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Recruitment: how aligning words and actions to values can ensure candidates are the ‘right fit’

11th Jul 2019
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Consciously or not, your recruitment process is values-based, but are you communicating the right values to potential new hires? Here, we look at how to be more deliberate with your words and actions throughout the process to ensure the right message is conveyed.

Let’s start by replaying a conversation we’ve had many times with leaders of organisations who want to improve their recruitment processes:

Leader: “We want to do values-based recruitment”.

Us: “You already do”.

Leader: “No we don’t. We just use regular ways of writing adverts, shortlisting, interviewing and selecting someone”.

Us: “True – but that’s still values-based.”

Leader: “Explain!”

Us: “The things you write and say, how you express them and sequence them all matters. The shortlist criteria you use, the structure of the interview questions, what you give candidates marks for and what you don’t give them marks for – all this is driven by an underlying set of values. Whether intended or not, certain values are coming through. You are doing values-based recruitment – just not deliberately.”

Values are an expression of what matters most to a person, a group, or an organisation. Values shape our sense of the world, how things work and what is ‘like’ or ‘not like’ us.

Two sets of values

In recruitment two sets of values are at work: the values of the recruiting organisation (and sometimes those of the recruitment consultancy being used), and the values of the potential candidate.

Great hires take place when the values of the employing organisation and the values of the individual align and resonate with one another.

You already do values based recruitment. The question is: would you like to do it consciously?

This is not about looking for a ‘match’. There is no such thing as the ‘right’ set of values. This is not about taking a values-shaped ‘cookie cutter’ to the labour market and seeking people who fit that shape.

Consciously values-based recruitment is about finding the words, processes and activities that convey the uniqueness of the employing organisation and give candidates a more detailed sense of what the job might be like in real life.

What does the research say?

Why should we care how close we get in terms of values alignment? This is what the research says:

You already do values based recruitment. The question is: would you like to do it consciously?

What does it look like in practice?

I recently worked with an organisation that had ‘creativity’ as one of its values. The team talked me through their recruitment process, and it was standard stuff.

I asked, “how does your creativity value show up in the recruitment process?”

The penny dropped and they agreed that it didn’t. The value most evident was efficiency - there was nothing creative visible.

All recruitment is values-based, but only some of it is currently conscious and deliberate.

How many creatives do you know that would be attracted by an efficient process?

Another organisation, Wellbeing Teams, has been determined to consciously express their values throughout each candidate’s journey through the recruitment experience, whether appointed or not.

Here are some examples of how the process is designed to both reflect four of the six Wellbeing Teams values and to reach people whose personal values align.

1. Compassion

How this is demonstrated through the recruitment process:

  • We start the process with a conversation, and an opportunity to ask questions.
  • We invite people to share what matters to them, through a one-page profile, and this communicates that we want people to bring their whole selves to work.
  • We share what matters to the recruitment team who organise the workshop, and share their one-page profiles as part of the recruitment pack.  Therefore the recruitment team are introduced as people, not as anonymous professionals.

How people are identified who align with this value:

  • We look for compassion in the scenario card questions – these include scenarios that reveal people’s ability to be compassionate to their colleagues and people we support (as well as self-care and self-compassion).
  • We look at compassionate touch (the Wellbeing Worker role includes providing personal care) through hand massage. There are exercises during the day that include reflection on one-page profiles and values questions that reflect bringing your whole self to work.

2. Responsibility

How this is demonstrated through the recruitment process:

  • We do what we say we will do and, at the end of the phone call, we explain what we expect from people.
  • We phone everyone who attends the recruitment workshop and give them feedback, rather than email unsuccessful people.

How people are identified who align with this value:

  • We have scenario sessions that reveal how people take responsibility for their own work, and responsibility to the team.
  • The group activities are a way for people to demonstrate how they take responsibility eg different roles. Self-management requires giving people feedback, which we see as a gift.
  • There is an exercise where people are required to give their partner feedback on their performance.

3. Creativity

How this is demonstrated through the recruitment process:

  • The venue for the recruitment workshop is decorated with fresh flowers, with bunting, treats and music, to create an environment that promotes creativity.
  • The range of activities and processes used in the recruitment workshop process is an example of creativity.

How people are identified who align with this value:

  • We have a specific group exercise where people can demonstrate their creativity in how they ‘make’ something, as well as answers to some of the values cards.

4. Flourishing

How this is demonstrated through the recruitment process:

  • We share our approach to wellbeing and flourishing at work in the design of the process.
  • Flourishing is bringing your whole self to work, which is why we ask for and share one-page profiles.
  • The recruitment team share what matters to them (and their wellbeing) in the introductions at the workshop.

How people are identified who align with this value:

  • We ask questions about how people take care of their wellbeing within the values and scenario cards. 

In an ideal world you should start with a conscious connection to the truly core values of the organisation and then relentlessly look through that lens at every word, every stage, every sequence, and every interaction to make those values shine through.

Return on investment?

We appreciate that ROI matters. In 2016 Skills for Care commissioned independent research into values-based recruitment finding that overall employers taking this approach reported:

  • Staff performed better.
  • Staff had stronger care values.
  • There was a lower staff turnover.
  • There was a positive ROI of £1.23 for every £1 spent.

All recruitment is values-based, but only some of it is currently conscious and deliberate.

Interested in this topic? Read How to create an attractive employee value proposition.

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