How MediaCom Redesigned Its Interview Process (And Why It Needed To)

April 1, 2014

How MediaCom Redesigned Its Interview Process (And Why It Needed To)

December 12, 2013

By Seleena Juma, Consultant, Knightsbridge Human Capital Solutions

Interview ProcessWhen Theresa O’Connell arrived at MediaCom Canada in 2011, she could see that something needed to be done about the interview process.

It was often intolerably long, with layers of meetings, consultations and assessments required to hire a single employee at the global media company’s Canadian branch.

There was also a lack of consistency: every department had a slightly different approach to hiring. While one department might allow interviews to drag on with no end, another department was hiring candidates after a single interview.

The result was that, particularly at senior levels of the company, the interview process could last months.

A Scattered Approach Takes Its Toll

The impact of this scattered approach was taking its toll. O’Connell said the company’s turnover rate was uncomfortably high, and departmental managers were complaining that recruitment tasks were preventing them from attending to daily business priorities.

“At every level I talked to, department managers said that they felt the interview process was very time-consuming, and they were ill-equipped to make these judgments,” said O’Connell, MediaCom’s head of HR and talent. “They were hired for skills and expertise related to media, not recruitment. They felt that they lacked the tools, the skills, and the time to give it appropriate diligence.”

After bringing in her own team–including a full-time internal recruiter–O’Connell re-invented the interview process at MediaCom. Gone were the departmental variances. In their place, O’Connell instituted a consistent process that was lean, focused and dedicated to finding the right person for the right job.

Keeping The Process Simple

At the centre of this re-invented process was a commitment to keeping it as concise as possible. O’Connell said MediaCom currently performs an initial screening, a first interview with HR, and then a second round of interviews and meetings with other key personnel that have specific knowledge about the demands of the position to be filled.

It is always a good idea to include key managers from the department doing the hiring, O’Connell said. However, it’s also important to make sure that only the most relevant people are involved, and that collateral meetings are contained. O’Connell said she tries to schedule additional meetings with candidates on the same day, so that they are not asked to return numerous times to have the same conversations.

“When it comes time to hire someone, everybody wants a piece,” she said. “I’m all for collaboration but at some point you have to just stop it and say we’ll get people who are intimately involved with this role, that small circle, to chime in and make sure that we’re all in alignment.”

O’Connell said many organizations have flawed recruitment and interview processes because they do not view them as specific skills required by all hiring managers. As a result, you get a lot of involvement by people who are knowledgeable, but not about how to conduct a thorough, productive and efficient interview.

Organizations that are skeptical about the value of HR expertise must remember that a dysfunctional interview process can hurt their ability to recruit top talent. Word will spread about interviews that drag on for months, and it will discourage some great candidates from applying for jobs.

“When I arrived, MediaCom had a reputation for just hiring friends,” O’Connell said. “And we also had a bit of a reputation for high turnover. Right now, I think we’ve definitely addressed the reputation issue. You might want to refer your friend, but we’re still going to send them through the same vigorous process as anyone else. And if they don’t cut it, they don’t cut it. We definitely have policies and procedures around how we recruit and who we recruit.”

Before And After The Hire

There is no way to ensure that every hiring decision works out, O’Connell said. As well, a good hiring process cannot overcome a bad on-boarding process.

“The right hire also has a lot to do with what happens to them when they hit the ground here,” she said. “It goes hand-in-hand with a well thought-out orientation and induction program. A perfect candidate can sour very quickly if they hit the ground and they have no idea what they’re supposed to do or who the right players are to talk to or what the company’s culture, processes and policies are.”

O’Connell said that in the final analysis, organizations that consistently attract and retain top talent understand that although there are best practices, there is no definitive science for a successful interview process.

“You can get close, but you are, after all, dealing with human beings. You’re not dealing with a widget.”

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