IT Employment

Eight ways companies can make the hiring process better

Here are eight things employers can do to make the interviewing and hiring process easier for job candidates.

Last week, a TechRepublic member sent me an article he had written amidst his frustrating search for a job. I told him I would run the piece, keeping it anonymous. Here it is:

Here are eight things employers can do to make the interviewing and hiring process easier for job candidates.

1. Understand the difference between an "applicant" and a "candidate"

This is one of the biggest issues that drive people crazy when applying for jobs.  They spend two hours filling out a questionnaire from some internal software program and then they may never make it past the next step in the process.

An "applicant" is someone who thinks he or she is qualified (70% to 100%) for the position in question, and so applies. At this stage all an applicant wants to do is send a resume, skills sheet, and cover letter.

A "candidate" is someone who was an applicant but has now passed some internal review of their resume.  The applicant has now become a real candidate.

This is where the next steps in the process should occur. 2. Make sure your job description is right

Unfortunately, this section could match War and Peace with all the stories I could tell.

This is the single biggest challenge facing corporate hiring. Here's the problem:  Corporate America has chosen to cut back staff, and all of the managers are overwhelmed.  So when they want to hire someone they put in minimal effort in organizing and formatting a good job description.  Instead of taking time to write an appropriate description, it's more like, "What did I say when I hired Sally in 2005? Let's pull that out of the filing cabinet."

What should happen is that every hiring manager has to put some real thought into creating a job description that actually fits the respective job.  That takes some thought and insight.

Here's one of my job description horror stories:

I once had an interview with a major insurance company. I was called by an internal recruiter and provided the job description. It sounded like a great job, very entrepreneurial and challenging. It was basically marketing their health insurance plans to small and mid-size businesses. I re-wrote my resume into a job-specific, targeted resume and then got an appointment for the face-to-face interview. I spent a day and a half (including taking off a day from work) prepping for the job. I then had another talk on the phone with the recruiter and she said to me, "Well, what they're really looking for is A, B, and web analytics."  I wrote those items on the margin of the job description because they weren't in the 253-word job description.  I then did some brush up work on those three items.

When I went for the interview with the hiring manager she really liked me. When I told her that I had read about 20 pages of a 50-page report from the CEO of the company about the health insurance plan market (from their website), she said, "Well, you're probably the only person who has ever read that."

After we talked more about the position she said, "What we really need is someone who can stand in front of a room full of managers and defend our web analytics."

That was the full and total sum of what she was looking for.  It had nothing to do with the 253-word job description.

The job description was not accurate even in inter-continental ballistic missile range. If I had known that before, I would have surely said, "I'm not a candidate. I don't have that kind of expertise in web analytics" and saved myself a world of trouble.

3. Take out the middleman between the hiring manager and recruiters

Many corporations now use an internal "buffer" who receives all the resumes for a position. The nuances between recruiters and the hiring manager have been lost. So when recruiters are involved, they often don't have any more than what is written on the job description. Moreover, they have no easy way of asking.

My solution would be that if you have a stable of recruiters, have your hiring manager conduct a 30-minute phone conference with all the recruiters.

Hiring Manager: "Does everyone understand all the points on the job description?"

Recruiter: "Outside the job description, what kind of personality traits would you like in the ideal candidate?" 4. Put your hiring process in order

A friend recently told me about an experience she had interviewing with a company. She went through a very lengthy personality test, two telephone interviews, and a full day-long interview schedule from 8:15 AM to 4:15 PM with ten staffers.

After all this was over, she was approached by the HR representative who said, "Now we need to know your grade point average in college [many years prior]."

Unfortunately, my friend had to send for an official transcript to her college that had to be mailed to the company.  She had only a 2.50 GPA and she didn't get the job.

If the GPA was that critical in the hiring process then how about getting that up front? 5. Get someone qualified to do your telephone interviews

We've all been there-you're set up for an initial telephone interview. The call turns out to be with a low-level personnel staffer who recites a litany of questions and then types your answers.

So, what you get is, "Wait a minute can you say that again while I type it? I can't repeat the same thing that is on your resume."

So, the entire interview goes along this way with the staffer furiously typing. The staffer has no real concept of the job and can't offer any insights other than what's on the job requirement [See Item #2 - Make sure your job description is right].

6. Use Skype in the hiring process

In some cases, job candidates have to travel long distances for interviews. I once got a job description from a recruiter for a six-month contract position with a pretty good firm in another city. A couple of days later, the recruiter tells me he can get me an interview. Suddenly the next day, I get an email saying that a face-to-face interview is on for that afternoon or the next day. I had to drive all the way to Herndon (a 15-hour trip) for it. Unfortunately, in the course of the face-to-face interview, I found out that the job is not what I thought it was and I was told I was over-qualified. If the company had used Skype, it would have saved me a lot of time and trouble. And using Skype lets a company open up candidate possibilities outside their local area.

7. Stop looking for the golden needle in the haystack

Unfortunately, employers are not willing to hire a bright person who fits 90% of the job requirements and then work with that person to get him up to speed over the coming months. I know that recruiters are completely frazzled by their inability to work with otherwise good candidates. They have to find not only the needle in the haystack - it has to be the "golden needle."

8. Stop the age discrimination

This is America's Dirty Little Secret that everyone knows is going on but no one wants to touch.

You've ostracized the same people who for years made your company grow through their dedication and hard work. Now you're listening to the lawyers and HR staff over every possible "potential liability."

In the last few days I've asked a friend to network me through his company to a specific position in one of their offices. He works in an out-of-state office but agreed to let his boss know about me. When he told his boss the first question asked was, "How old is he?"

Signed,

Hoping in America

Proudly standing with 14.2 Million Unemployed and 8.3 Million Underemployed

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

26 comments
bobmattfran
bobmattfran

Ageism is also alive and well in the UK despite the fact the present government wants people to work until they are nearly 70 before allowing them to claim their state pension. As for experience, can remember being interviewed for a technical VP's job with a major telecomms company. The interview process involved 5 separate I day interviews none of which where with the executive who would effectively be my line manager! Needless to say it was a total waste of both my and the company's time. The appointed agency called me after the 5th interview to let me know I had not been successful, I asked him why, he said the last person who interviewed you said that he felt that his job would be threatened if the company employed me! Some weeks later he sent me for a job interview with the previous company's competition. 2 days of very searching interviews by both HR and 4 board directors. End of day two they asked me to wait for about 20 minutes, came back and offered me the job with a compensation package well in excess of what the previous company were offering, so in fact thay did me a favour.

davidmartinomalley
davidmartinomalley

I'm not going to deny that Ageism happens, but everyone needs to define their value to a company, and simply saying "I have experience" doesn't cut it. Experience is a threshold, and if someone who's 20 years younger (earning less) and less still has enough experience to do the job, then that's who should be hired. Americans think they should get paid this year based on what they were paid last year, plus a couple of percent, but it doesn't work that way. At some point you have to compete with the market, even if the market is willing to earn less than you are earning.

MikeGall
MikeGall

I wonder if age discrimination is such a problem in the US because of health insurance issues. I suspect that is one of the largest concerns (that and having to hire for the position again in a few years after training you if you are in late 50s-60s. Might be another case for universal healthcare with a national insurance pool. Look at it this way: do you want freedom to be able to change jobs once you are in your late 40's? If so than you better make sure you are not going to be inconvenient or unjustifiably expensive to the potential employers. That requires your price to be comparable to younger equally qualified candidates including your cost of benefits.

Kammreiter
Kammreiter

I forgot to mention, that the quaifications asked by the job descriptions in Germany usually require the experience of 40 years, the best notes and internationa experiences, and an age below maturity.

Kammreiter
Kammreiter

Hiring and job recruiting is done in Germany as well, but in very qualified jobs. Our country is not so vast, therefore companies use newspapers and sureley, online offers instead. My opinion does not count, but the more experienced an expert is the bigger the chance that he or she may be older. In former times there were humans working and the idea of cooperation appeared in some utopian minds. But that times may be over today. Experience says, that a car can drive against a hard wall of ignorance under full velocity only once.

Kammreiter
Kammreiter

I have translated this into German, because we think that this nation is before the moon, but I think, it is behind.

albayaaabc
albayaaabc

in work Arbeiter stop think in ending position stop sacrifing to be give your push and perhaps what you dream secret

dmartin7995
dmartin7995

I can empathize with the hiring manager has a full time job, with HR who has many candidates to screen, schedule, and make offers. However, job applicants and candidates are not commodities in unlimited supply. "Older" workers have the experience and maturity to respect the position. If mutual respect for a person's time and experience is not observed in the interview, how ugly would it be to work there?

fhrivers
fhrivers

It's great that some of these issues are now being addressed. I've spent a good part of my career underemployed and now unemployed and thus always on the job market. I've seen these problems and then some. Toni, you really are the champion for those of us looking for work. However I think you're really preaching to the choir. We need blogs like this to be seen by hiring managers and HR. To address some points in the article: 2. This is a huge sore spot with me. This should have been combined with point #7 because they go hand in hand. Most IT job descriptions look more like an inventory of the IT infrastructure than an actual job description. Some of the biggest offenders are large enterprises that should know better. They list 50 different technologies and when you know 75% of them they disqualify you for not having a particular tech that can be easily learned. Applying for a job seems more like the powerball lotto than anything else. If you don't have all of the rignt numbers then you lose. 4 & 5. The recruiting process takes too long. If you even get a call, everyone is efficient up front with setting upan appointment and communicating. Then affer the interview they drop off the face of the earth. It should take a month to make a hiring decision. My advice to everyone who gets phone screened by a stooge is to lie about everything. Your only goal here is to get in front of the hiring manager and let her diisqualify you instead of some HR monkey filling in bubbles next to, "Do you have 8 years of ESXi 4 experience?" 6. Number six can be solved by either a better phone screening process or reimbursing candidates who traveled from a long distance.

SKDTech
SKDTech

I have twice now been a "candidate" for positions requiring security clearances(no problem, had one while I was in the Navy). And both times I ran into the communication blackout. I understand that the employers and recruiters aren't going to know anything until the investigation is completed but a call every so often just to let me know that I am still in the running would be nice. Clearance investigations can be a lengthy process(last one took six months) and you can assume that if the company is shelling out the money(it isn't cheap) to get you a clearance that you are high on the candidate list. The lack of communication seems to endemic though as I have had trouble getting hold of anyone whenever I am applying for a position. Oftentimes they will expect you to be available at the drop of a hat for any interviews they schedule or questions they may have but there is absolutely no reciprocal availability in the other direction. Finally, as has been mentioned every time hiring processes come up, companies extend at least a courtesy email form letter to let applicants and candidates know that they have not been selected.

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

It should be noted that companies and agencies also want smarmy attractive people and if you are overweight, you are so dead. It's as if they don't want someone real for the position, but they want someone who could play the part on a TV soap opera. Corporate America for sure reminds me so very much of the movie Idiocrisy. Is trying to grow crops using Gatorade instead of water a 1,000 years in the future, or just 10? These people aren't just incompetent, they are totally dysfunctional. Dr. Sandra Boynton said it best in her definition of Turkeys: "A turkey is a self-righteous, intolerant, and smug incompetent." It should be noted that in her book, "Don't Let the Turkeys Get You Down," she proves her point that the Turkeys are everywhere. Your points should be taken to heart by the Corporate World. Why am I not enthusiastic about the future of implementing them?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I think that's twice, ever. :D I think the real killer, is employers seem to be approaching the hiring process as some sort of endurance test. This ensures desperation, not quality...

The Old Timer
The Old Timer

I also have followed up on a Job listing that wanted a person for migrating data from one brand of computer to another and NOT a DBA. That is a major skill set for me. I went through the many stages of the interview for the job in Texas. Everything then went quiet. Called the recruiter, he was doing a good job. He pressed the company for why a perfect fit like me was not on the short list. Response was 1. Overqualified, 2. must be too old with all of his experience, 3. by the way we wanted a DBA. It happens all the time now. They use computers to determine candidates now. I have often been asked to change my resume to include certain words so the computer will pick my resume. Why my hair and beard are colored - to look much younger at an in person interview. Why I try to avoid dates of employment and just put number of years.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

To ridding ourselves of age factoring. Why is it that we keep pushing retirement age upward in America and yet it feels like companies are unwilling to hire older worker workers! Good luck in landing a job!

Daylight-TT
Daylight-TT

@davidmartinomalley You comments are so asinine that I hope it doesn't need to be pointed out to the other readers. Ageism is not about choosing a person of lesser experience because that is what the job calls for. It is specifically excluding someone that meets the job requirements simply because they are older.

Daylight-TT
Daylight-TT

@MikeGall  The company's health insurance costs are the same for all employees unless the company self insures. Job candidates over 50 that meet the requirements for the job are less likely to need training. Being a candidate that is over 50, I try to make sure that I do not provide any clues to my age in my resume or profile.

davidmartinomalley
davidmartinomalley

There's a swath of studies that link being overweight/obese with diminished productivity. I don't agree that companies are discriminating against those that are overweight, but they probably should.

sissy sue
sissy sue

And at some point in this "endurance test," the applicant is sorry that he/she ever applied in the first place.

shryko
shryko

Don't list quite as much experience. I've been told by some places that you only want to include the last 5 years or so, unless something further back is a perfect match to what you're applying for. If you're a contractor who has been bouncing between clients/contracts frequently, then less years may be better, even. I was told this, because the recruiters/managers are short on time, and rarely read through all 5 pages (or more!) of many resumes. If you only list 3-7 years, then they can assume you were brilliant in school and moved straight to the mid-level job, or they will simply assume you left off the lower level experience. Either way, they won't know how old you are.

sissy sue
sissy sue

Yes, companies are unwilling to hire older workers, even though our government keeps wanting to push the retirement age for receiving SS up. Anti-age discrimination legislation is a joke, as it is difficult to prove that one has been discriminated against. However, by and large, I think contracting companies hiring temporary help don't care how old you as long as you have the requirements that satisfy the customer.

shryko
shryko

contracts are not permanent, which is why liability is less of an issue. If an employee gets sick, they have sick leave, and other benefits. If a contractor gets sick, they get replaced. Replaced = minimal liability to the company = a work around. It's a good way to get around it, but if the company is insistant on having the person be an employee, then it won't matter.

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