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There are certain aspects of the hiring process which candidates are seldom privy to – one of them being the practice of benchmarking. Benchmarking sounds a lot more like something accountants use graphs for but it is a well-known practice in recruitment. What is benchmarking you ask? It starts with companies select the most important requirements for a candidate to possess, effectively setting the standard for the calibre of the candidate required to successfully perform the tasks the position requires. Sounds simple right? Well, not always.

Why do Companies Benchmark Candidates?

In order for companies to successfully fill a position, they need to form a clear list of requirements. Perhaps the developer needs their masters in BSC, perhaps they need eight years of experience coding in Java. That aspect of the job merely fills in the blanks for hiring managers and recruiters, the benchmarking comes in when they begin to refine the brief. This is done in an attempt to mitigate the risk of an unsuccessful hire for both parties as well as to cut down the candidate pool.

How do Companies Benchmark Candidates?

Once a candidate has made it through the initial selection process and their CV lands on top of the client or recruiters pile of CVs, they begin to look into the finer details. While a candidate may have the required experience but maybe their CV just lacks the finishing touches? Bad spelling? Errors in grammar and punctuation? These may appear to be trivial details but when the person on the other end of the computer is trying to whittle down the candidate list – these are the details that make a difference.

What Do Companies Benchmark Exactly?

As mentioned above, the seemingly innocuous details make all the difference. From here the hiring manager will delve into things which may not have initially been in the job description. Factors such as specific projects completed, additional abilities, additional knowledge, personal qualities, references and additional achievements begin to influence the process. When they are faced with a large pile of CVs these are the ‘nice to have’ qualities hiring managers look for.

What Can Go Wrong?

The problem with benchmarking is that in order for the process to work effectively, an objective approach must be taken. What happens when age, gender, race and home address become factors? At e-Merge, we pride ourselves in finding the right candidate for the job, while adhering to BEE requirements. Sometimes however, as little as age and home address can affect the process. These are the subconscious biases everyone has to deal with on a daily basis and we take this very seriously, when we know we have the right candidate, we work hard to help hiring managers see past these biases. After all, talented developers come in every size shape colour and area code.

Face to Face Benchmarking

Along with age and area code, there are many other biases the hiring managers notice in the interviewing process. No matter how hard a candidate tries to put their best foot forward if the process is flawed, they are immediately at a disadvantage. The best way to ensure a fair and objective process throughout is for recruiters and hiring managers to ask every candidate the same questions, give them the same tests and to conduct panel interviews. With practical and realistic interview questions, interviewers can ensure impartiality and seek the same qualities in a candidate.

What Happens When There is no Benchmark?

It is easy for there to be a disconnect between the line manager, hiring manager and HR department. It is important however that everyone has the same expectations. When each person in the team have a different idea of the kind of candidate they need, the chances of finding a match are minimal and the selection process almost instantly loses transparency. Ultimately any good decision making is in jeopardy.

In the end, people are not graphs or pie charts and while benchmarking can help a hiring team a lot, it can also hinder the hiring process if the benchmark comes with subconscious biases, a lack of structure and unrealistic expectations.