With unemployment at a 40-year low, many business owners feel they have no choice when it comes to candidates. But there are ways to ensure you’re selecting the right person.

In my last post we talked about how to attract great people with Jane Toohey, the director of outsource2us. In this paired post I spoke with Nathan Soti the Managing Director of Ethos360 Recruitment, on how to select great people, once you’ve attracted them. 

As we mentioned last time, 2023 is a year when lots of businesses are planning to recruit, they’re feeling the pinch of staff shortages, and the tight labour market. The Guardian has reported that to boost the workforce, CEOs are saying that they plan to invest more in training and also raise wages this year. But although those things can definitely help, we still need to focus on recruitment and the best ways to find and select great people. 

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One of my posts last year asked, Can more money stop an employee from quitting? If you haven’t checked that out, it may be worthwhile because – spoiler alert – Nathan says that one of the top reasons people look for a new job is more money. Another useful post is on Making an employment offer they can’t refuse, which may help as you’re thinking about your recruitment plans for this year. 

If we look at the stats, there are a lot of things happening at the moment:

  • The unemployment rate is at the lowest level in over 40 years. 
  • The underutilisation rates, including both unemployed and underemployed people, fell to a 40-year low last year. 
  • Our participation rate, which is the number of people either employed or seeking employment, reached a record high 
  • Wage growth lifted to its highest level in a decade, but we know that it’s been very slow for some time.
  • Job vacancies are still more than double the pre-pandemic record. 

I’m happy to be able to talk again to Nathan Soti from Ethos360 Recruitment. If you follow my other podcast, Make it Work, you may remember we interviewed Nathan for season three, Episode 12. 

Nathan was previously in charge of training and new starters for one of Australia’s largest life insurance companies. He noticed a lack of service and transparency when it came to recruitment agencies and that simple thought, ‘surely I could do this better’, was the start of his journey to creating his own recruitment agency. 

What Are Candidates Looking For?

Karen: I spoke with Jane Toohey for the previous post, about how to be more attractive as an employer and building that employer brand. I was interested, from the perspective of candidates coming to you, what do you find are the top reasons they’re actually looking for a new role?

Money Motivator

Nathan: It’s a really good question, especially looking at the year – with inflationary pressures, cost of living pressures and all the associated issues. People have always been financially motivated, but I think we’ll see that even more this year. 

The data is always a good place to start and, conservatively, changing jobs leads to an average salary increase of over 10%. Traditionally, wage growth – sitting in your same role – sits at under 5%. That’s the important thing when we look at why people are looking for a new job – it’s the opportunity to have a significant increase in their salary, to have a bit of a better way of life and to keep up with the rising cost of living.

it’s the opportunity to have a significant increase in their salary, to have a bit of a better way of life and to keep up with the rising cost of living’

Work-Life Balance

Karen: It’s tricky when we’ve got inflationary pressures happening at the moment. For some people, it may be that they do enjoy their job, but they just need a little bit more money. But there must be other reasons as well. Money being equal, what are the things that people are looking for in a new employer?

Nathan: Outside of financial remuneration and financial benefits, people are definitely looking for work-life balance. They want to have a little bit more flexibility. People aren’t asking for five days at home, but it’s normal now to have two or three days where you can work from home. 

People aren’t asking for five days at home, but it’s normal now to have two or three days where you can work from home.’

It can be a really big benefit. If you can afford to pay above market rate to attract talent, work from home can actually add a lot of additional value. It adds financial benefit for the employee, because they’re saving on the cost of travel and the time, for example having to travel an hour from home to the city and back. A lot of people look at that and say, ‘I might save $5000 or 10,000 per year in travel’. So that’s a really, really big benefit as well.

‘A lot of people look at that and say, “I might save $5000 or 10,000 per year in travel”’

Karen: And it’s not just the train on the bus, it’s also the lunches and the coffees as well! 

Nathan: Absolutely. And it’s more so now. Also being a parent, I understand it more and more. You get that extra hour with the kids. It’s really important.

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How Do You Select the Right Person?

Karen: At the end of last year, the unemployment rate in Australia fell to 3.4%, which was actually the lowest level since 1974. We’ve got really low unemployment and we have skill shortages. There can be a tendency to get a little bit desperate and make a bad hire, it can feel like there are no options. So what tips do you have for employers to be more effective when they’re selecting the right person?

Practical Testing

Nathan: There are two things that are important here. The first thing is a lot of industries could really benefit from practical testing. If you’re in a very, super technical role in a specific industry, for example, mortgage broking, I find it strange that people will just guess. They think, ‘He has, on paper, what’s required to be able to do the role’. 

But there’s no harm in doing a workshop or having a scenario to run through with the candidate. You can see, ‘okay, yep, they can solve the problem, they know how to use the right tools and the right calculators’. You also get to see how they think, how they problem-solve, how they go about working on the problem to find the solution. That’s a really big thing. 

If you think across different industries, you can apply this to most roles. We often give scenarios and examples to our clients to do with candidates, and you learn a lot. For example, you might realise, ‘Wow, the way that they worked through that was exactly how we do it, we’re very like-minded with our approach’. 

Not many businesses do this but it’s easy to do. For example, from a sales perspective, you might do a sales roleplay. You can ask all the interview questions you want, but if you put someone in a scenario and say, ‘Here’s a basic script, we’re selling this product. How would you go about asking open questions? What type of discovery questions would you use? How would you handle this type of objection?’ 

Do it as sort of a scenario or role play. Give them time to practice it, obviously. But there’s a huge benefit because sometimes you might think, ‘Oh, I’m not sure. Would they be okay?’ Why not try it? Why not do some practical assessments? If you’re not sure, there are a lot of scenarios you can do to take the guesswork out of it.

Cultural Fit

It’s often highlighted by clients that their top priority is a really good cultural fit. But at a half-hour or hour-long interview, when you’re firing questions at someone in a really formal setting, it’s uncomfortable. People are nervous, you’re really not going to get to know anything about that person. So try these things:

  • Talk to them, make it less scripted. 
  • Talk about the company values. 
  • Get to know their personal values and their situation. 
  • Don’t be scared to find out about things outside of work, their hobbies and interests.

These types of things will help gauge the cultural fit and cultural alignment with other people in the workforce.

Karen: There is discrimination legislation that can apply during recruitment, and people are rightly afraid of putting a foot wrong, and so don’t ask questions that might go into more personal areas. But you could ask, ‘Hey, can you tell me what are the top things that you like to do outside of work?’ That gives you an extra sense of that person, you can share your own experiences and start to build rapport. 

I love the idea of practical testing. In the olden days, we used to call it the ‘inbox test’. It’s good for the candidate as well, because they get to see ‘a day in the life’. It could take an hour or half a day, it depends on the job; or sometimes people will do a whole day of paid training. But that’s much better and cheaper than hiring the person and finding out three or four months down the track that they’re not a good fit.

Nathan: Absolutely. We do that internally when we hire. We do our normal interview process and get to know each other. But then we give people the opportunity to come in and see what it’s all about. Come see why people work here. Come see what the culture is like. And come see what a day looks like, what you’ll actually be doing. 

Often we hear that someone gets into a role, and it is really different to what they expected. Especially in this day and age, a lot of people are taking jobs that require them to be in the office two or three days a week, but they’re taking the role purely over Zoom. They don’t know what the culture is like. I’d say put a few hours aside, get them in, buddy them up with someone and let them get a feel for the culture. That will really help.

Top Tips for Better Recruiting in 2023

Karen: Great advice! And what are your top tips for business owners to recruit better in 2023?

Nathan: Thirty percent of people leave their place of employment due to work conditions. A half-hour formal interview is probably not going to give the candidate great insight into the business to work out if it’s a good fit for them. Allowing people to come in and spend some extra time in a less formal setting will really help. 

The other big part, which Jane Toohey also spoke about, is the presence that you can create by having a section on your website with different bits of content. Share things about your team, so people can go onto the website and have a bit of a look and get to see the people in the team and gain a better understanding of what it looks like. 

In a day and age with technology and social media, when we will often research a person who has applied for a role, the flipside is that candidates are making those same judgments. They’re looking at a company and working out whether it’s going to be a good fit for them. You need to have a good presence, a good profile and be really transparent about your culture.

Karen: Thank you so much for joining me. If you’d like to utilise Nathan and his team’s expertise to recruit for your next role, his business is Ethos360 Recruitment, and you can contact him at nathan@ethos360.com.au.


There are interesting resonances between this post and the last one featuring Jane Toohey. 

Nathan made a great point that candidates are looking predominantly to increase their salary, but we don’t want to get into those salary wars. Instead, we need to consider our branding and marketing through the eyes of our candidates and not just our customers, which is where Jane Toohey’s tips can really help as well. 

Nathan mentioned that there are candidates who are also looking for work-life balance and flexibility. You need to think about how much you can give – it’s not just about the days in the office or the days at home, it’s about the flexibility to choose those days or the hours of work as well. 

In terms of selecting candidates, think about your processes. Do you have a way where you can give someone a work ‘product trial’? They may come into the office, or play out a scenario to show them what the role entails. This helps them to understand the role better, and also helps you to understand if they can actually do the job. You can get into some really practical scenarios where they can show whether they have the stuff that’s needed to do that job. 

I also liked the advice about the interview process in terms of getting to know the person and thinking about the other things that matter to them outside of work, like their hobbies and their interests. How does that fit with the culture? And share some of your own interests as well to develop that rapport. 

All these things will really help you to get your recruitment sorted for this year, and to start thinking about how to do things differently. Because we can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. We know it’s going to be even more difficult than in previous years to recruit great people. 

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