FIRST CLASS COACH - I've heard a lot recently about the so-called war for talent and, as an interviewer in a traditional old-economy company, I've found that interviewees are better briefed and more confident than ever before, and often have one or more j

by MARGARET EXLEY, who leads Towers Perrin's European practice onchange and communication. A founder of Kinsley Lord, she is anon-executive director of the Treasury's management board
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I've heard a lot recently about the so-called war for talent and, as an interviewer in a traditional old-economy company, I've found that interviewees are better briefed and more confident than ever before, and often have one or more job offers on the table. I've always thought I had a good interview style, but I'm concerned that my skills may need updating or that I should adopt a different approach to suit the current climate.

The recruitment market is transforming itself in the new economy. In the US, - a web-based recruitment company - advertises 140,000 jobs at a time. For those with the right skills, power is moving to employees in a market for IT staff where 1.7 million jobs in IT remain unfilled in Europe.

You are also likely to be doing more recruiting as people move between companies more frequently. This is partly a product of restructuring, but mainly a result of the increasing speed of the business cycle. The development and speed to market of new products and services have become critical to companies' success. In turn, this is leading to a higher level of churn in businesses and a greater demand for talent. In the US, the average 32-year-old has worked for nine companies.

People are looking for several things when they come to an interview.

They want to enhance their skills and careers and they are looking for opportunities for personal development. But more and more people are also looking at the working climate, the flexibility of employment practices and the extent to which remuneration and benefits are customised for the individual. So, as well as thinking about your recruitment style and approach, consider what sort of package your company offers new recruits. Flexible employment contracts and reward packages are very attractive as examples of company culture at the interview stage.

The traditional approach to recruitment interviewing treated the interview as a test. The recruit was put through their paces and the interviewer's role was to explore the CV, personal history, strengths and weaknesses of the candidate. These interviews were so predictable that people could be trained in how to do well in them. Consultants and authors have made a great deal of money out of helping people to succeed in such interviews.

But it's a poor way to explore the likely success of a job move for either the candidate or the firm.

Instead, think of the recruitment interview as a genuine two-way process where you are exploring the fit between the candidate and company. It's also an opportunity to promote the firm as a good place for career development and skills enhancement. Create tasks for the candidate that emulate the role they will be asked to perform; for example, when we recruit consultants we often ask people to work with us on a case history or make a presentation.

Candidates will expect to be able to access your web page to learn about your business and your recruitment methods. Check that the web site conveys the right messages, consistent with the rest of the recruitment process and approach. It is commonplace for candidates to apply for jobs through the web. So make sure that the follow-up correspondence and conversations are as smart and as accessible as the site itself.

You can improve your own interviewing skills in a number of ways. An obvious one is training, and the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) has a list of up-to-date courses. You will be surprised how things have changed since you first began selection interviewing. Second, get some feedback from recent recruits you have interviewed. Ask a colleague to collate some views for you, and from this you will be able to get a sense of your interviewing style and how you are perceived.

In a recent survey on the impact of e-business, 75% of executives rated human performance ahead of technology as the key strategic issue in their business. Finding the right talent and skills for your firm is critical to winning in your business, but unless you do this in a way that reflects the new world of e-business, you will not stay ahead of the game. Keep ahead in the people game and you will win in the new economy as well.

How to: Q&A

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