Effective Communications During the Recruiting Process

Imagine receiving 50 or more applicants for every open position and the necessity to communicate with each and every applicant from the time their information is received through the many stages of your recruiting process? If you review the list below of just some of the reasons to contact applicants and hiring managers, you will soon realize that communications alone can consume a good part of your business day! Electronic or phone communications may include:

  • Acknowledgement of receipt of Resume or Application
  • Requests to the Applicant for additional information
  • Responding to requests from the applicant for additional company information, benefits information, etc.
  • Responding to applicant requests of their current status
  • Requesting available dates and times from managers to schedule phone screens or face to face interviews
  • Requesting available dates and times from applicants to schedule phone screens or face to face interviews
  • Forwarding resumes to staff for review
  • Requesting/recording the Hiring Manager’s Review and Feedback of an applicant
  • Collecting feedback/evaluations from staff after interviews
  • Confirming interview schedules or changes to interview schedules
  • Letter of no interest to the unqualified applicants
  • Permission to conduct a background check
  • Informing an applicant that a position has been filled, cancelled or put on hold
  • Responding to status reports or updates to managers

Respecting candidates includes acknowledging receipt of their applications, giving them some sense of what’s coming next and eventually letting them know the outcome. Most companies want to be timely and professional toward applicants and managers, but with limited resources and time, do not communicate effectively or at all.

4 Steps to improve Communications during the Recruiting Process

  1. Establish a clear, consistent, courteous and timely process for communicating with applicants and hiring managers during your recruiting process. Document the process and decide which stages in your recruiting process require written or verbal communication. Applicants who have been selected for further consideration in your selection process should continue to receive consistent, timely and accurate messaging. While applicants who did not meet your minimum qualifications, should be communicated with almost immediately.
  2. Communicate the established process to everyone involved in the recruiting process including hiring managers, recruiters and support staff. Make it clear who is responsible for which communications to avoid confusion and possible duplicate or conflicting communications to the same applicant. This is especially important when there are multiple recruiters working with your applicant database. Nothing could be more embarrassing than one recruiter sending a “we’re not interested” email and another recruiter trying to schedule an interview with the same applicant—it happens more than you think.
  3. Automate communications when possible: Implementing an applicant tracking system enables you to automate emails as your applicants are moved through different stages in the recruiting process. Many systems have “triggered” email capabilities which save time, eliminate errors and help your company to maintain a more professional image and reputation.
  4. Track all Communications: Once again, an applicant tracking system is of great value here. Communications are automatically recorded—even date and time stamped, so staff involved in the recruiting process can view the most recent or pending communication or activity related to an applicant. If automation is not an option, using your calendar or an excel spreadsheet that can be shared by everyone is recommended.

Benefits of Effective Communications during the Recruiting Process

  • Shows respect and appreciation to applicants regardless of their qualifications
  • Keeps hiring managers and other staff informed about the status of open positions
  • Protects companies against false accusations and legal repercussions if candidates misinterpret your communication
  • Eliminates excessive phone calls, leaving messages and telephone tag
  • Tracks all activity related to an applicant for future use
  • Most importantly, confirms your company operates with integrity and transparency

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Behavioral Interviewing vs. Traditional Interviewing

Behavioral interviewing is a style of interviewing developed in the 1970’s by industrial psychologists. The theory behind behavioral interviewing is that “the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation”. Behavioral interviewing emphasizes past performance and behaviors. The questions do more than simply determine what a candidate says they will do (i.e. job activities) but give the candidate an opportunity to give concrete examples of what they have done in their past work history that helped them to be successful in their job.

More traditional interview methods would include hypothetical, cognitive, and personality type questions such as:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  3. Why are you interested in working for us?
  4. What would you do if you were having difficulties with another employee on your project?
  5. What would you do if someone asked you to overlook a problem with your project?
  6. Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
  7. How did you like your last job?

These more traditional interview methods have some shortfalls since they can be very closed-ended, limit further information without prodding further or elicit a hypothetical answer that may or may not reflect how they really behave. Answers are often evaluated based on the interviewer’s personal bias.

Hypothetical questions can be used effectively and may be valuable in evaluating how the candidate thinks on his/her feet with little notice to prepare, but should not be the only basis of evaluation.

Cognitive Questions

  • Cognitive questions are based on the theory that a candidate’s thinking, learning and memory functions are critical factors to success
  • This line of questioning often involves a series of scenarios where practical problems are presented to the job candidate
  • The candidate’s methods used to solve these problems are evaluated based on how effectively the candidate gathers and applies information, how they process data, and think through alternatives
  • This type of interview question is best used for jobs with a high degree of intellectual content

Personality Questions

  • This type of question reveals more about who the person is rather than what they can deliver
  • The answers are often characterized by trait words like reliable, hard working, quick learner, assertive, etc.
  • These questions save time in an interview but are not effective as an interview technique unless you ask for a real example of when or how this trait was exhibited

In contrast, the sample behavioral questions below may result in more reliable answers on which to base an evaluation.

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to keep from speaking or making a decision because you did not have enough information.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to be quick in coming to a decision.
  • What is the toughest group that you have had to get cooperation from? How did you win them over?
  • Have you ever had difficulty getting others to accept your ideas? What was your approach? Did it work?
  • Give me an example of a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Describe a situation when you were able to have a positive influence on the action of others.
  • Tell me about a situation when you had to speak up (be assertive) in order to get a point across that was important to you.
  • Have you ever had to “sell” an idea to your co-workers or group? How did you do it? Did they “buy” it?
  • What have you done in the past to contribute toward a teamwork environment?
  • How do you decide what gets top priority when scheduling your time?
  • What do you do when your schedule is suddenly interrupted? Give an example.
  • Give me an example of an important goal which you had set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it.

How to prepare questions for a behavioral interview

Companies that employ behavioral interviewing techniques can use the same analysis they use to develop the job description. This analysis can help to determine the skill sets required to be successful in the job. The hiring manager should consider the following questions:

  • What are the necessary skills to do this job?
  • What makes a successful candidate?
  • What deliverables are we expecting?
  • What would make an unsuccessful candidate?
  • Why have people left this position previously?
  • What is the most difficult part of this job?

A sample list of skills resulting from the job analysis may include the following:

  • decision making and problem solving
  • leadership, motivation
  • ability to work independently with little supervision
  • communication, interpersonal skills
  • planning and organization, critical thinking skills
  • team building and the ability to influence others

When asking a behavioral question, try using the “STAR” approach. Be sure the candidate’s answer includes:

  • Situation or Task
  • Actions
  • Result

Using the “STAR” approach, the interviewer might expect the sample answer below to the question–What have you done in the past to contribute toward a teamwork environment?

The candidate might recount a time when communication within their work group had broken down (situation). To resolve the problem, the candidate organized informal lunch meetings for people to discuss relevant issues (action). Morale then improved, as did the lines of communication (result). Critical Success Factors clarify how we define success in this position

Benefits of Behavioral Questions

  • Behavioral questions help determine if the candidate can prove that they’ve taken actions that have delivered results
  • Behavioral questions make the candidate recall real actions and results they have experienced and describe them in detail
  • Past behavior can predict future job performance
  • Behavioral questions can establish a pattern of behavior
  • Behavioral questions are the safest for inexperienced interviewers because they don’t require a psychological or organizational professional to evaluate
  • Behavioral questions make It is very difficult for the candidate to make up stories that are not based on real situations.
  • Companies that invest the time and energy in developing behavioral interviews often attract top candidates and top candidates make the company a more desirable place to work

Suggestions for Evaluating a Candidate

  • Improve your ability to evaluate the candidate on his/her ability to deliver
  • Base your evaluation more on specific facts and less on your gut feeling or general impressions
  • Openly share your impressions and evaluations even if they are different than the rest of the team
  • Feel comfortable with raising red flags
  • Don’t rush to make a decision if you don’t have enough facts on which to base your decision
  • Avoid allowing the impressions of others to pressure you to change your evaluation

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