How to Better Engage Hiring Managers in your Recruiting Process

One of the most common challenges I hear from the HR professionals I talk with is how to better engage their hiring managers in the recruiting process. The hiring manager is one of the most important stakeholders in the recruiting process, but they are often the hardest to effectively engage in the process. It really isn’t that surprising, since most hiring managers are primarily focused on the operations of their unit and often don’t have a great deal of time to devote to recruiting.

Here are some tips on how to better engage your hiring managers in the recruiting process.

Collaborate with Managers up-front to determine good initial screening questions and criteria

Especially in today’s economy the chances are good that you will receive a flood of applicants to any job you post online. In many processes the recruiter screens the initial applicants and only passes the top candidates on to the manager for feedback. In order to find the best candidates and make sure top candidates don’t slip through the cracks, you should set up some good screening questions and criteria for the recruiter to use.

Some questions can be pulled directly from the job posting you created, which you carefully composed such that it attracted the right type of candidate. For example:

  • Do you have a Bachelors degree?
  • How many years experience do you have in direct sales?
  • Are you willing to travel up to 50%?

Other questions may require deeper analysis and a discussion with the manager about what makes an ideal candidate or who has succeeded in this role in the past. For example:

  • What do you like most about being a salesperson?
  • Please describe your home office equipment and environment (i.e. for a telecommute position)
  • Describe a recent time when you had to respond to a customer issue and what steps you took to solve the problem.

These questions can be asked during an initial phone screen or interview. But many Applicant Tracking Systems are able to streamline the process by asking applicants to answer these questions during their online application. For example, with our ApplicantStack system the recruiter is able to create any number of screening questions to pre-screen job applicants, and even score the responses automatically and “knock-out” applicants who are unqualified.

Make it easy for Managers to review candidates

A few years ago I was the manager at a company that used an Applicant Tracking System to streamline their recruiting process. Everything worked great – recruiters posted jobs online, applicants applied and were pre-screened and scored, and everything was stored in a central database which both the recruiter and manager could access.

The problem was when it came time for me to go in and review applicants to my job, it was so cumbersome that the process would grind to a halt. Each person I had to review took 5-10 clicks to get to their information, the system was sluggish and unresponsive, and it was difficult to submit and view feedback on the candidate. I remember wishing for the “good old days” when I would just get a paper resume on my desk!

Managers are busy just like the rest of us and if you don’t make the review process simple and quick they won’t use it, or it will delay your time to hire.

Here are some questions to ask to make sure your review process is easy for managers to use:

  • How many people will the manager need to review? Will they be receiving every single applicant to your job or only the top candidates that the recruiter sends them?
  • If managers will only be reviewing top candidates, how easy is it for the manager to find and view their information? How many clicks does it take before they are viewing the candidate’s resume. How many clicks to move to the next resume to review?
  • How easy is it for the candidate to submit feedback on a candidate, and view the feedback of others?
  • Does the process require the manager to login to your recruiting system to view candidates, or are you able to send them resumes through email to collect reviews? Many managers don’t want to memorize another login to another system and would greatly prefer to receive candidates via email.

Collect better feedback through forms and questionnaires

Many applicant review processes consist of the recruiter emailing a resume to a manager with the single question “What do you think?” While there’s nothing wrong with this simple approach, there are advantages to collecting more structured feedback from managers through a questionnaire or form.

When you ask somebody what they think of a particular movie, you’ll likely get back a black-or-white answer like “it was great!” or “it was awful”. But if you ask them to rate a movie on a scale of 1-5 on some key criteria (story, acting, music, costumes, etc) you’ll get a much richer review and separation between other movies they may have reviewed.

The same applies to reviewing candidates. When you ask a manager to answer structured questions and provide numeric rating on a candidate, you’ll force them to think broadly about the candidate and not just provide their first-impression.

Ideally if you are going to use manager review forms and questionnaires in your process, you will want to streamline the collection of the data with online questionnaires, ideally in an Applicant Tracking System. And once again, it needs to be easy for the manager to complete the questionnaire or they won’t use it.

In our ApplicantStack system, you can create Manager Feedback Questionnaires and have them asked directly on the page where the manager views the candidate’s resume and other information. For a more information and examples see Faith Bliga’s previous post on Manager Feedback and Interview Evaluations.

Support different levels of involvement from your managers

Finally, every manager will have his or her own style and will likely want a different level of involvement in the recruiting process. Some managers are very “hands-off” and just want the recruiter to find a good candidate for their department with the least amount of work on their part. Others are very “hands-on” and want to see every single candidate that comes in and decide themselves which ones meet the initial qualifications.

As such, you should keep in mind that whatever process you put in place should be flexible enough to accommodate the requests of different hiring managers. For a manager who wants to delegate to the recruiting group, you should be able to send them only top-candidates, already pre-screened, for them to interview. For a manager who wants to be more involved, you should be able to set it up so that person can see all applicants and see everything that’s happening in the system.

If you are implementing an Applicant Tracking System, make sure it has flexible workflow support to allow you to implement these types of different processes efficiently.

How to Create a Smooth Online Application Process

As any recruiter or HR professional will tell you, one of the primary considerations you should make with any new recruitment technology is the experience of the candidate. Process automation is great, but first you have to get good, qualified candidates to apply for your positions. And it all starts with having a robust, smooth and easy-to-use online application process.

We’ve worked with hundreds of companies to set up their online career site, job board and online application. We also talk with candidates who are applying on these sites, so we hear first-hand the ways that they can get frustrated and tripped up. The following are some of our suggestions for a great online application process.

Brand your employment site to match your website

The first thing a candidate will notice when they hit your employment portal is the overall look and feel of the site. Having your company name and logo is an excellent start, but even better is having a site that matches your main website’s design and navigation, to give a consistent, professional impression to the candidate.

For example, here are a few ApplicantStack customer employment sites that we think provide a consistent, clean brand image to the candidate:

Keep in mind that having an employment site that matches your website doesn’t require that your existing website administrator create the site. Many third-party systems for employment sites are able to create a “skin” which matches the website, so it will appear consistent to the candidate even though it’s running on a different system.

Make sure your job information is up-to-date and complete

You want to make sure the list of jobs and job descriptions on your site are complete and up-to-date. One of the primary benefits of an employment site is to enable candidate self-service so they are not calling up your company to inquire about your jobs. But if you have out-of-date jobs on your site or don’t provide all the details of your jobs, you will be missing one of the primary benefits of an employment site.

Having a good applicant tracking system is an excellent way to make sure the information on your employment site stays up-to-date and complete. When you post a new job you can push it automatically to your employment site. Similarly, if you modify the details of a job or close a job, the change can be made automatically in real-time. This sure beats having to submit a request to your website administrator to update your site each time your jobs change.

Decide how much you want to ask of candidates when they apply

When designing your online application you should consider how many fields you will ask the candidate to fill out in order to apply. Many organizations just ask for basic contact information (Name, Address, Phone, Email) and a Resume, while others may ask the candidate to fill out a complete Employment Application with separate sections for Personal Information, Education, Employment History, References, etc. Still others will ask for basic contact information and then ask some job-specific screening questions.

There is no right or wrong size for an online application, but you should weigh the trade-offs. In general, the more fields you ask in an online form, the less people you will have complete the form. However, it is often advantageous to collect all the information you need in your hiring process up-front, rather than having to request it later in the process. Also, many companies, such as those under OFCCP regulation, are required to review each application and document the review, so it may be advantageous to restrict applications to only those most serious candidates.

Keep the application simple

Many forms on the web these days, especially those designed by us web developers, tend to be a bit “too clever”. Developers have this nasty habit of trying to take advantage of every technology at their disposal, even if it doesn’t improve the user’s experience. You want to project a modern image to your candidates, but if you try to make your application too fancy it can make it hard for the candidate to fill out.

For example, scripts and animations during the application can look cool but can also get in the way of the basic task of filling out the fields. This is especially true of longer applications such as a complete employment application. Web technology was built with a very simple, but robust way to capture data through forms, and often just sticking to these web standards will result in the most usable forms.

Any web site should keep in mind that users will be coming from multiple environments and browsers, which is even more reason to keep the application simple and stick with standards. The animation where the screen scrolls up and prompts the user to fill out a missing field may look great on your browser, but someone on another (older?) browser may find it prevents them from completing the application. Better to just do the validation when the user clicks Submit and come back with a prompt for any missing data.

Don’t make the candidate re-enter data

There’s nothing more frustrating than being asked to fill out questions in an application process that you’ve already answered somewhere else. For example, you provide your Contact Information when you register with the system, but then when you go to apply to a job the system asks you to fill it out again. Or even worse is when you apply for one job, then go and apply for a second job and the system asks you to fill out the complete application again.

A good application system should be able to save an applicant’s information and re-use it later in the process to prevent duplicate (or triplicate!) data entry.

Be careful of data loss resulting from timeouts and lost sessions

Actually, there is something more frustrating than having to enter data you’ve already entered somewhere else, and that is having the data you’ve spent so much time entering suddenly lost. We’ve all had the experience of filling out a form, entering a comment or composing an email, and then clicking Submit only to lose the data entirely. Sometimes a person will take the time to enter the information again, but more often they will just leave in frustration.

The usual culprit in these situations is system timeouts and lost sessions in your application system. For example, if a candidate has the Apply page up and partially filled out, then is called away from her computer suddenly, when she comes back to Submit the application she may find that her session with the system has timed out and the data she entered on previous pages is lost.

Most good application systems will be engineered to prevent this type of data loss, but you should definitely test it out. For a simple test, just start an application and go half-way through, then leave the screen up over night and in the morning try to submit. If the page comes back with a “Your session has ended” message and you can’t get back to your data, there is session timeout problem and there’s a good chance it will affect your candidates.

Single page or multiple page?

When designing your online application you will need to decide whether you want to have all fields on a single page, with the Submit button at the bottom, or broken up into multiple pages with Next and Back buttons. There are advantages to either method, but you need to consider the trade-offs:

Single Page Application:

  • Allows the candidate to see everything they are being asked to submit and thus determine if they have time to complete it in this sitting
  • Keeps the application process simple (less moving parts)
  • Prevents data loss because all information is submitted at once, rather than kept in session memory (see session timeout issue above)

Multiple Page Application:

  • For very long applications, breaking it up into multiple pages can make it not seem as long to the candidate
  • The system can validate the information page by page and provide more immediate feedback, rather than all at once at the end
  • You can use questions on previous pages to trigger logic on later pages (i.e. skip questions), although this does make developing the application quite a bit more complex

For most cases we prefer single-page applications because of the simplicity and ease-of-use. But either method can be implemented successfully.

Provide confirmation and information on next steps

Finally, after the candidate has submitted his or her application you should provide a confirmation message that the application was received. Along with a general confirmation message, you may also want to consider providing some additional information to help the candidate understand the next steps in the process. For example:

  • If you will be sending email communication from a central email address (i.e. careers@yourcompany.com), you can ask the candidate to add this email address to their address book / white list so your emails won’t be accidentally caught as spam.
  • Tell the user when they should expect to hear from you, for example, “We will review all applications within 2 weeks.”
  • Tell the user the next step to expect in the process, such as a phone screen or skills assessment test.
  • If you don’t want the candidate to call you to ask about the status of their application, you should probably tell them so

Moving from a manual application process to an online process has the potential to drastically improve your recruiting workflow and provide a great first impression to your candidates. But you need to make sure that the process you set up isn’t going to result in frustration on the part of your internal users OR candidates.

Posting to Job Boards: How and where most businesses are posting their jobs

Recently we asked our ApplicantStack customers some questions about their current job posting processes, and what new features they would most like to see in ApplicantStack to help streamline their company’s posting process. We heard back from 73 of our active customers and the following is a summary of what we learned.

We were somewhat surprised that so many of our customers said that they would not use one-click posting to paid job boards. The rational seems to be split between those who don’t currently use paid job boards, and those who feel that the current method of manually copying a job to a paid job board isn’t really much of a hassle.

The reason I say we were somewhat surprised with this result is that one-click job posting is the #1 question that we get asked in product demos, which makes us think that everybody (or at least the majority) of companies need this feature.  Even those customers to told us that they would definitely use a one-click job posting function, also said that it’s not really that time consuming to post their jobs to each website separately.  Much less time consuming then, say, the time it takes to review and communicate with the candidates who apply to their jobs.

In fact, many customers who do post to multiple third-party job boards said they would like to continue doing it this way, because it gives them more control over their posting process and allows them to negotiate discounted fees with each job board individually.

Of those who said they would use one-click job posting, a common qualifier was that it would need to have automatic source tracking in order for it to be useful, so they can evaluate whether the money they spend advertising on a particular job board has an acceptable ROI.

Not really surprising that 70% of our customers were interested in sending jobs to Indeed and SimplyHired. After all – it’s free publicity! But one recurring statement we heard is that publicity, and thus more applications to a job, is not always desired. For example, many people told us that they hire only local candidates or have highly specialized positions, and thus don’t want the flood of unqualified applicants that would result from posting to a large free job site.

Even among those customers who liked this option, many said they wanted to maintain control over which jobs get posted to the free sites and which do not.  We also heard some suggestions of other free niche job sites that we could include such as idealist.org and flexjobs.com.

We were actually a little surprised that many of our customers weren’t all that interested in one-click posting to social media sites. Many people said that they don’t currently incorporate social media in their job posting process, and aren’t entirely sure how to recruit effectively. There was even some concern that posting to social media sites could be used inappropriately and attract the wrong type of person.

Of the three major social media sites we asked about, LinkedIn was by far the one people were interested in most. Not all that surprising, as LinkedIn is viewed as more of a professional networking site than Facebook or Twitter.

Finally, among those who said they wanted to be able to one-click post to paid job boards, we asked the question which job board(s)? The results here aren’t that surprising, with Monster and Careerbuilder coming in as the most popular sites, followed by Dice (mostly for tech jobs) and then Jobing (a relative new comer).

As far as an update on our development roadmap, as current customers are aware we have launched the Indeed/SimplyHired posting and Social Media posting functionality. We appreciate the wonderful feedback we’ve received on these new functions and are thrilled to hear that they are resulting in wider distribution of our customer’s jobs and more qualified applicants.

The development team is just about done with the function to post to paid job boards, starting with Monster and CareerBuilder. We are planning to make this available in mid-August. If you would like more details regarding getting this in place for your account, please contact us.

What do you think?  Do any of the survey results above surprise you or validate your current thinking on effective use of recruiting technology?

How to Write an Effective Job Description

A job description is a communication tool that describes the duties and responsibilities of a job and the qualifications required to be successful in the job. It is the foundation on which candidates determine interest and decide to apply to your organization.

The benefits of writing an effective job description

A well written job description will:

  • Help attract the right candidates
  • Be a template for writing outside job postings and advertisements
  • Serve as a guide for formulating your interview questions and candidate evaluation
  • Set realistic expectations for the new hire*
  • Assist managers/supervisors in conducting performance reviews and identifying areas for training or development
  • Prevent future legal problems with federal agencies in the event of a discrimination allegation

*Jobs in a small to medium size company can shift depending on your growth and direction.

Jobs are subject to change due either to personal growth, organizational development, and/or the evolution of new technologies. Flexible job descriptions will encourage your employees to grow within their positions and learn how to make larger contributions to your company. Your organization’s job descriptions should be concise, clear, but also flexible. When writing a job description, keep in mind that the job description will serve as a major basis for outlining job training or conducting future job evaluations. It is good practice to review your job descriptions periodically to make sure they accurately reflects what the employee is doing and your expectations of results from the employee.

Steps to writing an effective job description—what to include

Gather the appropriate people for the task. The manager to whom the position will report might be the best person to take the lead in developing the job description. If there are other employees performing similar jobs, they can also contribute. Additionally, if the position is new and will relieve current employees of work load, they should be part of the discussion.

Perform a job analysis. You need as much data as possible to develop a job description. The job analysis may include the job responsibilities of current employees, Internet research and sample job descriptions online or offline highlighting similar jobs, an analysis of the work duties, tasks, and responsibilities that need to be accomplished by the employee filling the position, research and sharing with other companies that have similar jobs, and articulation of the most important outcomes or contributions needed from the position. The more information you can gather, the easier the actual task to develop the job description will be.

Write the job description. The format and style for writing job descriptions might be different from any other type of writing that you do in your job. Writing job descriptions is not a complex process, but it requires following a basic format including specific components. Your job descriptions should follow a consistent format when possible. The basic components should include:

  • Job Title
  • Title of the Individual the job reports to
  • Job Summary
  • Key Responsibilities
  • Minimum Job Requirements
  • Physical Requirements and Environment
  • Disclaimer

Job Title

The job title should accurately reflect the type of work performed. For example- “clerk,” “processor,” or “analyst”. It should also indicate the level of work being performed– “senior analyst”, or “lead accountant”.

Job Summary

The job summary describes the primary reason for and function of the job. It also provides an overview of the job and introduces the job responsibilities section. The job summary should describe the job without detailed task descriptions. Its length should range from one sentence to a paragraph, depending on the complexity of the job. It is sometimes easier to write the summary once you have completed the more detailed information.

Example: A job summary for a Human Resources Director

“Manages the human resources function and day-to-day human resources management activities throughout the organization, including employee recruiting, orientation, compensation, benefits, and related programs. Manages all HR functions, staff, and the HR department budget.”

Key Responsibilities

Begin each job responsibility with a present tense action verb and describe the area of responsibility in action terms. Normally, there will be 7 to 10 responsibilities, depending on the job. Examples:

  • Develops marketing programs directed at increasing product sales and awareness.
  • Writes programming code to develop various features and functionality for commercial software products.
  • Designs and develops user interfaces for commercial software products.
  • Supervises technical support employees in providing technical support to organization clients.
  • Manages development of advertising and various marketing collateral materials.

Minimum job requirements

This section describes the minimum knowledge, skills, and abilities that are required to perform the job. This information helps determine if the candidates are minimally qualified. Avoid arbitrary requirements that are difficult to validate.

Include only the minimally acceptable requirements. Do not inflate requirements.

Be specific and realistic about the necessary requirements.

Do not consider the particular education, experience, or skill level of current jobholders. Include only what the job actually requires.

Ensure the requirement relates to how and why the job is done

Requirements should include:

  • Education —the type and minimum level, such as high school diploma and/or bachelor’s degree.
  • Experience —the type and minimum level, such as three to five years of supervisory experience, five years of editing experience, and two years of experience with content management systems.
  • Special skills — such as languages spoken and computer software proficiencies.
  • Certifications and licenses — such as industry certifications and practitioners’ licenses.

Physical requirements

This section describes the physical demands and environment of the job and lists the basic physical conditions needed to perform the job. This section should list specific physical requirements such as lifting heavy objects and standing for long periods of time. Examples include:

  • Requires ability to lift large and heavy packages
  • Must be physically capable of safely lifting a minimum of 50 lbs. without assistance
  • Requires the ability to work flexible shifts
  • Must be able to travel 50% to other job sites
  • Able to meet tight deadlines in a fast-paced work environment

Disclaimer

All job descriptions should include a disclaimer that clearly states that the description is only a summary of the typical functions of the job, not an exhaustive or comprehensive list of all possible job responsibilities, tasks, and duties. Disclaimers should also state that the responsibilities, tasks, and duties of the jobholder might differ from those outlined in the job description and that other duties, as assigned, might be part of the job. This disclaimer is most important in a labor union environment where the document can be literally interpreted.

How to evaluate Applicant Tracking System (ATS) vendors

Is an Applicant Tracking System right for you?

Small to medium size companies (50-500 employees) are finding it increasingly difficult to compete in today’s job market. Our current economy has created the need for companies to cut back their expenses while competing for top talent in a high unemployment environment. It is not unusual for the individual responsible for attracting, hiring and retaining talent to be wearing several “hats” and finding it more difficult to balance their current work load. The recruiting process, like any other business process, requires a series of steps and necessary actions that will lead to a successful hire. The steps in the process are time sensitive, paper intensive, bound by legal considerations and often require the time of multiple individuals. Companies are finding the following challenges difficult to overcome.

  • High volume of resumes with no efficient way to accept, review, store and manage them
  • Cumbersome or inefficient internal communications
  • Inability to access information quickly and report on recruiting metrics
  • Leaving vacancies open for long periods of time
  • Losing qualified applicants due to inefficient resume management
  • Duplication of recruiting efforts between various branches, divisions and managers
  • Excessive maintenance and support with homegrown technology
  • Inefficient tracking, if any, of EEO-OFCCP compliance data

It makes sense to automate steps in the recruiting process to free up time to focus on important business issues. Finding the right technical solution that meets the needs of an organization can be an overwhelming task. With so many applicant management products in the market today, it is imperative to examine current internal processes to determine needs before committing to a product that doesn’t meet those needs or pay large amounts for a product with features they will never use. An HR Manager/Recruiter can take the following steps to determine which applicant tracking system is best for their organization.

  1. Document the current recruiting process to determine what is working and what is not working. Track how long it takes to fill new positions and what financial impact the inefficiencies have on the company’s revenue.
  2. Gather a small group of stakeholders together to share this information and discuss possible solutions. Stakeholders might include a major decision maker on financial expenditures, the individual responsible for recruiting efforts who knows and understands the pain points, and a hiring manager who is impacted by the inability to find good people in a timely fashion and within a budget he/she can tolerate.
  3. The group should collectively make a list of goals and compile a list of features they consider to be necessary to achieve their goals. Once they have identified what it is they need the system to do, they have the criteria on which they will evaluate the large pool of products available. Here is an example of General and Specific goals which could come out of this meeting:

General Goal:

Lease an affordable real time, Web based system that requires no technical maintenance, will shorten the recruiting cycle, reduce the cost and time to hire, and result in an improved, qualified applicant pool.

Specific Goals:

  1. Scalable and configurable to allow for company growth and/or change
  2. Streamline and improve communications between hiring managers, recruiters, and applicants regardless of their physical location
  3. Ability to access information quickly
  4. Reduce legal exposure
  5. Measure results and track recruiting metrics including costs
  6. Requires no assistance from the internal IT staff
  7. Provide a more positive experience for the applicant
  8. Compatible with our current HRIS system
  9. Able to implement in a short period of time with little disruption to our business
  10. Automated download of existing job descriptions and resumes

Based on these goals, the company should develop a more detailed list of criteria on which to evaluate possible vendors. Use knockout factors and/or required features to short list the firms that best meet the criteria. Include wish list / Nice to Have features as part of your evaluation which are “icing on the cake” of a possible solution.