Are the Top Candidates you need screening YOU out?

This month I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to communicate to the hiring community (companies, hiring managers and human resources professionals) that many of the processes they have in place for helping to screen candidates actually has the opposite affect – it allows candidates to screen you as a company.  I agree that right now the volume of responses is pretty large.  I also understand that in an effort to combat this volume you have put filters in place – applications, pre-screening questions, surveys, essay questions, blind (confidential) postings, etc.  These processes do very little to help you effectively screen applicants – but they do a great job of helping applicants screen your company. 

To illustrate, I’ll provide a candidate’s perspective:  “I’m an experienced professional with an MBA from a well-respected school, two busy children, a spouse who has a professional career, a mortgage, aging parents who require my attention, and I volunteer in the community on a regular basis. My workload has increased this past year, my company is re-organizing and even though I’m a top performer in my position I’m a little concerned about my long term potential with my firm.  I’m thinking I should consider looking around for a position where I can have a positive impact, grow my career and still maintain my pretty busy life.  With everything going on however I really only have a few hours per week to concentrate on finding a new job.  Some of the companies that I find make it so difficult to apply to them that I wonder what it must be like to work for them.  Essay questions, surveys, prescreening questionnaires – Really? Don’t they even want to meet me first? With my limited time, I really need to focus my efforts on companies who what real people to work for them, not people who have time to jump through their application hoops.”

Another way to look at this dilemma is to think about you, as a hiring manager, looking for a new position.  Would you be attracted to companies who make it nearly impossible to apply or would you opt for companies who seem to really value your contribution and want to engage you personally?

Here are some easy steps you can take to maximize the potential of attracting top performers – not just those candidates who have extra time on their hands:

1. When you post a position, talk to the applicant – entice them, make the position sound interesting, talk about what it’s like to work for your company, sell them on the opportunity.  Dry, task oriented descriptions attract dry, task oriented candidates.

2. Make it easy to apply.  A simple 5 minute registration and attach a resume.  The process of screening applicants should be done be a HUMAN, not a SYSTEM.  Software applications are not screening for potential – they are screening for people who know how to write a resume for a machine.  Save the additional paperwork for candidates you are actually interested in.

3. Respond to each applicant.  If someone is taking the time to show interest in your company then you should take the time to thank them and let them know you’ve received their application.  Let them know what the process is and when they should expect to hear from you. This is simply the right thing to do.

4. Schedule a brief phone call with qualified candidates – and those who have potential.  Don’t just look at the resume; look into the resume and the person.  Not everyone knows how to write a resume – that’s not a bad thing.  It just means that they don’t spend a lot of time writing resumes and applying to jobs – those are probably the good ones – think about it!

5. Don’t tell applicants not to call.  You actually want to hear from folks who are interested in your company. Take their calls and make note of their follow up, behavior, communication skills, professionalism – these candidates are really interested and want you to know it.

6. Respect their time.  Be aware that candidates are busy people, with busy lives.  They can’t afford to take multiple days off to interview so collapse your interview process into a single onsite period. Top performers are conscientious and loyal – they will be selective about taking time away from their current position.  This might mean scheduling early morning interviews or staying a little later in the day to meet them.  The effort WILL pay off when you hire the right people.

7. Closure for everyone.  Once you select your finalists, remember to close the process with those who weren’t selected.  Wondering what happened and why they never heard back from you is very damaging to your reputation.  I recently had a client who, because he made a call to a candidate personally to let them know they weren’t selected, received a referral to a friend of this candidate, who ultimately received an offer.  If he hadn’t made the call, he wouldn’t have received the referral.

8. Don’t pay under market – even if you can.  Offering a below market salary to a candidate who has not been paid well in the past will only work in the short term.  You’ll probably get them to work for you, but once they get wind of the market for their skills – especially if they’re really good, they will likely go somewhere else, where their value is recognized.

9. Onboarding for success.  The courtship process for top performers can’t end the day they walk in the door. The first few weeks are most critical.  This is when your brand new employee is most vulnerable.  They are evaluating their decision, their team members, their surroundings, the vibe, the company’s leadership, the coffee – everything!  Make sure that you help them through the transition period and recognize this is a big change for them.  Earn their loyalty early and you’ll have a happy, productive asset!

It’s really pretty easy – treat your candidates the way you would like to be treated.  You’ll attract great folks and you won’t have to hire as often!

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