Building on Excellence Search & Selection PURPOSE Durham University is keen to sustain its reputation for excellence, a reputation that can only be maintained by attracting, recruiting and retaining the best national and international staff. It is the intention that Recruitment and Selection panels will be offered more flexibility in recruitment processes to enable them to select the most effective recruitment methods for their vacancy. This paper reviews current methods of search and selection used within the University and proposes a modernised, best practice approach for future recruitment. BACKGROUND The purpose of selection is to allow us to assess the candidates in order to ensure that the best person is appointed to meet the requirements of the vacancy. The best way in which to maximise the chance of making the right decision is to use a variety of effective selection methods appropriate to the job in order to assess the criteria defined in the person specification. Selection is a two-way process in which candidates assess the role and the University so it is vital to convey a positive image. SEARCH In a number of Universities, departments are only given permission to appoint if they can demonstrate that a search exercise will take place alongside an advertisement, so committing to appoint only the best applicant in the field. Within Durham University search has already been used successfully resulting in the appointment of some outstanding candidates. The process is designed to enhance the quality of applicants by spreading the message to a relevant audience. Search also provides the perfect opportunity for department to enhance the diversity of its faculty and redress the balance of under representation. Search is not to be used as a hard sell but purely to introduce someone to an opportunity; essentially the Search process involves researching and contacting the key players in that field. Search is a great PR mechanism, used to send a signal to the subject community about the ethos of the department and institution and therefore raising the Universities profile as an innovative, forward thinking employer. VISITS For some potential applicants who have been identified through search it may be necessary to arrange additional meetings or visits outside the usual recruitment process. The nature and purpose of these visits should always be made clear to candidates; and they should never form part of the formal selection procedure. Candidates will be making a judgement about the vacancy and the culture of the University and therefore departments will need to think carefully about who they ask to get involved in this process. Visits as part of the formal selection process are a good way to engage with candidates and provide the perfect opportunity to promote the unique environment of Durham. These meetings should not form part of the assessment process but may well be an essential part of the informal activities. PANEL CONFIGURATION The current statute appointing process ensures that applicants receive a fair and thorough process, however it is time consuming and restrictive. Changes to Statute 33 have been agreed by Privy Council and will come into immediate effect . FLEXIBILITY IN THE SELECTION PROCESS (ACADEMIC POSTS) The traditional use of panel interviews favoured at Durham is outdated though many organisations still value them as a means of assessment. A number of Universities are now moving away from this method and introducing a variety of selection techniques to test various skills and abilities of candidates rather that relying on a very artificial and subjective method on which to base their decision. To remain competitive and to ensure that the University provides a positive candidate experience we need to consider alternative layouts or assessments mechanisms, such as round robins interview that involve small panels who hold sessions on specific elements of the role. The information gathered from these sessions would then be fed back to the main panel and help form part of the decision making. For some departments it is already standard practice to ask candidates to submit a written piece of work along with their application. Both these options offer good alternatives Alternatively the final panel interview could form only part of the decision making process which has already involved less formal meetings, tours etc. Recent recruitment where a much broader group of Durham staff were involved in the process in both formal and informal processes was viewed as a success both by the panel members and the candidates taking part. Panels should be kept to as few members as possible. This would not only improve the candidate experience but would also make the process significantly easier to arrange logistically. The recruiting and representatives of external departments should be encouraged to attend the presentation, or take part in smaller less formal meetings before feeding back to the panel, rather than have so many involved in the final interview. It is recognised that this will mean a significant change to the current University procedures for many departments however this will significantly improve the candidate experience and bring the University much more up to date with current recruitment best practices, allowing applicants to demonstrate their true potential. FLEXIBILITY IN THE SELECTION PROCESS (NON-ACADEMIC POSTS) Fair selection means finding the best match between individuals and the needs of a post. Interviews are not the sole means of obtaining information about a prospective employee and a more accurate assessment of candidates’ abilities can be to provide a way for them to demonstrate their skills in a test environment. ASSESSMENT CENTRES Though not widely used within the University, assessment centres require candidates to participate in a number of exercises designed to capture the activities of the position they are being selected for. The exercises should be based around the requirements of the position and the critical competencies that someone will need in order to be successful in the position. Depending on the nature of the job, the tasks might include individual or group work, written and/or oral input (tasks set in advance such as preparing a report or presentation), and written and/or oral outputs on the day such as in-tray exercises, analytical work, individual problem solving, group discussions, group problem solving, tasks which match business activities, personal role-play and functional role-play. The benefit of an assessment centre is that it allows the candidate to demonstrate their skills through a number of job relevant situations. Assessment Centres tend to be time consuming -they typically run for half a day or more, are resource intensive and expensive. They are therefore most effective for senior management positions or large scale recruitment efforts. TESTS All tests must be based on the essential criteria from which competencies are derived and tested. Current research shows that the most useful predictors of effective performance in a job are ability tests and work samples. For example, in-tray exercises, or practical application tests such as use of differing ICT applications for a job specific purpose. Testing methods range from straightforward to complex. The use of any testing during the selection process will always depend upon the type of job and the skills required in doing this effectively. Testing methods include: Written tests that assess spelling, punctuation, use of grammar, ability to express information concisely, ability to summarise complex information, ability to write clearly and plainly In-tray exercise that assess ability to prioritise, how a particular problem would be approached, and or resolved, within a limited time period Practical tests that assess use of ICT, use of specific ICT applications, ability to follow simple instructions Presentations that assess communication skills, confidence, composure Group discussion skills that assess leadership skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills Psychometric assessment can add value by developing a picture of an individual’s aptitudes and attributes and can predict how these will affect their performance in the position. SUMMARY Durham University has a diverse, vibrant community of talented staff, motivated to provide the best possible experience for our students. To sustain its reputation for excellence, we must ensure that we remain competitive at attracting, recruiting and retaining the best national and international staff. To achieve this, the University needs to adopt a more flexible and varied approach to recruitment and selection whilst maintaining it standards of equality and fairness.
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