Should we rethink how we audit recruitment?

As we wave goodbye to January, I wonder how many resolutions have been abandoned? Well-meaning commitments to make a 180 about-turn and improve x, y or z are often made with the best of intentions, but without the necessary level of commitment to see them through beyond the first month. Of course, an extended break from work over the festive period is often when other ‘big decisions’ are made. Marriage proposals, decisions to divorce and plans to move house are all significant life decisions. So too is a change of job, so the chances are if you’ve not already received some resignation letters, you may well do over the coming weeks. And with resignations, comes the need for recruitment.

Working in internal audit, this got me thinking.

When reviewing an organisation’s internal processes and associated risk and governance issues, recruitment is, naturally, included. Amongst many other areas, we often review how interviews have been managed; how panels for those interviews have been assembled; whether references have been checked; how the on-boarding process was managed and followed up.

What we rarely consider, though, is what happens at the very earliest stages of the recruitment process. If an organisation advertises a role via LinkedIn, what about those candidates that aren’t on the platform, or who don’t actively monitor it? Where recruitment agencies are used, are the right questions asked about whether this is a cost-effective approach, especially when recruiting for an organisation in the charitable or NFP sector? Are we allowing ‘minimum standards’ of educational attainment, educational background, or employment history in the ‘right’ organisations to guide our initial filtering process?

On reflection, I believe we may be missing some useful insights by focusing the recruitment elements of internal audit on the point at which a candidate is recruited, with less consideration for what came before.

With EDI at the forefront of our minds, perhaps we should critique why certain candidates weren’t taken through to the next stage. Whether candidates with ‘alternative’ professional or educational backgrounds might have made worthwhile interviewees. I wonder whether we could convincingly defend our reasons for not choosing certain candidates. Do we ensure that unsuccessful candidates are at least informed of the outcome of their application, and provided with the reasons why?

You see, I see this from the flip side.

I am state-educated, and I don’t hold a university degree. I am conscious that this, certainly earlier in my career, could have removed me from many shortlists, thus preventing me from doing my role today. Some may say I slipped through the net, others may see it that my boss who recruited me had a level of open-mindedness that I’d love to see more of today. I can also reference personal contacts who have dedicated their professional careers to roles at the very heart of the charitable sector, often working in difficult environments on fixed term contracts where their services are invaluable at times of great need, but who, when it comes to seeking the security of a UK-based, permanent role, don’t fit the mould of what is ‘expected’. Good enough for the disaster, but with their longer-term potential overlooked.

The balance between demonstrable commitment to ‘the cause’ and the value that strong commercial experience can bring to a charity can be a tough one to address. Undoubtedly there’s a place for industry-leading experience, but should that be to the detriment of well-honed alignment to the values that sit at the heart of the organisation?

Whilst organisations across all sectors have acknowledged the need for far greater awareness of issues relating to the EDI agenda, the reality is that all too often there is far too little true diversity – of whatever criteria – in our recruitment processes.

Of course, we can’t ‘shortlist’ every applicant; doing so would make a mockery of the term itself. I can’t help but think, though, that whilst it may be uncomfortable to shine a light on this, the approach could be improved.

So, when it comes to recruitment I have to ask, ‘have we missed a trick’ and should we approach internal audits differently with this in mind? I don’t have all the answers; I doubt any of us do. We do, though, have a responsibility to give this greater thought.