Packaging personnel

Packaging Professional magazine
15 Sep 2009

Dani Novick, Managing Director of print and packaging recruitment specialists Mercury Search and Selection Ltd, offers tips for recruiters.

Employers face tough challenges recruiting. While there is no shortage of candidates, the volume of applicants can cause fresh problems so employers need to refine their recruitment processes.

Unemployment is running at a 14-year high and press coverage suggests that a generation of school leavers and graduates face unemployment at the end of their studies.

Contrary to the skills shortages suffered in recent years, these times of relative high unemployment are often considered a ‘recruiter’s market’ where employers have their pick of the best candidates. Reality, however, can be different.

Tough competition

In some cases employers have received 500 applications for a single vacancy. On another level there are clients who received in excess of 50 applications, many of which did not meet their requirements.

It is common for executives to take many CVs home with them to sift through, even after HR has whittled out the irrelevant ones. So when combining the costs of advertising with the resources to read, sort, shortlist and respond to over 50 CVs, it is clear that this recruiter’s market is not the luxury it might first appear.

Why are there so many irrelevant CVs?  Faced with unemployment and bills to pay, many candidates conclude that there is value in applying and optimistically trying for roles they have no realistic chance of landing. Perversely, candidates are more likely to adopt this attitude when they have the least chance of success due to a surplus of applicants.

Streamlining recruitment

The starting point for employers is a clear understanding of what is required. Filling a vacancy, whether a replacement or a new role, is an ideal opportunity to review job specifications, starting with current and future business needs rather than past ones. Consider economic, technical or market trends that are forcing change on the business, requiring new and innovative approaches. Use this to define what the role should be rather than what it was. This will drive the requirements for skills and knowledge.

Having decided on the specification, think about who to target. Will the best candidates come from your own sector, from competitors, or does another sector have a world-class lead in technologies or systems you would like to bring in? In food and commodity sectors, for example, packaging professionals are used to driving cost out of materials and processes on a daily basis, and now there is increased demand for these people in markets such as pharmaceuticals.

The right people

Whether you choose to advertise directly and handle the process in-house or use a recruiter, the next step is a really specific brief. In a candidate driven market, as in times of skills shortages, employers have to work hard to sell the opportunity provided by their vacancy. While this is still important, with a surplus of candidates, the advert or brief should be the first part of the selection process. By stating ‘must haves’ you can deter unsuitable applicants. However, it is important to focus on skills and knowledge rather than a specific number of years’ experience, in order to avoid indirect discrimination.

Some unsuitable applicants will still apply but if the advert specifically asks candidates to highlight and explain specific skills and knowledge, you can quickly eliminate those who either do not have it or have not emphasised it, neither of which you want. This should reduce the number of applications and make them more relevant and initial sifting quicker, almost by checklist.

There are those who will question whether it is better to have a tightly focused specification, excluding those who do not match, versus a broader approach more open to opportunities presented by the variety of applicants. Each has merit, but I would strongly advise that these kinds of decisions are rooted in a clear understanding of the business’ needs. Otherwise it is easy to get carried away with a likeable and intriguing candidate, only to realise that they do not suit company requirements.

In the final analysis, particularly in the current business environment, using hiring managers’ time to differentiate between three or four candidates, each of whom meets a clear specification, is more productive than asking them to sift through dozens of CVs. Understand what you want, make it clear in the advert and quickly sift through initial applications accordingly.

Further Information: Mercury Search and Selection Ltd