trouble in the future."
Many nightmares can be avoided even before the recruitment process begins, by putting a network in place that means you don’t have to find candidates in a rush. BlueSky’s King says: “In my opinion, and where so many go wrong, is by leaving a recruitment campaign to the last minute. Companies should constantly be on the lookout for individuals who, when the need arises, can be called upon and brought into the recruitment process. By developing talent pipelines and communities – which are engaged with and can be easily tapped into – agencies are far less likely to employ in haste which can be disastrous.”
When it comes down to the final decision about who to bring in, don’t just look at the paperwork, listen to your instinct, and don‘t forget, you could always go the freelance route. Claire Thompson, consultant at Waves PR, sums up what she has learnt: “As someone who has first experience of having hired the wrong person, my advice would be ‘follow your gut’. If in doubt, don’t hire. Hiring a freelance may seem more expensive on paper, but trust me, it’s not!”