How to reimagine hiring and stop losing great candidates.
January 17, 2022
The current labor market has finally destroyed the concept of employers as benevolent providers, dangling the opportunity to work for them like it’s a prize they are bestowing on the masses. The soaring demand for labor has leveled the playing field, allowing candidates to rightfully see themselves as valuable partners in the employer/employee relationship, with the power to decide which company gets to benefit from their labor.
This shift brings a whole new lens to the hiring process, says Sean Behr, CEO of Fountain, a high-volume hiring platform. Recruiters and hiring managers aren’t “offering jobs”; they are attempting to acquire a scarce resource that is essential to their business. Embracing this new view is an important first step in fixing a broken hiring system.
30 minutes or less
Everyone is in a race for talent right now, especially for entry-level and lower-level jobs where candidates now have a lot of options. “You have to assume everyone who is applying to your company is also applying to four or five other jobs at the same time,” Behr says. “In the time it takes most recruiters to review an application, that candidate may have already received another offer.”
This time pressure is forcing many companies to rethink when and how they engage with applicants, what qualifications they require and how fast they can reasonably make an offer.
Some big companies are taking this trend to the extremes. UPS now claims that it can hire qualified drivers and warehouse workers in 30 minutes or less; Southwest Airlines recently gained headlines for conducting on-the-spot interviews and making instant job offers to ramp workers at Denver International Airport; and Home Instead Senior Care’s job posts promise “immediate start” for qualified candidates.
It’s an appealing idea for candidates in need of work and for employers in need of labor, but hiring candidates on the spot isn’t just a simple and quick decision companies can make. The only way companies can streamline hiring is by questioning every step in the recruiting process and reimagining their own role in that journey.
What do you really need?
“Employers know that they need to do something different,” says Nitzan Pelman, CEO of Climb Hire, a candidate upskilling company. The challenge is figuring out what they can do to speed time to hire while still properly vetting candidates.
That process starts with letting go of preconceived notions about what skills and experience candidates must have to be considered for a job – and what employers can reasonably demand from the current candidate pool.
Job posts for entry-level positions often include arbitrary requirements for years of experience, education and minimum-age limits. “Are you really going to reject a good candidate because they haven’t worked retail for two years?” Behr says. “Would it be better to have a 17-year-old on staff versus no-one at all?”
Such requirements have been embedded in job descriptions for years, often without any evidence that they lead to more successful hires. But that is beginning to change, even for white-collar jobs. “I used to spend a lot of time trying to convince employers that requiring a college degree for every position is causing them to lose a lot of hidden talent,” Pelman says. “Now the degree conversation is over.”
This shift in thinking is causing companies like CVS to drop requirements for a high school diploma or GED from most entry-level roles, and several big tech companies, including Google, IBM and Apple, now promote the fact that many roles no longer require a college degree.
Diplomas aren’t the only requirement disappearing from job posts.
The Body Shop recently eliminated background checks, drug screenings and previous experience requirements from its hiring process. The decision is part of the company’s new Open Hiring Practice, which is designed to enable more hiring from marginalized populations, including ex-cons who often face barriers to employment. In the current format, Body Shop recruiters ask candidates three questions and hire them on a first-come, first-served basis.
Other companies are replacing experience and education requirements with a skills-based hiring approach, where they use personality traits, rather than training or experience, as a measure of future success. “Skills-based hiring allows companies to be a lot more precise,” says Bill Guest, president of Metrics Reporting, a talent assessment company. Guest has worked with several large organizations, including CHE Trinity Health, that have seen the hiring process accelerate and first-year turnover drop when they use cognitive assessments linked to job characteristics to hire candidates. “Evidence-based selection is reinventing how we hire,” he says.
To get the biggest impact from these changes, companies need to be intentional about how they communicate what they are looking for in job posts so they don’t inadvertently scare good candidates away. Behr notes that many companies are making subtle changes in their job posts, such as using the word “preferred” instead of “required” to describe education or experience. But for many candidates, even preferred prerequisites will scare them off.
More than 40 percent of candidates from a survey of more than 1,000 men and women said they won’t apply for a position if they don’t meet all the qualifications — even if they think they would be a good fit. So telling candidates you’d “prefer” qualifications they don’t have may be sending a signal that applying to your job will be a waste of their time. In an economy where they have lots of options, it is the wrong message to send. “Companies need to roll out the welcome mat and stop doing things that make it difficult for candidates to walk through the door,” Behr says.
That welcome mat should include an easy and quick application process, which many companies still fail to offer. Even though the industry has spent years talking about the need to create better and more engaging candidate experiences, online applications are still mostly awful.
“Most hourly workers don’t have a resume, so stop asking them to upload one,” Behr says. And if you do require a resume, don’t also ask candidates to fill out a form detailing all the information that is in their resume. “It will drive applicants away — especially if they are applying from their phones, which most of them are.”
More than 60 percent of job applications are now completed on mobile devices, according to a 2021 survey from Appcast. That means if your application process isn’t designed for a mobile-first candidate, you are actively alienating more than half of your target audience.
Pelman also encourages hiring managers to actively look for good candidates in their current networks, and to consider how they can help someone with ambition and character move up the career ladder. “There is a lot of obsession with the idea that past experience is a predictor of future results,” she says. “But if you look at talent a little differently, you can find great leaders in unexpected places.”
She points to the Uber driver juggling three jobs, or the Whole Foods cashier putting themself through school. These types of people are demonstrating a personal drive and willingness to learn. “If you judge people by their character instead of their experience, you can find a lot of great talent in the world.”
Teach managers how to hire
Once they cross that welcome mat, companies need to be sure their hiring managers have the skills to properly vet candidates so they can make better, faster decisions. “Hiring is one of the most important decisions a manager will make, but most of them have no training on how to do it,” says Anna Papalia, founder and CEO of Shift Profile, a job interview prep and training company.
The lack of training and limited experience — many managers only hire a few people per year — can lead to befuddled and biased hiring practices. “Most managers like to hire people who are similar to them,” Papalia notes. That doesn’t just mean choosing candidates who look like them or went to their alma mater — though that’s part of it. Untrained managers are also more likely to choose people with familiar personality traits rather than the ones who are best suited for the specific job. “An introvert might be put off by an extrovert,” she says. But that personality trait may be ideal for the role.
In the past, this lack of manager training could be offset by an endless cycle of interviews, where candidates meet with multiple decision-makers over several meetings before a decision is made. “Employers got away with this because it was a buyer’s market,” Papalia says. But in the current war for talent, every extra interview creates space for a candidate to accept another job. “Hiring managers have to understand that they are no longer in a position of power.”
Teaching managers interviewing techniques is an easy way to speed the process without sacrificing quality.
Papalia notes that in most interviews, managers have no real plan or goal, and they often do most of the talking. “They tell the candidate about the company and the culture, what’s expected on the job, and they talk about themselves a lot,” she says. When managers do finally give the candidate a chance to speak, it’s easy for them to regurgitate it back. It’s an inefficient process that provides little insight into the candidate’s fitness for the job.
To do better, managers need to be more prepared for the interview process. That means reading the candidate’s resume or application before the interview — not during it, having a list of thoughtful questions that are relevant to the job and then letting the candidate speak. “Set the scene, ask relevant questions tied to competencies, then listen,” Papalia says.
Today’s goal: Cut time to hire in half
When managers are trained to ask thoughtful questions that are relevant to the job, they can quickly determine if a candidate is a good fit. Then they must be ready to make decisions quickly. While not every position can be filled in 10 minutes, most companies can cut their time to hire in half by eliminating wasted time and delays.
Prioritizing application reviews, using instant alerts to notify hiring managers when a great candidate enters the pipeline and committing to making quick decisions with fewer interviews will all help to shorten the hiring time without sacrificing due diligence. “If you ask the right questions, you don’t need five interviews and nine people to make a decision,” Papalia says.
Faster hiring won’t solve the recruiting crisis, but it will reduce the risk that good candidates are falling out of your pipeline because you are too inefficient to reel them in.