Values-based recruitment in practice: how it could work for your business

Content RS values

Values-based recruitment brings many benefits including improved employee engagement and productivity, better organisational resilience, and reduced staff turnover  (LINK to guide). But when you start thinking about how to implement it, things can get confusing. How do you assess someone’s curiosity, for example, in a way that is objective and fair?

Large accountancy firms can turn to science and technology. “We’ve adopted a strengths-based recruitment and selection methodology, and use technology to help test a candidate’s skills and potential,” says Dan Richards, recruitment director at EY for the UK and Ireland.

“We look at a blended approach to balance how they [candidates] perform in our digital immersive assessment process balanced with their high academic performance, in particular on cognitive and numerical benchmarking.”

But for smaller firms, such resources may be out of reach. The good news is that, while it is important to think carefully about how to assess and weight values, you can take a simpler approach

Alastair Barlow, founder and partner at Flinder, an accounting, advisory and data analytics start-up, shares a quick insight into how he does it:

Stage 1: A 90-second video clip. Barlow says his team members need to feel comfortable on camera so if they could not, or would prefer not, to do this, they would fail the first hurdle.

The video clip also gives candidates the opportunity to cover two of the firm’s values (entrepreneurial and human touch) because “they are doing something out of the ordinary and they get to communicate with energy too”.

Stage 2: The first interview is values-based, typically conducted with Barlow. He tries to cover all five of the company’s values, but says three or four is the minimum. In this stage, he looks for evidence that the candidate is good alignment, for example going through scenarios where someone has been entrepreneurial or tenacious.

He also asks a curveball question – “What is 25 x 25?” – to witness how candidates respond. “It is important to see how people react under pressure and how they apply this tenacity value that we talk about,” he says.

Getting the correct answer immediately is not the point. “Some people get it wrong the first time and then they work on it… But again, that is being tenacious,” says Barlow.

Nor is there a right way to approach the problem. Candidates have answered the question in many ways including using a calculator, a phone or working it out on a whiteboard. “We start to see how people’s brains work,” says Barlow, recalling just one difficult situation where a candidate blankly refused to answer the question.

Stage 3: The third stage is a technical interview with a case study. “I do not think you can rely on values alone,” says Barlow. “Given the fact that we are an accountancy firm, we need to assess technical capability. We need to understand people's experiences, the types of businesses they have worked with and how they would manage the different situations.”

Barlow adds that at the end of the process recruits are invited to a social to see how they interact with the team. This is also a chance for those making the hire to get feedback from the team “to see if there is anything we have missed”. But, he says, this is a complement to the other stages which go much deeper on values and technical abilities.

However you choose to adopt values-based recruitment, it is important to ensure the process is fair. If you would like more help and advice, we have some tips on common pitfalls to avoid and a guide to the benefits of the approach

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