With unemployment at record levels in much of the US, help wanted ads are likely to receive massive responses. Reports of a thousand people applying for two open entry level positions and other amazing stories are commonly heard, and even companies that haven't placed employment ads are getting a fair amount of applicants — whether they have openings or not. You would think this is a good thing for business owners looking for employees. The larger the pool of applicants, the more likely it is that you'll find the right person for the job. But if you're going to take the time to weed through all those applications and interview so many candidates, you better make sure you end up with exactly who you're looking for.
Recruiting effectively is a several step process, but once you've got people applying, it really boils down to two basic steps: screening and selection. Screening is at the application/resume level, and selection takes place at the interviewing level. Of course there can be multiple steps within each of these processes, but they are the two primary ways you will go from a mountain of applicants to a position filled with the right person.
Screening is the easier of the two steps. This is a matter of reviewing resumes, cover letters, any tests or personality profiles you have applicants take, etc. to find those who meet your specific criteria. For the most part, a computer could do this step. Either an applicant does or does not have what you're looking for. While the appearance of their resume and other subjective factors can enter into your decision, you're mostly looking at the facts: years in the industry, level of education, longevity at past jobs, etc.
Selection cannot happen based solely on the applications you receive. It is a matter of meeting the applicants who made it through the screening process, and, in fact, probably only the few who came out on top.
Interviews are the most important step in the hiring process and should be used as an opportunity to get to know the person you're considering bringing into your company. You should already know they have the skills, education, and/or experience to do the job, based on their application and resume. Now is the time to see if they would be a positive addition to your company. Considering your company culture, the people they will be working with, and the "spirit" of the job they'll be doing, are they a good fit? And the right fit goes both ways. It's as important that an applicant will be happy performing the job as it is that they are well qualified. If you don't take this into consideration, you just might find yourself repeating the whole process three months down the road.
Asking the Right Questions
During the interview, it's time to learn about the person in front of you. Many businesses conduct interviews as though they are still part of the screening process. "Tell me about your education." "What were your duties at your last job? …and you were there for three years, is that right?" What's the point of these questions when you have the information in front of you already? In any other setting, you would get to know someone by having a genuine conversation. So do the same here. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed the interviewee will be, and the more he or she will be themselves. Just as important as the tone of the interview are the specific questions you ask. If you're still asking, "Tell me about your greatest strength and greatest weakness," or "What would you do if…" questions, stop it. These are the questions that every smart applicant is ready for, and they won't tell you much about the person at all.
Ask them what kind of music they like. Ask what they do for fun and how many friends they have from their last job. Of course you have to be careful to stay within employment laws and not ask the wrong questions (their age, marital status, etc.), but you can do so and still get a good feel for their personality and character. Turn the interview around too, and encourage them to ask you questions. You can learn as much about a person from the questions they ask as you can from their answers to your questions.
If you go into the selection process with the goal of finding the right person for the job, not just the right resume, chances are good you’ll end up hiring someone who will enjoy their job, do it well, and stay with your company longer. Will you literally hire right “every time?” Probably not; but your average will go up considerably!