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Viewpoint: The elephant and the cereal bar

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Viewpoint: The elephant and the cereal bar

If there’s a talent war, it’s vital to make your recruitment process as straightforward and easy as possible. Jane Sunley explains

Not a day goes by when I don’t hear someone in hospitality bemoaning the difficulty of attracting and retaining the talented people they need to contribute to business success and growth. So why recruit in a way that makes it difficult for people to want to work for you and actually apply?

This week, I heard about a bright, articulate PhD student who applied online for a job as a server in a popular chain restaurant. The application – which should have been quick and easy – included the following questions: “You have been given an elephant and you can’t sell it or give it away, what do you do with it?” and “If you were a cereal bar, what would you be and why?”.

These questions were designed many moons ago for use by big City firms and the like, where they receive thousands of applications for their high-paid roles. These companies are looking for ways to identify those who really stand out from the crowd. Weird interview questions like this test creativity, verbal reasoning, critical thinking and so on. Give them to a bright, articulate, competent 22-year-old who just wants a part-time hospitality job and they’re viewed as patronising, time-wasting and all just a bit silly really. A hammer to crack a nut and, for some, a form of torture.

Thinking about the importance of diversity and inclusivity, for those with English as a second language, these obscure questions can be confusing and ambiguous. The process of finding a job is stressful enough, and for some, it can be quite gruelling – why exacerbate it?

Said student, of course, moved on to one of the many other opportunities on offer and then told all of her friends about the amusing tale of the elephant and the cereal bar, which is how I got to hear about it – news travels.

Given that employee engagement ‘touch points’ start from your very first interaction with a potential recruit, unsuitable recruitment methods are just not sensible. You should start demonstrating through your selection process that you’re a great place to work because you respect your people and treat them appropriately; that you keep things simple and practical; and everything you do is well thought out and purposeful – all key criteria for today’s job seeker.

Your end goal: You receive unsolicited applications from talented people continuously because they want to work for you. And, when they do apply, either via an applicant tracking system (a good idea if you’re big enough to warrant it), or more traditionally, ensure you make the application process as simple and sensible as possible; think about your selection criteria to keep questions relevant and engaging for the role at hand; and think about how you can start to clock up ‘engagement points’ from the get-go.

Jane Sunley is a business author and founder at Purple Cubed

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