As we move towards the New Year, when new budgets are being prepared and hiring processes are given a fresh lease of life, it is vital that we are vigilant about the way in which we recruit staff. It can be tempting to seek out familiar options during times of uncertainty, such as in wake of Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in America. Many will be anxious, and fearful of the future. However, we can overcome these anxieties, learn and evolve with current circumstances.

As technology develops and organisations seek increasingly levels of flexibility, there has been a rise in ‘contingent workers’ who are employed on a non-permanent basis. A paper by Intuit predicts that by 2020, 40% of the workforce in the U.S. will be contingent workers. Similarly, in the UK, there has been an increase in the number of self-employed, temporary or zero-hours contract staff, to more than 7 million people or one-in-five workers as reported in the Guardian. This is also reflected in increasing coverage of the ‘gig economy’, where people are paid for individual pieces of work rather than for working contracted hours.

A consequence of this change is that organisations increasingly rely on agencies to find and screen their contingent staff. For example, it has been estimated that recruitment agencies employ 1.2 million people per day in the UK. A real risk is that organisations have less control over who is being hired and, more so, that key in-house recruitment skills are eroded as their work becomes increasingly outsourced. So what can organisations do to get recruitment right in these uncertain times?

Comfort Hiring

The idea of the ‘Glass Cliff’ comes from the finding that women are more likely to be awarded senior leadership roles during times of great unrest or crisis. Gender stereotypes play a key role in shaping Glass Cliff decisions, for example, the perception that women leaders will be more nurturing and better able to ‘fix the mess’ left by their more aggressive and risk oriented predecessors. One consequence of the ‘Glass Cliff’ is that these appointments come with a greater risk of failure and harsh scrutiny.

When considering leadership roles in this context, recruiters must be aware of their unconscious biases during the selection process and, where possible, use independent experts to support their due diligence. For example, at Pearn Kandola, we consistently find that the senior level assessments we conduct for clients show no gender differences across leadership criteria or hiring recommendations.

Assessor Competence

Interviewing and assessing candidates is a skill and so gets better with frequent practice. But like any skill, it also deteriorates quickly if left on the shelf. Most hiring managers interview candidates infrequently – after all, it’s not their day job – so it’s unreasonable to expect them to excel. A key problem, however, is that most people have little insight about their lack of skill – they don’t know what they don’t know – and so few hiring managers seek support to enhance their skills. One of the biggest contributions HR managers can make to improving recruitment is to enhance the skills of their hiring managers. In part, this is about having the courage and influence to show people what they don’t want to hear – that they could be better assessors. It is also about providing solutions that work for hiring managers, such as easy to access online guides, coupled with ‘just in time’ interventions that allow skills practice and feedback.

Going back to basics

Finally, one of the most crucial elements to the selection process is the interview process and there are four cornerstones to getting them right:

  1. Understanding achievements. Discovering detailed information about achievements and how they came about is crucial. Questions should align themselves with what will be needed from the potential hire in this new role, and recruiters should be willing to probe in order to gauge understanding of required processes.
  2. Promoting clarity. We already know that people who join an organisation without understanding the company culture are unlikely to thrive. Recruiters must make sure that they outline key elements of the role and company in a positive light – but without sacrificing clarity or bending the truth.
  3. Focusing on fairness. Interviewers are subject to a range of biases which are part of human nature. Unfortunately, this can make it harder to identify the very best candidates or carry out the hiring process in a way which promotes diversity. By setting fairness objectives, interviewers are less likely to act on instinct and overlook potentially fantastic candidates.
  4. Creating a positive impact. Interviews are a two way process, and candidates will be evaluating both the interviewer and the organisation as they themselves are being assessed. Candidates simply want a professional, well thought-out process which gives them an open and positive impression of the business. Think of an interview as a professional conversation; warmth and rapport are key.


Uncertainty can sometimes create a disarrayed and confused recruitment process. However, this is an avoidable pitfall. By focusing on the above suggestions during the hiring process, recruiters can truly shine and demonstrate their value.

James is a Business Psychologist and Head of Assessment based in Oxford. At Pearn Kandola James has directed major assessment and development projects, including a review and redesign of the graduate recruitment processes for Sainsbury’s and the NHS.developed and delivered a number of diversity programmes covering diversity awareness and behavioral change He has worked with an extensive range of public and private sector organisations including BP, BT, PwC, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and the Department for Trade and Industry.