Modern Day Recruitment Process
Personally, I can remember sending CVs out by post, from my little room in Cambridge. I can distinctly remember hand writing my cover letters and typing, then photocopying my CV. This was a long and laborious process, and of course, the dinosaurs were walking around at the same time, but what happened next was simple, compared to the challenges you face right now. At the time, once cover letter and CV were sent to the company applied for, there would be a letter confirming receipt of the documents. Sometimes this letter would ask us to wait for further news, and sometimes it would be what we called “ding” – a rejection, which we would throw, physically, into the waste paper bin, making a noise that sounded very much like a “ding”! Occasionally, the letter came that said “we would like to invite you to an interview”, and this, of course, created much excitement, a bit of preparation, and off we would go, on the train to London, to meet someone from HR in the company we were dreaming of. From there, just like now, successful applicants would move on to assessment centres, and then final interviews. I was lucky enough to participate in over ten assessment centres, and to receive seven offers, from companies as diverse as BA, Marks and Spencer, the Swire Group (which I took!) and the BBC. I was good, but not academically exceptional, but you know what the value of extra-curricular activities is now, right?
偶尔的会收到“我们想邀请你参加我们的面试”的信，这当然是非常激动的，这时就要做一些准备，然后乘上去伦敦的火车，与你梦想的公司的人力资源的人见面。从那时起，就像现在这样，成功的申请者就会进入到评估中心，然后进行最终的面试。我很幸运能够参加十多个评估中心，并拿到了七个公司的offer，这些公司有：英国航空BA，玛莎Marks and Spencer，太古集团 the Swire Group（我去的公司）和BBC。我当时是优秀的，但并不是在学术上很厉害的，但你知道课外活动的价值所在了吧。
Now, until a couple of years ago, the process was not so very different from what I went through, as email replaced letters and online application forms replaced paper. Other than that, the thinking behind it was very similar. There was the addition of online tests, though, as I recall, in the assessment centres I attended, there were many tests, of a very similar nature, just done on paper, and in situ. This was all quite easy, and Chinese/overseas candidates adapted quite easily.
The order was predictable –
Send us your application
If we like your application, we will invite you to do online tests
If you pass the online tests, we will invite you to first interview (usually by phone)
If you pass first interview, then we ask you to attend an assessment centre
If you succeed at AC, then we invite you to meet a senior person(s) and then offer is made.
Just a couple of years ago, a big sea change started to happen. It was confusing for all, not least us coaches, and many were caught out by it. We may not like the changes, but they are clearly here to stay!
The digital world allows for a very different way of assessing candidates. There are many advantages to this, especially for the recruiting companies: reduced costs, less interaction between humans, and avoidance of bias caused by CV details, such as gender, schools attended, race, etc. Now a company can take your application and process it with almost zero human intervention until an assessment centre stage. This is something that they are all pretty happy about. Much cheaper, and much quicker. Also harder to prepare for…
Many companies, including EY, KPMG, Alphasights, Bank of England, GSK and more are now using what they call a digital interview. These come, after a candidate has passed extensive online tests, which can include not just technical, but also personality-based tests, up to six of them. On passing all of these, a candidate is invited to the digital interview, often with as little as 48 hours’ notice.
In the“interview”, there may be just some questions flashed up on the screen, which do not vary much from what used to be asked by phone (competency and motivation type), or there may be scenarios, essays to write, videos expressing opinions and ideas to record. The scenarios may require calculations and expertise, or they may simply be looking for a particular personality profile. There is much less scope for preparing for these, and that is a common feature. Employers are trying to find ways to get past rehearsed answers to known questions, and to see the real “you” in their interactions with you.
What is more, some companies have gone a step further and are carrying out this process on a platform that analyses not only your answers, but also your body language, your vocabulary, your speed of reaction and more. You are on film from the moment you log in. One supplier of such platforms assesses over 15,000 characteristics, giving an automated response of success or failure within less than a minute. This can be disconcerting for the unprepared, especially as it can be hard to accept that a rejection be made in the space of only a few moments!
Subsequent stages of the process remain somewhat similar, though these are also in evolution. Whereas before the typical scenario was: assessment centre and then final interview, many companies are attempting to bring these two together, in order to shorten the process, and make more cohesive decisions. This will no doubt continue as a trend.
Whatever happens, you need to understand that these new methods are more about making things convenient for the employer than they are for your comfort. The process is designed, wherever possible, to get you to be natural, and this means you had better be prepared and flexible in your thinking. The biggest challenge for you as
a candidate is that of knowing so much about yourself and your fit with the company, that you can just talk about it naturally, with a flexibility that covers everything from doing some analysis and sums, while being filmed, to expressing how you see the world in twenty years’ time! Time to get to work on every aspect of your process, and particularly to your “flow”!