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?”


Hoping in America

Proudly standing with 14.2 Million Unemployed and 8.3 Million Underemployed