Rick Kershaw on Communication, Assessments and References

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Jakob Gillmann
October 26, 2021

In August 2021, we spoke with Rick Kershaw, former Chief People Officer at Peakon. Rick shared his expertise about the future of talent acquisition, specifically the role of communication in candidate experience, and the pitfalls of exclusionary practices in the hiring process.


Rick’s insights originally appeared alongside those of 11 other talent acquisition experts in our eBook, Reimagining Recruitment. You can download your own copy of our 50-page guide for free here


Below are our three favorite things we learned from our conversation with Rick:


1. Communication Is Key to a Great Candidate Experience

“When I speak to talent acquisition leaders today, their focus is always around candidate experience, because candidates are potential consumers of your product. And with the rise in social media, you can’t provide a bad experience without it being broadly communicated.


“You have to create the best candidate experience, because you want people — even if they’re unsuccessful — to walk away and think ‘they’re a great company, I was just unsuccessful.’


“It’s the hardest thing to say to a candidate, ‘you were the silver medalist’”

“For a great candidate experience, communication has to be high — and it has to be frequent. So upfront, I should be saying to you, ‘I'm going to talk to you within a certain time and feel free to contact me with questions.’ And it's how that relationship with the recruiter really works — it’s around how frequently that communication is. 


“Then I think it’s how you manage the conclusion of the process. I still think a lot of organizations are very happy to hide behind automated responses. If we have people walking away saying ‘you didn’t even speak to me’, it’s these experiences that are the biggest challenge.


“Candidates that spend time in your process, warrant your time on feedback — even just one or two points. It’s the hardest thing to say to a candidate, ‘you were the silver medalist’. But what you can say is that ‘we’d love to stay in touch and we’ve got roles in a few months’ time.’ It’s things like that that build good candidate experience and confidence in your brand.”


2. Ill-Conceived Assessments Can Be Exclusionary

“If you want your hiring process to be truly inclusive, you have to figure out how you connect and provide opportunities to underrepresented groups. In a previous company, we had a tech assessment process for engineers. What we found is that female candidates were more likely to drop out at this stage of the process, because we were putting an onus on them to do a coding test in their own time — and a lot of that talent had primary care responsibilities, so it just became too much.

“You need to really understand your process and how that plays out for creating the broadest opportunity”

“We realized that by flipping where the tests are in the process — or even taking it out and assessing in a different way, we saw our candidates from diverse backgrounds go up. You need to really understand your process and how that plays out for creating the broadest opportunity.”


3. References Help You Understand the Candidate and How They Will Grow


“Talent is important for business — but you want to employ the whole person, you want the whole person to be successful. And that actually means that throughout the hiring process, it’s about understanding the whole person and how you can help them develop and grow.


“The great references are the ones that ask meaningful questions”


“That’s one of the key points where good referencing can really help — especially when you talk to leaders who have worked with them. If you ask the individual for references, you’re always going to get people that will give the candidate a good reference.


“But actually, the great references are the ones that ask meaningful questions like: How did that person grow? What would you do to get more out of them? What is their secret sauce?


“All these things can give you a much better picture of the talent you’re bringing in and how you can support them in becoming better.”


Get more expert opinions on the future of recruiting in our free eBook.


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