How To Create A Recruitment Process That Fits You Like A Glove


Phillippa Duffy, the General Manager at “The University Bookshop” in Otago, New Zealand is one of those rare and precious people who has the courage to try new things, and loves to be challenged. While working with Phillippa our focus was gaining clarity of purpose, and creating a cultural shift within the organisation.

Here’s what happened when we turned our attention to the recruitment process:

Why Break The Existing Recruitment Process?

The first question we asked ourselves was “why” should we break the existing recruitment process? Our answers included…

  • It’s too time consuming
  • It’s too costly
  • It isn’t aligned with our purpose, culture, values and strategy
  • It’s pretty much the same as everyone else’s – ie it doesn’t stand out, it isn’t remarkable. (That’s the paradox with so-called best practice)
  • We’re not convinced it’s leading to the best possible hires and business performance
  • The applicant experience isn’t what we want it to be. In fact, it isn’t fun for any of us.

What Do We Want Our Recruitment Process To Do For Us?

We invested time getting clear on what we wanted to achieve by asking ourselves a “what if” question. 

“What if” we could create a recruitment process that…

  • Added value to our applicants regardless of how far through the process they went, so the worst case scenario was that we created more raving fans and positive word of mouth for the bookstore.
  • Was designed to reach as many of our “ideal candidates” as possible while minimising the number of actual applications – a process of natural de-selection.
  • Tested the actual behaviours of our applicants, and their fit with our mission, culture, and the capabilities necessary for the role.
  • Was scalable and easily repeatable
  • Empowered and involved existing staff – inclusive
  • Is “remarkable” – applicants rave about their experience of the recruitment process and bookshop
  • Guaranteed our “ideal applicants” would be busting a gut to want to work with us
  • Was fun so the team and applicants wanted to participate and engage 100% in the process
  • Resulted in the very best hires to move the company forward, as opposed to the “safest”.

How Might We Create A Process That Fits Us Like A Glove?

And then came the final question “how might we” create a process that meets all of our criteria, and achieves remarkable outcomes for the business?

And this is where we got creative, had some fun, and gathered and tested ideas.

Along the way Phillippa and I butted heads a couple of times, and had some interesting debates. My favourite was challenging her belief around not hiring people who “may not stay” or are “overqualified” for the job.

In today’s fast moving highly competitive world, where talent shortages are a major concern – I challenge all employers to consider….

  • Would you rather employ a mover and shaker who will truly make a significant positive impact in a couple of years and then move on – or someone who’s going to stay for 10-15 years with the lofty primary goal of keeping their job?
  • If you manage to attract someone who can do the job standing on their head, as well as see and exploit opportunities to contribute even more significantly to the purpose – why wouldn’t you grab them, and do whatever you can to keep them enthused and engaged?

This purpose-built recruitment process isn’t perfect yet and it probably never will be – but it’s already contributed massively to shifting culture and engagement; has created significant cost and time savings; and the quality of the candidates and new recruits has been exceptional.

Some of the components that make the process unique include using an application form that takes a significant amount of time and effort to complete, so only the most serious of applicants actually apply. It also includes many of the questions that would typically be asked in an interview situation. We also used group interviews, and included the team in the recruitment decision.

For selling roles, one of the activities we included was gifting each applicant a genuine $20 gift voucher. The applicants would be paired up, and asked to choose a gift for their interview buddy – which required asking questions, and getting to know them.


In short, we’ve achieved what we set out to achieve by investing the time to get clear about what we were trying to achieve; what the problems were with the traditional recruitment processes that we wanted to address; and by having the courage to challenge the status quo, and break the mould.

We recruit based primarily on purpose and cultural fit – and skills are secondary.

The end result is a recruitment process that fits the organisation like a glove, while saving time and money, and ultimately delivering superior results. We attracted the very best applicants, and delivered an experience during the recruitment process that was truly unique, remarkable, and resulted in the very best people wanting to work with us.

What might a recruitment process that fits your organisation like a glove look like?

If you’d like to bat some ideas around, drop us a note at

Lisa McCarthy
Lisa shares the most simple, powerful and proven tips and strategies that have helped her add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the bottom line for owners of small businesses as a business coach. She has been a business owner herself for many years working across three continents - as a licensee, franchisee, and independent business owner. In a former life she has created and led start up programmes for entrepreneurs, and held senior leadership roles in the world of finance, banking and insurance.


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