Frustrated With Your Recruiting Results? Ask New Hires ‘What Worked’

As seen on ERE Media (April 5, 2017).

It’s a basic law for business process improvement. When your process is completed, you survey your users to find out what worked and what didn’t work. In recruiting, it turns out that identifying “what worked” is the second-most impactful of all internally reported recruiting metrics (after quality of hire). This what-worked data has such a powerful impact because it helps you improve the critical parts of your recruiting process that have the highest impact on your hiring results. Given this obvious value, you might be surprised to learn that recent data from Korn Ferry shockingly reveals that few corporations actually use new hire surveys.

71 percent of corporations do not survey their new hires about their experience

And sadly, among those firms that actually conduct new-hire surveys, “nearly one-fifth of respondents say they don’t do anything with the data.” That’s a costly mistake because, for example, one California healthcare firm found that the results provided from just two post-hire survey questions resulted in a $1.2 million savings for its recruiting department.

The Many Benefits of a New-Hire Questionnaire 

Unfortunately, many recruiting leaders think that recruiting stops after you hire someone. However, that’s a costly mistake because the best way to ensure that you continually hire great people is to constantly improve every critical element of your recruiting process. The most effective way to improve the process is to gather information from those who have just gone through it by using a new-hire recruiting questionnaire. The purpose of a new-hire questionnaire is simple: to gather information about what worked and what didn’t during the recruiting process. And then, to apply that information, in order to make the recruiting process at least 10 percent more effective each year.

The survey process is simple and cheap, and it should be part of your overall effort to make recruiting more data-driven. And for those who think that new hires might be reluctant to help … because new-hires are now part of your team, they are more than willing to help you improve a process that may directly or indirectly support them by bringing in future high-quality coworkers.

The Valuable Information That New-Hire Surveys Can Provide 

New-hire surveys provide valuable information on key recruiting process components. This survey data can help you improve your recruiting in employer branding processes by revealing the …

  • Attraction factors that caused candidates to apply
  • Actual sources where candidates found out about your job opening
  • Sales pitch areas that had the highest impact on a finalist’s decision to say yes
  • Interviewers and recruiters that impressed the candidate
  • Process components that left a negative or discouraging impression
  • Quality of their candidate experience

If you use an extended survey after several months on the job, the data can reveal whether the actual job differed significantly from the job that was sold to the candidate during the interview (overselling happens 61 percent of the time). And as an added benefit, you can use the new-hire questionnaire as an opportunity to ask for quality referrals from your new hires. You are more likely to get high-quality referrals at this time because as brand new employees they are interested in instantly building their image as a helpful contributor.

Typical Elements of a Recruiting Effectiveness Questionnaire

Obviously, you want the questionnaire to be digital, so when possible put it on a secure company internal website, or even better, on a mobile phone app. If you feel it’s appropriate, you can also ask the questions in an interview format. In either case, start by explaining the new hire’s role and how they can make an important contribution because they have just experienced your hiring process. Use an opening phrase at the beginning of the questionnaire that goes something like this:

“As a new hire who has just joined our firm, you are in a unique position to help us build a winning team around you. Please help us understand the most and least effective components of our recruiting and hiring process by honestly answering the questions in this questionnaire. Please be frank and don’t hold back. However, if you feel uncomfortable about answering any of the following questions, feel free to skip it.

14 Possible Questions for Your New Hires

You should normally limit the time required to complete the questionnaire to 15 minutes. So, time the questionnaire to ensure that it can be completed within that time. The following is a list of possible questions to consider. They are broken into five categories. And within each category, the most important questions are listed first.

A) Help us understand how you found us

If you help us understand where you learned about the job and what attracted you, we will be able to attract other top candidates like yourself.

  • Where did you learn about this job opening? — Specifically, where did you find out about this job opening? (e.g. a specific job board, a referral from a friend, a specific job fair etc.). List the sources that had the highest impact on your decision to apply first.
  • What attracted you? — Please list the specific factors that excited you and that triggered you to apply for this job. Please list the most powerful attraction factors for both the job and the company separately.
  • General information about working at our firm — please list any non-company sources that you used to find out general information about our firm and what it’s like to work here (e.g., vault, specific business or industry publications etc.). If you visited our corporate careers site, were there any areas that impressed or that you felt could be improved?

B) Help us assess the effectiveness of our hiring process 

In order to continually improve our hiring results, we strive to gather information on the best and the worst parts of our hiring process. You can help us by providing frank answers to the following questions.

  • The most effective hiring process components — help us understand which parts of the recruiting and hiring process that impressed you as being above average in effectiveness. Please list the top three process components and explain specifically what impressed you about them (e.g. the application process, the recruiters, the telephone interview, the interviewers, the interview questions, the offer process etc.).
  • The weakest hiring process components — help us understand which parts of the recruiting and hiring process in your view were the weakest. Please list the three components that you thought could most use some level of improvement. For each, explain specifically what aspects of the component you feel that could be improved (e.g. the application process, the recruiters, the telephone interview, the interviewers, the interview questions, the offer process, etc.).
  • Suggested additions to the process — based on your job search experience, are there any components that you feel should be added to our recruiting process.
  • Improving the interview process — focusing on your in-person interviews. Help us understand specifically what aspects of the interview process could be improved. And were there any interview questions that made you uncomfortable or that it seemed inappropriate? (Please list them). Were there any individual interviewers that stood out as the most and least effective?
  • Improving the candidate experience — we are always trying to improve our overall “candidate experience”. Were you treated “like a customer” during the entire process, please rate it on a 1 to 10 scale (with 10 being the best)? Please list any suggestions that you might have for improving our candidate experience (e.g. information covering what to expect, scheduling, input into the process, feedback etc.).

C) Help us assess the effectiveness of our candidate selling process

Obviously, after identifying top candidates, we want our process to be highly effective in convincing them to accept an offer. Please be frank in helping us understand how we could make all aspects of our selling more effective.

  • The most effective selling points — what “selling” information, points, or arguments presented to you during our interview and offer process where the most compelling and convincing? Please list them in descending order of impact.
  • The least impactful selling points — what “selling” information, points, or arguments presented to you during our interview and offer process had a limited or no impact on your decision to accept our job? Please list the least effective selling points first.
  • Your top final decision factors — in the end, when you finally decided to say yes, please provide us with the top two factors that had the most positive impact on your final decision.
  • Who influenced your final decision  help us understand which individuals you consulted with before you made your final decision. We don’t want individual names, only the types of individuals that influenced you (e.g. spouse/partner, family, colleagues, mentors, references, etc.). 

D) Help us to identify other top talent like you

  • Please make some high-quality referrals — as a new employee, we expect you to do your part in helping us to identify additional highly desirable talent. Please list the top three individuals at your former firm (in your functional area) that you would highly recommend for us to try to recruit. Are there other individuals who are equally as good that work at other firms? Give us at least one sentence on each covering why they are highly desirable. Would you be willing to help us recruit any of them?

E) Help us understand our recruiting competition 

  • What other firms did you consider — if you feel comfortable doing so, please list the other highly desirable firms in our industry that you also applied at? If you got an offer for any of them, would you tell us specifically where our offer was superior and inferior?

What Should You Do With the Acquired Information?

After the new hire completes the questionnaire, analyze it in order to identify what you did right or wrong. Don’t forget to feed the information back to those involved in the recruiting process at the corporate and the departmental level, so that they can also learn. Every three months or so aggregate the data and report it to those responsible for designing the recruiting process.

You might also consider offering a referral bonus to the newhire if the individuals that they identified are hired within three months. You should also consider asking during onboarding other questions that might help their new manager know more about how to motivate and retain this new hire. Those additional questions might include “what non-economic factors motivate you” and “why did you quit your last two jobs?”

When You Should Administer the Questionnaire

The best time to administer the questionnaire is on the employee’s first day, during or right after their orientation. Doing it on the first day makes it less likely that you will forget to administer it and on the first day, new hires are more likely to be honest. (Incidentally, you can administer it anonymously if you find that employees are reluctant to provide the information). Even though most recruiting departments give the questionnaire to every new hire, make sure that you at least give it to new hires in your “key positions” where fixing errors and getting referrals have the highest business impact.

Final Thoughts

All recruiting functions should shift to a data-driven approach. And as part of that effort to increase the available data, consider surveying individuals who dropped out during the application process, a random sample of applicants, all interview finalists, and finalists that rejected your offer. But gathering this information isn’t enough. If you want to increase your quality of hire and reduce new-hire failure rates (which average around 50 percent). Make a single individual accountable for periodically applying this information. And for gathering metrics that show that your hiring process is continually improving in the critical areas of quality of hire, hiring speed, high offer closing rates, and an improved candidate experience.

  • Photo Credit: Death to stock

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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