Recruitment benchmarks have become the standard for recruitment and selection processes. We advise selection panels to invest time together before shortlisting to agree on the recruitment benchmarks that they will use to assess candidates.
What are recruitment benchmarks?
Recruitment benchmarks in the selection process set out the acceptable standards that have been determined as being the minimum for an applicant to be (a) shortlisted for further consideration and (b) assessed as suitable for appointment through interview or other selection processes. These are usually established by people who know the job well (maybe a supervisor or manager, someone who has held the job, a client or key stakeholder or a combination of these).
Recruitment benchmarks “flesh out” the selection criteria or the key attributes that are outlined in the role description by describing what would be expected to be found in an acceptable (and superior) response from a candidate. They relate directly to the key attributes required of a successful candidate and link directly to the role responsibilities.
Why should we bother?
Recruitment benchmarks help selection panels be more objective in their decision-making. One of the greatest values for a selection panel, when agreeing on benchmarks, is the actual sharing of information, knowledge and expectations that individual panel members have about what a “good” candidate will look like.
This selection panel exchange about the level of knowledge, skills, experience, abilities and personal qualities required to do the job well, decided against the requirements set out in the role description, help the panel reach a shared understanding of the critical elements of the role and what they need to see in candidates to be confident that they are the best person for the job. They are “ground tested” for objectivity and fairness through this process – provided there is open sharing of views and “group think” is avoided.
Recruitment benchmarks provide a wide range of significant benefits:
- help panels be more consistent in their decision-making by applying the same standards to each application, selection panels are less likely to be distracted by irrelevant information in an application.
- guide selection panels to make consistent decisions about acceptability across a range of (sometimes quite disparate) candidates.
- make the rationale for the decision more transparent (If asked to justify their decision, the panel can refer to the objective recruitment benchmarks and describe the extent to which candidates met or exceeded them).
- help facilitate objective feedback for candidates (Having clear and agreed standards, the panel can refer to these when providing feedback to candidates and help candidates identify where their strengths and weaknesses lie, providing guidance for future learning and self-development).
- enable efficient shortlisting (This is especially the case where applicant pools are large. Where there are objective, measurable, “go/no go” benchmarks set for job requirements, these can be used efficiently to cull down large pools to more manageable numbers).
- assist in the development of practical and realistic interview questions or other selection tools such as work tests (By being specific about the standards or performance expectations, targeted questions or processes can be developed to test these).
Sometimes selection panels skip the process of agreeing on, and setting recruitment benchmarks. This may be because they assume that everyone on the selection panel has a good idea of what the job is, how it should be done and what a “good” candidate looks like. However, unless recruitment benchmarks are established, the selection panel runs the risk of working from different perceptions and expectations of candidate suitability thereby putting good selection decision-making in jeopardy.