Home / Recruiting Strategies / Screening Candidates / Make the Most of Applications

Make the Most of Applications

Make the Most of Applications

Adapted from the book Finding Keepers: The Monster Guide to Hiring and Holding the World’s Best Employees by Steve Pogorzelski, Jesse Harriott, Ph.D., and Doug Hardy. Published January 2008 by McGraw-Hill.

Sorting out the unqualified from the qualified takes work, but that doesn’t absolve the manager from keeping the promise of respect for the customers. Simple, automated acknowledgments are sufficient to tell all candidates that their applications have been received.

There is relief from the pain of too many applicants. Technology helps, from simple database programs to advanced enterprise software (the latter for those large organizations that can justify the expense). Search engines are getting better, and experienced recruiters have become adept at sorting through applications and résumés. This begins with a clear and open-minded understanding of the people who will fit your organization.

You can even align your employer brand to aid the sorting-out process.

Here’s how Home Depot does it, according to Caroline Brown, now Global Employment Brand Manager at HP:

A lot of people think it’s really fun to shop here, so it would be fun to work here. While it is fun to work at a Home Depot, it’s also very challenging.We have to make sure that we’re bringing in people who are up for the challenge and who are good at customer service. One of the things that we’ve done is create a short video — it’s called The Realistic Shop Preview — that shows the high points of the job and also shows the really tough parts.We host it online, and it encourages people to self-select out before they even bother applying.

Even candidates you don’t hire form an impression of your organization, and if you treat them right, they can become a source of potential candidates as well. Lisa Calicchio, director of recruiting pharmaceutical teams at Johnson & Johnson, believes this and works to make every interaction a positive one. If you think you get a lot of not-quite-qualified candidates, look into Lisa’s world:

We get a million applications a year, so lots more people don’t get hired by Johnson & Johnson than do get hired. The people who don’t get hired are voices that we have to be mindful of, because people talk about their experiences. And people are quicker to talk about negative experiences than positive ones. Every candidate needs a certain amount of attention. We’re not perfect, but the basic tenets of courtesy, respect, and follow-up should apply to everybody.

To know whether your hiring process authentically showcases your employment brand, get feedback at every stage of the process — when people apply, when you screen applications, and when they interview on the phone or later. You don’t need to hire a consulting company to do this; instead, create a quick online survey (or question-and-answer session at the end of the job interview) and ask questions like:

  • Did you hear from us quickly?
  • Were you treated with respect?
  • What impression of the organization did you get from your visit to our Web site or office?
  • Were the people you met prepared to tell you about the company and to interview you well?
  • Based on your experience, would you apply for positions in the future?

Most hiring organizations treat applications as a one-time event, and when they say “we’ll keep your résumé on file” even the promising candidate knows she’s unlikely to hear from them ever again. “We need to fill this position,” implies the company, “and you’re either in or you’re out.” That’s a lost opportunity.

Let’s say your business is accounting, and you’re looking for auditors with five years’ experience. A good candidate comes in but he’s only got two years’ experience. You could send him away forever with a “flush card” (“thanks for applying, blah, blah …”) or you could tell him that he’s not quite ready and then ask him to subscribe to your candidate newsletter. Once a quarter, you send him and other promising auditors a newsletter with notes about what’s going on in your firm. You add content that helps them learn and grow. You throw in tips written by your current auditors; maybe a portrait of a star auditor, showing her career path. Three years later, when that candidate is ready, he’s predisposed to pick your company. That wasn’t so hard, was it?