“I don’t understand it, he was a great recruit... he had all the right skills and experience but now he’s leaving after only three months”, the senior manager told me. Sadly this is an all too common tale that I often hear.

Recruitment, for me, is where the engagement journey really starts. If it’s done well you will recruit motivated and productive people, but if done poorly it can quickly lead to problems and disengagement.

The recruitment process is arguably the time when the candidate is most engaged. They want the job, they have responded positively to the employer brand and what they perceive to be the organisations' values, they are keen to demonstrate their capability and enthusiasm and they are eager, perhaps sometimes too eager, to believe everything they hear or to put the most positive spin on what they are told.

It’s only natural after all; the candidate wants the role and the organisation needs to fill it, often under pressure to do so. The danger lies when both parties fall under the warm glow of the ‘recruitment moon’ when reality is often overlooked, at least for a while.

So, here are my five tips to ensure real engagement starts at the recruitment process. And lasts.

Recruitment is a two way process.

The number of opportunities is increasing and candidates are starting to have more choices. A good recruitment process should allow an opportunity for the employee to gain an open and clear insight into the organisation and the role. You have a great opportunity to engage candidates at this stage through what you say to them, what you show them (I am always amazed with companies who never show candidates around the office during an interview process), who they meet and the overall experience they have while they are with you. I remember once going for an interview for a large Telecoms company; I was left waiting in reception for 45 minutes and when I did eventually get into the interview room, the person interviewing me seemed completely disinterested. They offered me a job. I did not accept it.

So your process needs to be slick, timely and in keeping with your company culture and values. Of course, your process can be too slick; I have a friend who recently applied for a role with a leading Management Consultancy firm. He applied online late on a Friday evening, and at 9.45 am the following Monday he received an automated rejection email. That Monday morning was the first day back after the Christmas break. “I was rejected by a computer,” he said, “there was no human touch. I guess that’s what it will be like working for them. I have had a lucky escape“.

Recruiters and line managers need to understand the fact that changing roles is a huge commitment and is just as important for the candidate to get right as the employer, so answer their questions in a way that you would want for yourself. For example, get every candidate you interview at the final stage to have an informal chat with someone already doing the role.

Ensure that the candidate knows where the business is going and where they’d fit in.

The recruitment process is the perfect opportunity to share goals, to weigh up compatibility and gain buy-in and engagement. Make sure they understand where the business is going, what they’ll be a part of and where they’ll fit in. After all, everyone needs to know how their role serves the bigger picture. Be transparent; there is no point painting a scenario that fails to live up to expectations.

Line managers; be engaging but realistic.

I have a friend who left a commercial organisation and joined a large public sector employer. The interview went along the lines of, “We need people with your background to come in and help us change”. The reality was that, while the line manager wanted change (and many in the organisation didn’t), my friend sat out two miserable, unchanging years. If the opportunity had been presented more realistically he may still have joined and embraced the challenge, but with his eyes wide open and with a far greater level of trust.

Have integrity. Your message must reflect your true values.

Do existing employees act in the way that your values suggest? Would they agree with and recognise your employer brand and recruitment messages as being true to the organisation? If not, you have a problem. Your recruits won’t recognise the organisation they thought they were joining. People won’t feel engaged if there is a mismatch between what they hear and see before they join and the reality of working there on a day to day basis.

Recruit for skills and experience, but don’t forget attitude and personality.

Be obsessive about recruiting the right people for your organisation. Spend time assessing whether candidates have the right attitude and will fit in, and don’t forget that having a diverse team with different qualities and ways of thinking will bring lots of benefits.

In summary, treating candidates with honesty, realism and openness throughout the recruitment stage of the relationship will ensure that the engagement they have developed will remain. This is good for long-term productivity, morale and retention. And it starts with a "Hello".

- Richard Roberts, Employee Engagement & HR Consultant, en:Rich

With decades of experience in HR, Richard is passionate about helping organisations create engaged, inspired and productive teams with a positive, values-based culture.Richard set up en:Rich HR in 2009 and develops and deliver services in employee engagement, people expertise and employer branding.

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