My first job had the easiest interview process I’ve ever been through, and one I doubt I’ll ever experience again. In fact, my dad went in and did the interview for me.
Cafe and Cantina is a local Mexican restaurant down the street from my childhood home in south Texas. The owners had sponsored our athletic teams for years and knew my parents by name. The month I turned 16, my dad walked in and asked management if they had a spot for a budding young professional. I began working as a hostess within the week.
I’ve been gone from that job for eight years now and I can assure you, that process was the exception, and certainly not the rule.
Every professional role I’ve applied for post-graduation has taken me through an extended series of recruiting and hiring “next steps.” From sending in an application complete with cover letter, to penning a short tale on what makes me unique, to compiling a list of references; the road to a job can be rigorous.
What is the difference between HR and recruiting?
-Have a more specialized job function
-Recruit and select candidates through various channels, platforms, or physical and in-person events
-Screen candidates through phone or video and assess exam results
-Have more variety in their role
-Participate in some recruitment aspects
-Perform generalized duties such as administration and employee relations handling
Some jobs want me to take an editing test, whereas some companies want sample articles or a link to my portfolio. Other openings have their own role-specific testing requirements, or they may ask all applicants to take a standard examination that determines general eligibility for hire. No two routes to a job will look the exact same.
This is why a specialized recruiting team and strategy is so vital to overall company operations. Mostly gone are the days where candidates walk in off the street, resume in hand, and land a job because management thinks they have gumption. (Did that ever happen? The ‘60s are all a fantasy to me.)
Present-day hiring processes are much more streamlined, with most organizations going digital for references, resume submissions, applications, and more. Recruiting teams not only hire candidates, but also set out in search of candidates to try and sway them to apply for their company. This helps organizations pick up people who originally might not have been looking for opportunities.
Forming a professional recruiting and hiring process is no easy feat. There are a lot of layers that go into finding the right people and asking the right questions. Building an effective organization is a lot like forming a family out of people that have never met. While sloppy standards and poor choices could lead to conflict and team tension, an organized strategy will have your marketing and product teams moving along like a well-oiled machine.
Your team is everything. There’s a reason colleges spend so much money sending athletic recruiters to high schools every year. They want to see the talent that exists and recruit the best for their teams. They also want to be sure to recruit talent for every various open position.
Your professional recruiting team should be no different. No, going to high schools around the world might not be the best idea. But it can’t hurt to recruit from a team mindset, and with the belief that the best is out there, waiting to be found.
This document aims to help you discover what that looks like for you. Whether you already have a recruiting team and wish to make it better, or if you’re looking to build strategies from the ground up, you’ve come to a place that can assist you in building – at the risk of sounding cliché – a dream team.
Long before we get into the nitty gritty of how to interview a candidate, let’s talk semantics. It’s important you understand exactly what a recruiting team is.
Some people consider recruiting to be a role that falls underneath the umbrella of human resources. This used to be more widely agreed upon, as talent management can be seen as an HR task. Recruitment is, however, different from human resources.
Recruiters help get qualified candidates into the office and hired, while human resource generalists deal with a lot of post-hire details and situations. There are a lot of loose ends to be tied up after you get hired, and HR generalists are the glue that keeps that in place.
Recruiting vs. HR
It may help if we look at it in terms of documents.
- Recruiters typically handle: Resumes, Cover Letters, Applications, References, Exam Materials
- HR Generalists typically handle: Contracts, Tax Forms, Stock Options, Employee Complaints and Reports, Company Feedback Surveys
As you can see, recruiters are the first point of contact for many candidates. They are the first human impression applicants have of your organization, which is why recruiting teams are usually made up of personable and highly social individuals. They are required to small talk with and positively impress professionals across various industries.
For further clarity, let’s discuss some specific differences between recruiters and HR generalists.
-Have a more specialized job function
-Recruit and select candidates through various channels, platforms, or physical and in-person events
-Screen candidates through phone or video and assess exam results
-Have more variety in their role
-Participate in some recruitment aspects
-Perform generalized duties such as administration and employee relations handling
While organizations can choose to place recruiting under the HR umbrella, they’d be wrong to claim the two are one and the same. Both roles have their own unique contributions to the company, and neither should be left out of the makeup of an organization’s employee relations tactics.
Recruiting has grown abundantly as channels for candidacy have also grown. No longer are resumes mailed in, or handed directly to a manager or supervisor. In fact, I tried this approach in college during a particular financial hardship. I received many strange looks from store management. “We accept our applications online,” was the answer from most of the store clerks.
Recruiting on Job Boards
And perhaps you are already aware, but most application processes presently do take place online. Whether you prefer LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor, or any number of existing job boards, one thing is clear: The jobs are all on the web.
Online job applications create a line of contact directly between candidate and company, and also allow for applications to appear in waves. Sometimes, a LinkedIn application will say tens to hundreds of other applicants have already applied. With these heavy influxes of candidates and their qualifications, it makes sense to elevate and nurture employees to specifically tackle and respond to this interest.
Another layer of recruitment we’d be remiss not mention is the active search for qualified candidates outside the pool of people who have already applied. Sometimes, you’re simply not getting the people you want to be interested in a role. They lack experience, or their personalities come off dryer than a bowl of bland flakes.
In these instances, recruiters know they have to go the alternate route. They have to set out in search of candidates, and often, in search of candidates who might not be actively looking to change jobs. It’s a recruiter’s job to find qualified professionals and make a compelling grab at their interest.
Another layer still is the recruiter who sets out on various journeys nationwide or worldwide to increase job interest. That could mean going to a large job fair, or traveling to college campuses around the world with the intent of networking with recent graduates.
The specifics of a recruiting team are determined by the organization’s needs. For example, companies such as AmeriCorps work better for young people who are not yet attached to a specific location and who may want to work an unconventional job before they start a family. For this reason, AmeriCorps would have more luck recruiting young college graduates.
Image courtesy of AmeriCorps
Other organizations are looking for candidates with more job experience, rendering this recruiting option less beneficial to their businesses. Which recruiting tactics your employees take on will depend largely on what kinds of people you’re hoping to attract.
Okay, so you understand a couple of things that previously might have been confusing:
- Recruitment can be part of the HR team
- A recruiter is not the same as an HR generalist
- There are various ways to recruit and, while none are wrong, certain methods will be more beneficial in helping you find exactly who you’re looking for
With these basic ideas out of the way, we can comfortably dive deeper into the role recruitment plays at your organization.
Have you ever been called by the wrong name? Maybe you’re a twin and your teacher misspoke one time, or your boss perpetually addresses emails to Maria instead of Mariah, no matter how many times you sign an email in bold.
It doesn’t feel good, does it? Being mislabeled, or called something that doesn’t feel right. It feels like the people around you don’t know who you are, and don’t care to find out.
This is how your recruiting employees could feel if you add them to the wrong department in the office. Perhaps this sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s true. Employees want to feel like their jobs are understood, and organization executives care that their functions are carried out properly.
This is especially true of the recruiting team, whose entire job is to make sure your company is made up of qualified people dispersed into well-fitting roles. How unfortunate it would be to have these vital stakeholders placed in the wrong department.
There are a few different arguments on where to put your recruiting team. The most popular assumption is that it fits perfectly into HR, being that it is a part of employee processes.
Another assertion is that recruiting should function as a part of marketing. Isn’t a huge aspect of recruiting making your product, the company, look attractive enough for user investment, or job interest?
This image, courtesy of Canva, shows how hiring can be similar to a marketing campaign.
Other resources think recruitment should answer to the chief financial officer, being that employees are a huge aspect of a company’s financial investment.
While these departments may all be functional and reasonable locations to carry out recruiting operations, you could benefit by considering what good recruitment has a larger effect on. According to Bob Corlett for the HRExaminer, it’s reputation.
The job of a great recruiter is to find employees that can not only do the job well, but who will also do the job well over time. Companies want loyalty and longevity. They want to invest energy into hires who are more likely to stick around. For this reason, recruiting should be a long-play instead of a search for the fastest fit.
In his article entitled “What Department Does Recruiting Belong in,” Corlett asserts that good recruiting is a form of liability management. Ill-fitting employees are likely to have a negative work experience.
Employees with a negative work experience are likely to quit or get fired. Employees who are likely to quit or get fired are likely to write a negative review on a job board or review site. Negative reviews could possibly keep good hires and candidates from applying.
From this equation, we can deduce that proactive recruiting could have a long-lasting effect on what types of candidates apply in the future.
It’s possible your organization has yet to form a reputation management department. Or perhaps you have a reputation management department, but you wish to keep it strictly public relations and marketing-focused.
Human resources and marketing departments are still great places to house your recruitment team under. The emphasis in this section is on empowering your recruitment team with the tools they need to do their job well.
Are they up-to-date on studies or new information on effective questions to ask in phone interviews? Are they equipped with software that reports on the effectiveness of their processes?
Ultimately, your recruiting team needs to feel heard and be working with whichever team at your company has the capacity to empower them the most. Don’t under-utilize or undervalue your recruiting team. Remember, they’re the ones who make sure this machine continues to function as needed.
There’s a reason American Idol has full episodes that consist of nothing but audition tapes and back-stories. Namely, because it’s entertaining. But also because we love seeing people really put themselves out there and take risks for something that matters to them.
Admittedly, I haven’t watched Idol in years (since I lived in my parents’ home and they paid for cable, in fact). But I remember coming home from a long day of going to high school and gently weeping at the contestants’ sentimental stories.
Recruiting is a special job because it’s a daily opportunity to meet people who are taking a risk and determine if a home exists for them at your company. Recruiters get to be the first face candidates see, or voice they speak to, and recruiters get to pass candidates on if they’re a good fit. There’s no large red button and spinning chair like on The Voice, per se, but there is an opportunity to see people succeed in a fitting role.
In order to do this, recruiters, again, have to be empowered. Imagine if Keith Urban and JLo went door to door in search of Idol contestants. While they’d certainly meet some excited fans, they’re definitely narrowing their chances of speaking to people specifically fit for this type of show.
Recruiting is similar. You can spray “help wanted” ads and pray that the right people will come to you, or you can develop strategies that make sure of it.
These strategies will help you find top talent and make your organization their new home.
Leverage Networks for Recruitment Referrals
Did you know you have a network within your network? All of your talented employees have talented friends, family members, and former colleagues. It feels so much better to hire someone when a person you trust has vouched for them.
Think of it like a blind date. A setup from dating apps such as Tinder or Bumble can feel completely uncertain and random. But if a close and understanding friend calls and says, “I have just the person for you,” my dress and heels are already on and I’m out the door.
Leverage your employee network by encouraging employees to refer their connections for open roles. Many organizations will do this through employee recruiting software.
Employees can enter all of the necessary information (such as current job, resume files and cover letters, and desired salary) into the software, and recruiters can overtake the process from there. This keeps the strategy organized and ensures no applicant or referral is left behind.
Recruiting software can also help you turning hiring strategies into a competition with gamification. By keeping track of who refers who, you’re able to make it a numbers game. Who can refer the most candidates, and even better, who can refer the most successful candidates? Incentivizing the employee referral program increases the likelihood of employees actually asking their network to apply.
Attract the Right Candidates
Different generations have different expectations of what a job will look like. For millennials, it’s often a casual environment that relies heavily on technology. For baby boomers or other older generations, stock options and strong benefits to support families may be of higher interest.
Position your company to attract the type of applicant you want. Be sure to list the perks of your company in job listings. This will help applicants get an idea of company culture and decide if they’re a good fit before they’ve even been hired. For example, do you allow employees to work remotely often, or do you prefer they remain in the office every day? Understanding your demographic and what they find attractive in a role will help you develop these perk lists.
This information shouldn’t be assumed, however. Do some research on your targeted candidate and design the job listing to fit that mindset. This doesn’t mean completely ruling out a demographic for candidacy. Your organization should never discriminate and should consider every candidate equally. But if you have an idea of the kind of candidate you’re looking for, it makes sense to tailor the job or company description accordingly so as to attract their attention.
Recruit on Job Boards
This may not be obvious, but different job boards attract different candidates. Some job boards are more effective for part-time positions, while some are better for freelance or remote employees, while others still are more heavily visited by those seeking full-time work. This can also change depending on your company’s location or industry, as well.
Which job board you post on can make a huge difference in your recruiting strategy. Some job boards will have candidates submit applications directly through the board. For example, you upload your resume to Monster, and then Monster submits the application for you.
Other job boards will use your company profile to redirect candidates to your specific job page. This leads them to complete a unique application instead of an “easy” or “one-click” application. Even something as seemingly small as this is worth considering in the recruiting process. One-click applications can get you more candidates more quickly, while unique applications may weed out candidates who aren’t actually interested in the role.
Additionally, you should understand the effectiveness of that job board in your industry or within your company size. One easy way to accomplish this is by looking at your competitors. Yes, I am asking you to go through the list of job boards and search for your competitors as if you are seeking to apply. If your competition is growing at a rate you’d like to keep up with, it’s important to understand why.
Take location into play. If you’re a small business in a small town, you may not need a job board that reaches out internationally. You may be better off considering something local. This helps you find candidates that already live nearby instead of ones you’d have to fly out for an interview, cover moving expenses for, etc.
In short: you cannot afford to list jobs on the incorrect job boards. They should be a well-understood part of your recruiting strategy.
Maintain a Recruiting Tracking and Reporting Strategy
If you aren’t keeping track of what works, how do you know what doesn’t? Consider utilizing a software solution that can keep track of metrics such as which job board listings lead most often to hires, or which social media job ads are going completely ignored.
An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a great way to accrue this data and make good use of it. Applicant tracking systems can integrate with or perform a lot of the same functions as recruiting and referral software. The difference is in the data features.
Per our definition on G2 Crowd: “By using an ATS, recruiters reduce the time spent reading resumes and screening potential applicants. In addition, ATSs assist in posting positions to job boards and communicating with candidates. They store applicant information in a centralized system of record so that candidate information can be retained until relevant information becomes available. They are often implemented by HR departments in order to boost efficiency during the hiring process and simplify the qualification of candidates.”
Additionally, ATSs are great for keeping candidate information in a safe place. Perhaps you loved a previous interviewee but the role wasn’t a great fit for them. With an ATS, their information is stored for future access. You can tag them or put previous applicants into pools so their names pop up first whenever a new or related position opens.
Use Content Marketing as Brand Advertising to Potential New Hires
In the digital age, your company is no longer a stranger or a mystery to applicants. If they want to know how you respond to customers, they can go to Twitter. If they want to see how you celebrate birthdays or holidays, they can check out your Instagram. If they want to see how you keep up with trends and drive customer interaction, they can look at your blog or other content.
Everything is out there. The world is more transparent than it’s ever been. Why not use your content marketing strategy to benefit your overall hiring and recruiting strategy?
People are rejecting the notion of a workplace as somewhere you go to miserably pass the day. They want to have a cheery lunch in a sunny room, get coffee in a colorful kitchen, and work with other people who genuinely would like to be in the office. Your social media profiles are the outside world’s window into your company culture, and should reflect what candidates want to see.
Content marketing is also, more literally, the content you produce. Your blog or learning content can play a huge role in leading candidates to apply. Digital content helps explain not only who you are, but also what you value.
By publishing quality content and hitting on topics people truly care about, applicants again have a window into who you are as a company. These strategies are important and can help explain the growing emphasis placed on social media specialists and content specialists.
Understand Hiring and Candidate Issues
This bullet point will affect how you pen the job description. Sometimes, in order to convince a candidate to come to your company, you have to lead them into discovering what’s wrong with theirs.
For example, if your company has great insurance benefits, consider writing the inverse of that as a question in your job listing.
“Tired of awful insurance plans, through-the-roof copays and high premiums?”
You would then go on to explain why your company could resolve this issue. This question points candidates to your company’s priority while also making them consider what truly has been bothering them about their current situation. In order to be effective with this commentary, have an understanding of what really is great about your organization.
Free lunches? Weekly social events? Frequent opportunities for bonus? An emphasis on internal promotions?
Once you understand what’s so special about your organization, you can use this format to question if applicants are also interested in this type of benefit or culture. It shows you have a good grasp on what your employees appreciate and what other candidates may want to hear.
Have Hiring Descriptions Clearly On-Site
We’ve spoken already about the importance of job boards and listing your available roles where your intended demographic will see them. But have you considered the importance of listing jobs on your own website?
It can seem strange, as your website is consumer-facing and is meant more for the buyer than the interested job candidate. It can feel like if you went to a restaurant and the bottom of the menu told you they were looking for new wait staff.
However, listing jobs on your site is actually a great way to engage community members. It shows you value the growth of your company enough to make it transparent. Not to mention, you could attract some unlikely candidates that came to your website not even knowing they wanted a job at your organization.
Having a careers or jobs page is also a way for applicants to have direct contact with your organization. It shows they were looking to work for you uniquely, as opposed to generically applying to various roles on a job board.
Additionally, a careers page is also a great place to share marketing materials that show off your company culture. Many organizations will display video footage of employees talking about their job satisfaction, or discussing why this company is special. A team’s page opens up the opportunity for you to show off your employees’ smiling faces, and bios or other direct quotes from employees can display a diversity of thought.
Having jobs on-site also shows candidates that hiring is a top priority. Organizations want it to be clear there are opportunities to join this team, and they aren’t afraid to make that a front-page announcement.
These strategies can help you get people into the interview room, which is often half the battle of hiring. You want to advertise on enough platforms and fill a roll in a timely manner, while also maintaining your standards of employee.
Having an organized and streamlined recruiting strategy will reduce the number of unqualified or disinterested candidates that walk through the door. The above tips are by no means a comprehensive list of everything you should do, but they should get you off to a good start in regards to strategy.
Before you know what kinds of questions to ask in an interview, you need to know your process.
Are you going to begin with a phone interview? Do you want to bring candidates in for the in-person as soon as their resumes have been approved? Will you have a skills assessment, or have candidates perform a job audition? (A job audition is a fairly recent interviewing technique where candidates are paid for doing a day’s work under the supervision of managers or potential colleagues.)
In this chapter, we’ll discuss the many aspects of actually developing your interview process. It should be exhaustive, without being exhausting. It should be rigorous, but enjoyable. The company should fit the candidate as much as the candidate should fit the role, and an uncomfortable interview is something a candidate has every right to walk away from.
Should I Test My Candidates in the Hiring Process?
This is the first question you should be asking yourself in regards to interview processes. Giving candidates a pre-employment test is an opportunity to gauge things like memory, attention to detail, and spatial reasoning.
Pre-employment skills tests have a bunch of pros and cons. One pro is the ability to screen candidates who aren’t truly interested in the role. Those with little interest in a company will often also put little effort into the application process. Even the initiative of taking an exam shows more interest than candidates who won’t.
Image courtesy of Harver
These exams are objective, and not based on biases interviewers might have related to appearance, background etc. This gives a candidate a chance to prove themselves based solely on an exam score or an algorithm.
Pre-employment skills tests are an additional barrier of entry that filters your candidates further. This can function as a pro or a con. As a positive, tests can filter out candidates that you believe don’t meet a certain standard. This means fewer candidates get to the phone interview, and even fewer to the in-person interview. This streamlines the process and makes sure professionals are not spending all of their time interviewing lackluster candidates.
Negatively, skills tests can also be seen as an unnecessary barrier to entry. Not everyone who is qualified for a role or intelligent in a different capacity is able to test well. Deploying skills tests as a way to determine who moves on to the next round of hiring could disconnect you from talented and promising individuals.
Ultimately, decide what’s more important to you: abiding by an exclusive system that filters out candidates who don’t meet a minimum score, or sifting through candidates one by one and determining their eligibility by more traditional factors.
The Phone Screen
Phone screens are becoming a more normalized aspect of professional interviews. This step often remains with the recruiter, although some organizations will have employees or managers perform the phone interviews. This is, again, per a company’s preference. Recruiters or employees call applicants to ask a couple of initial questions that will determine who comes in for an in-person interview.
The style of phone interviews performed will vary. Some organizations like to use the phone interview as a personality gauge, a way to determine if applicants are personable and have decent conversational skills. Although conversational skills might not have anything to do with the particular role being interviewed for, it’s still an important quality for some companies.
Other organizations will use phone interviews as a chance to ask more in-depth questions about an individual’s experience. The purpose of this kind of interview is to narrow down candidates more seriously. Companies that perform a technical phone interview aren’t interested in bringing candidates into the office unless they can confidently discuss their qualifications and convince recruiters of their ability to perform this role.
Phone interviews certainly elongate the hiring process by adding an extra layer of clearance. If your company values hiring quickly, perhaps the phone interview step is not for you.
If your company values hiring the right person every time, a phone interview can help you filter through ill-fitting candidates and bring the right ones in to meet in-person. The phone interview is typically handled by the recruiter or a lower-level employee, meaning there has been some sort of filtering before hiring managers get to meet candidates.
After the phone interview comes the in-person interview, or a video-chat interview for candidates who are unable to travel. Regardless of the medium, this is the part of the process where people outside of the recruiting process come into play.
Even the format of the interview will depend on the role, as well as your individual hiring preferences. Some companies like to have one-on-ones with candidates, scheduling out a few different interviews with that same person throughout the day.
Some organizations like to have all stakeholders in the room interviewing the candidate at once, as a panel of sorts. And some companies like to facilitate group interviews, where a panel of decision-makers will interview multiple candidates in the same room, at the same time. Group interviews are kind of a psychological observation as well, seeing how you perform when your competition is seated directly beside you.
Deciding who interviews a candidate is sort of a case-by-case process. If you’re interviewing someone to join the sales team, it makes send you’d have a higher-level account executive in the room with them. But if your sales team is closely related to your marketing team, then you may also want a marketing specialist or manager to sit down and ask them a few questions.
Really, the most important thing to consider is who this hire will affect. Who will they be working with? Who is it important they get along with? These are the people who may need to be in the interview room, as hiring even one bad fit or bad personally can throw off an otherwise good team.
Before planning a candidate’s in-person interview, speak with that department’s hiring manager to determine who they think needs to meet this applicant. It’s possible you’ll develop a standard list of interviewers for every job so you’re not having to repeatedly create these lists. As new jobs are created, those discussions will come up again.
This section is both useful for the recruiter, as well as anyone in a position to hire. Interviews are tricky, and there’s a lot of content out there telling you the best way to interview, how not to interview, the 10 quickest ways to bomb an interview, and more. The simplest thing to consider is that interviews are a reflection of what it will be like to work for you.
Some organizations look at interviews as an opportunity to stump candidates. They ask manipulative questions and try to trap candidates in situations just to see how they’ll wiggle their way out. This may be a good strategy for a high-intensity role where employees are constantly being tested, but it would be overkill for someone applying to be an administrative assistant. You know how the punishment should fit the crime? Well, some may view an interview as a punishment, and it should fit the job.
Another style of interview is to ask much of the candidate. Ask how they would handle certain situations, what kinds of strategies would they provide to solve X problem, and even ask for some written or spec work. This strategy is also tricky, as you’re asking an applicant to generate ideas or content for your business without compensation. This can lead to candidates feeling used or taken advantage of, and can develop a bad reputation for your business as people write reviews or talk about your interview strategies.
My preferred interview strategy is when an organization comes in with honest, straightforward questions that are relevant to the role. No tricks, no asking candidates to jump through hoops, simply a conversation between professionals to determine if they’d both be happy with the situation presented. This shows candidates that you respect them and their time, and that you’re interested in seeing how they would honestly feel about being in your office on a daily basis.
Keeping in line with the previous subjects we’ve crossed, interview questions will largely vary depending on both the role and company looking to hire candidates.
Questions in a phone interview will depend on what the company determines is important to hear before carrying on to the in-person portion. Questions asked in an in-person interview will often center around that person’s experience and how they feel they will uniquely contribute to this role at this company.
Let’s walk through a couple examples of each. For the phone interview, we’ll keep the role ambiguous as it’s often the recruiter who completes this portion of the interview. These questions could apply to any role. For the in-person interview, assume the interviewee has experience in sales and is interviewing for a sales position.
Phone interview sample questions:
-What caught your eye about this role?
-For what reason are you wanting to leave your current position?
-What have you been working on at your current organization? / What does the role of [current role] consist of?
-What is your experience in [specifics about the role being applied for]?
-What makes you think you’d be a good candidate for this role?
In-person interview sample questions:
-Tell me about your experience in [previous sales role]. Please include data to explain your monthly revenue.
-What makes you want to work for our company?
-How would you help us create new customer relationships?
-Say a customer is saying they’d like to discontinue doing business with us. What is your strategy to help them change their mind?
Neither of these lists are a comprehensive template, as they both serve as an introduction to creating your own interviewing process. What comes next is up to you. Interview subject material will change depending on the role, organization, and the specific people in the room.
While you’re responsible for forming your specific process, look back to this chapter as a guide on what to keep in mind, and how to find the best candidates while also maintaining your human element.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.”
Although this opinion is popular among Mr. William Shakespeare and company, the same does not apply to those who are applying. My point being, job titles and descriptions matter. So much so, in fact, that labeling or narrating either one incorrectly will affect the types of candidates who reach out about the position.
In this chapter, we will discuss the importance of getting job titles right, as well as strategies for listing jobs with the correct descriptions both internally and externally. Did you know the way you present jobs to candidates isn’t always the same as the way you describe jobs to internal members of the company?
One important thing that often gets overlooked when forming job titles is searchability. You can come up with all the fun titles you want, but it has to be something a professional in search of that role would type into the search bar.
For example, “event coordinator” is much more likely to be searched and found than “event master supreme.” While the latter displays personality, it’s fairly ambiguous, and I can guarantee no one is searching for that title.
Pay grade is the next largest concern when it comes to naming roles. One of the first things that applicants wonder about a certain title is, “what does that role make?” Any salary can be searched on websites such as Glassdoor and Comparably. Applicants these days have a good idea of what a job should pay from the title alone. If you’re not willing to pay an industry standard salary, don’t use that job title.
For example, an assistant editor position might pay $40,000 on average. If you’re not willing to give a candidate the average salary, you should consider a different job title. They will come into an interview with a desired or expected salary at the back of their minds, and it’s inefficient to drag applicants through the entire interview process before revealing you won’t pay the industry standard.
Some experts argue job titles should be kept simple. People might be turned off by an organization that over-complicates the application process with fancy job titles. Additionally, your employees may eventually want to move on. Having superfluous, vague, or non-descript job titles will make this difficult as their future employers may question what exactly it means.
You’re welcome to take a little more creative liberty within the actual job description, but the titles themselves should abide by other industry standards.
The next point we’ll hit is probably the most obvious. Titles should reflect the roles! Applicants should be able to have a decent understanding of the role from the title alone. If you’re having a difficult time deciding on titles, look to your competitors for insight. What do they title similar roles as? If your competitors are doing it, there’s a chance those titles are the norm throughout your industry.
One scam that has recently become popular is giving fancy titles to jobs that are completely unrelated. For example, many door-to-door or in-store sales jobs will advertise as marketing or content related. This is just one example of how many companies advertise jobs dishonestly.
Every company has its own ethics, and some might not mind lying to applicants. But it’s worth mentioning that dishonest job titles or listings will bring in the wrong candidates, leading to unhappy hires and quick turnover. If your hope is to bring in candidates that stay for a while, honesty should be your best policy.
Job Descriptions and Listings
Job descriptions and listings are a vital step in making sure you get the right applicants interested. If you describe a job poorly, you’re going to have a lot of confused or under-qualified candidates knocking on your door, wondering when they can interview.
In this chapter, we’ll discuss some best strategies for penning job descriptions both for internal and external use.
Internal Use — Having job listings for internal use is important because it serves as an archive of the roles your company has developed over time. Recruiters can revisit these descriptions and update them as necessary, or completely relabel them in the event of team shifts, role creation, and other changes.
Job listings that are stored internally are less formal than the ones posted online. Hiring managers usually send these listings to the recruiter as a baseline to go off of when recruiters develop the listings. Recruiters then take the listing, pair it with the company-wide content that accompanies every job listing, and publish it on their website or chosen job boards.
External Use — Job listings posted for external viewing are more built out than job listings a company holds onto internally. By this, I mean they encompass everything an applicant would need to know in order to have an exhaustive understanding of the company and role. These listings might go into detail about a few of the job’s finest perks and mention the company culture. Basically, they combine the role itself with the specific company features. It provides context for applicants looking to respond.
Job listings currently are made up of multiple parts. Having looked at so many after completing undergrad, I can walk you through them like a mouse through a maze.
-A brief description of the company culture and the ways this role plays into the company’s mission.
-A description of what the candidate can expect to do on a daily basis.
-Personality traits or strengths an applicant interested in applying should display.
-Requirements in relation to job experience, education, and skills.
-A few points on company culture, perks, or other reasons applicants should want to apply to an organization.
Changes and New Roles
If companies stayed the same, where would we be? Dr. Pepper would still be a small company operating solely in Texas. Disney World might just be Disney city. We wouldn’t know Apple as anything other than fruit on a tree. You get the point; without change, none of these names would matter to us, and my family would not have taken a tense, teacup-filled vacation the summer of 2015.
Companies grow and change and take off into successful corporations that are able to effect change in our society. They’re also able to affect change within. As companies grow, their needs change, and new roles are developed.
Content teams sprout up from the ground to help develop blogs and marketing material. Customer success employees are hired to guarantee customer loyalty and low churn. Human resources departments are built out to ensure the proper treatment of employees, as well as the protection of the company.
In this section, we’ll talk about the effects of change within a company, as well as how to handle it.
Out with the Old
As new jobs come in, old ones can sometimes fall apart. Not in a bad way, but as an evolutionary truth. An employee who was once writing both blogs and reports could discover their strength lies in reports and desire to take on that responsibility full-time.
An agile company with the resources to support this may decide reporting becomes its own thing, while researching and writing for blogs stays in its own lane. In this instance, old job descriptions have to be updated to reflect these new responsibilities. Hiring managers and employees have to help determine which roles keep which responsibilities so the job descriptions can be comprehensive for both.
It’s important to archive these old job descriptions and listings. Employees may approach you wondering what their original job descriptions or listings were. If your recruiting team has deleted these materials, you may have troubles later on.
Additionally, you may want to reference these former job descriptions when creating new ones. What if the reporting position turns out to have a low return on investment and your company wishes to re-combine them, digging up the old role? If you’ve saved these materials, you won’t have to re-create them in the future.
In with the new
New roles aren’t created all willy-nilly. If a boss has approved the creation or addition of a position, it’s because its value has been proven. If the new position isn’t pressing, it’s up to the interested employee to prove the role has a worthwhile return on investment. The person advocating for the creation of this position has to articulate the role’s value through thorough research.
If your CEO has sanctioned the creation of this position, the steps are a little different. Your company stakeholders already understand the value of this role and it’s up to your recruiting team to begin the necessary steps to list the jobs and hire.
Before creating a role or listing for a new position, your company should have a good idea of what salary that person will require and what experience to be looking for. Often, these things go hand in hand. If you plan to pay less, you won’t want someone who has been in the industry for 30 years. If you have a higher budget for salary, shoot for the moon and hire a rockstar!
Even though salary often isn’t revealed to the applicant until the job offer has been made, understanding the salary range is useful for the recruiter. If they’re going to be finding candidates for this position, the recruiter should have a good idea of what person to look for. Do not dilly dally around salaries; converse with your finance and accounting team to understand your boundaries and expectations for who you can hire.
Job listings for roles that have yet to exist can be tricky. This is where the interested party has to do some research and look at recruiting trends. If the CEO of a company is really itching to open up a chief marketing officer role, the CEO might work with the recruiter to help determine what that role looks like.
If a manager has determined that their team, for the first time ever, requires a project management professional, that particular manager would be doing the research to establish those criterion. Essentially, the most interested, affected, or qualified party will work with the recruiter to establish descriptions and listings for new roles.
An integral part of creating a new role is understanding what team that role will be on. How does this new employee fit into the established company? Who will they report to? If they’re a manager themselves, who will report to them? Will they have a team waiting for them to begin leading, or will the team be built out over time?
Beyond the hiring process, your company needs to be ready for them to hit the ground running after contracts have been signed. When it comes to creating new roles, it’s about more than just the job listing. Your company should be ready to support and onboard these new employees despite the lack of precedent.
Building out a company is like building out a family, with the exception of getting to choose the former, and trusting fate for the latter. When you build a company, you obviously want people who can get along in a professional environment.
But beyond that, you want people who inspire each other, regardless of their department or expertise. You want people who can lift each other up, train each other, offer insight and valuable support. These aren’t things you just happen upon, they’re things you work toward.
Properly and accurately naming job descriptions and penning job listings is only one small aspect of bringing together a loving and supportive family. Work will always be work; there’s a reason we clock out every day. But if those eight-plus hours every day could be something more enjoyable for your employees, something that felt a little more like home, wouldn’t you want them to be?
Recruiters are responsible for creating and sustaining this magic over time. They’re the clock-makers who know just exactly which cogs go where. (Sidenote: I know nothing about clocks save the fact that they have cogs. Thank you, Cogsworth.) Making sure recruiters have the appropriate support to carefully develop out your organization is of the utmost importance.
If you’ve ever been in a job interview, and I have a good feeling you have, you know there are multiple moving parts. The recruiter or a member of HR might meet you at the door, casually conversing and then showing you to your interview room.
A lower-level employee might come in and ask about your experience with the things they do on a daily basis. Middle management might come in and see if there’s any natural rapport between you two to help determine if the job will be a good fit. A higher-level manager may come in afterward to ask you higher-level questions and get a more authoritative feel of whether you’re a good fit for the job.
Have you ever thought about what it takes to get all of these people in the same place, on the same page, at the same time?
First, let’s discuss candidates who can’t come in for an in-person interview. The recruiter may have to coordinate times for a video interview. Depending on where that candidate lives, time changes will also come into play. Recruiters have to consider how these time changes will have an affect both parties.
Consider, for example, an international interviewee whose timezone is six hours ahead. In order to keep that interviewee from having to call in while trying to wrangle their toddlers into bed, a recruiter will have to prioritize scheduling their interview during their local morning hours. Oppositely, if a timezone is six hours behind, that interviewee should be interviewed in the morning.
Alright, you get it. Time zones are different and we should plan accordingly. I’m only harping on this so much because I’ve managed to mess up times on the receiving end of interviews on…more than one occasion. I still frequently have to check which time zone Chicago is in. It’s not my strength.
In addition to time zones, you’ll have to consider what software you choose to conduct these long-distance interviews. Running up large phone bills for international phone calls is so very 2007. Businesses these days are conducting interviews with web conferencing or VoIP software. These solutions allow parties to contact one another over an internet connection for a flat monthly rate (sometimes free!) and do not increase charges based on location.
Next concern: what if my receiving party doesn’t have the same type of video or voice conferencing software as our organization? They’ve already thought of that. The point of these tools isn’t always to connect from your software solution to your receiving party’s identical solution around the world. It’s not like Facebook Messenger calling that can only go straight to someone else’s Facebook Messenger app.
These solutions can often call landlines, or they can provide a phone number for your party to call from their mobile in order to connect with the call. These phone numbers do not incur roaming fees, as they’re functioning over internet. While data charges may occur, the typical rates for international calling do not.
Now let’s consider interviews conducted in-person, and on local time. You still have the same pain points as the previous types of interviews mentioned: scheduling out consecutive blocks of time that work for a large number of people.
One way to ease this burden is by having your company use a group calendar. By having everyone’s appointments or blocked off times clearly displayed on a calendar, recruiters are able to find free times or holes in employee schedules without too much back-and-forth.
Granted, a group calendar could be tricky for organizations where employees like to keep their business private. But there are ways for these calendars to only be shared with the recruiting team, as well as ways to make the details of your events private.
Online appointment scheduling (OAS) software is different from a group calendar in that it is a calendar utilized for the purpose of booking interviews or appointments. OAS tools display no events outside of appointments or interviews. For example, your Gmail calendar might display every meeting, event, hangout, or practice you have planned, while an OAS calendar would only display the interviews you have booked.
This is an ideal situation for recruiters and employees. Interviewees can also be sent links to an OAS tool so they can book an interview time that has already been confirmed by your team. This, again, reduces back and forth and allows your recruiter to schedule out interviews most efficiently.
A scheduling tool can also assist with this process. Scheduling tools allow users to create options of available dates and times, and send to other users who can then note whether they are also available at that time. Scheduling tools may take a little more time to use, considering a recruiter has to create the proposed calendar of dates for every prospective interviewee. Their upside is that they maintain the privacy of all involved.
It’s not enough just to get the interviews on the calendar. As conversations are being booked, you should be assured there are enough open rooms to put everybody! Keep in mind that while one sales manager is interviewing a representative, the marketing manager may need a room to interview a specialist. Facility management software includes the capability to book rooms for meetings and other purposes.
Using a digital solution to book meeting rooms ensures no room or interview becomes double-booked. This reduces embarrassment for your organization and keeps the interview process as stress-free as possible for your employees. Interviews are also an opportunity for candidates to decide whether they feel good enough about your company to accept a job offer there. Making them play musical chairs with conference rooms is a bad look and makes it seem like you don’t have your stuff together.
You’d think once the interview is over, a recruiter’s work is too, right? Wrong. Recruiters are then responsible for keeping up with communications with the prospective candidates. Often, companies are interviewing multiple people for one role. Recruiters have to be on standby throughout the entire interview process, waiting to receive feedback that they can then send on to the candidates.
The applicant tracking systems we’ve mentioned in previous conversations will also come in handy here. They help your recruiters know where certain applicants are in the process and if they’ve been notified. Imagine doing all of this the old-fashioned way! What an elongated process it must have been to check schedules and record candidate information by hand.
The final part of the recruiting and interviewing process is choosing a candidate and offering them a job. That sentence sounds easy and breezy, but you know how much effort and build-up it has taken to get to this part!
Candidates are chosen only after thorough evaluation from the interviewers and the hiring manager of the related team. Applicant tracking systems, as we have mentioned earlier, are great resources to compile this interview feedback. You can even customize your solution or buy one specifically with the ability to score candidates numerically. Having a quantifiable scorecard can help you make hiring decisions when candidates are all giving off great impressions.
Hiring managers inform the recruiter of the final decision, and an offer is made. Whereas employment contracts used to be signed in-person, they can now be delivered securely through email and signed by candidates electronically. Once a candidate has been chosen, they are sent a contract through whichever method that organization prefers.
The contract lists the details of the role, as well as salary information and company policy. If a candidate agrees to and is okay with everything the contract states, they send it back signed. Otherwise, they can ask to negotiate contract details. Your recruiter might have answers ready to combat contract negotiations, or perhaps you have a plan in place to hear candidates out and understand their terms. Have these steps in place beforehand so you aren’t scrambling for an answer when your dream candidate is not okay with their proposed salary.
Once your candidate has agreed and sent back the signed contract, your recruiter should let any other candidates know the role has been filled. This step is less popular in organizations that receive a higher volume of applicants, especially early on in the process. However, if you’ve brought a candidate in for an in-person interview, there’s a high expectation that they will be notified of your decision one way or the other. Many consider it unprofessional to “ghost” (ignore or refrain from contacting) seriously considered candidates with little to no explanation.
The hiring process goes differently for everyone, every time. There are certainly occasions where you offer the job, hear back immediately that the candidate would like to accept, and get a start date situated quickly. Other times, a candidate lags, or has even accepted another position in the interim. This causes your hiring team to go back to the other candidates that were considered and either choose from this pool, or start all over.
The hiring process is sensitive and it’s important companies adhere to the timelines they originally committed to. If a candidate hasn’t heard back about a job a week after they thought they would, the company risks losing their interest. Either they’ll find a job somewhere where processes are more smoothed out, or they’ll become frustrated with the lack of respect for their time. Both of these are, again, bad looks that should be avoided to the best of your ability.
After hire, the recruiter’s job is done. Well, until the next day, when the process starts all over again with a different role! Post-hire tasks are usually covered by the HR generalist, which we discussed earlier in this document. HR generalists make sure new hires fill out all the necessary paperwork, from tax documents, to direct deposit information, to stock options, and more. All of this should be done quickly after hire so there are no confusions or errors down the road.
One aspect of hiring that we’d be remiss to not cover is the use of agencies to employ temporary workers. There are certain times of year where work picks up and becomes too much for the usual team to handle. In these cases, it makes sense to hire temporary employees who can come in and take some of the load off of full-time hires.
There are many agencies that can help you become staffed with the right hires no matter the industry or role. If you have a need, they likely have someone on staff willing and able to help out.
Temporary employees are usually tasked with more repetitive projects that require less context and, therefore, less training. The hope is that they can get to work quickly to help the team meet their goals! Temporary employees also have the unique opportunity at an extended interview. Working for an organization under these circumstances allows you to make an impression with a company and its managers on a daily basis. Although a full-time job is never guaranteed out of a temporary one, it’s certainly not uncommon to see it happen.
Recruiting and Hiring are Crucial
I cannot overstate how important of a role recruiting is for your company. It’s not just looking at resumes and picking out the people who seem interesting. Recruiters have to have a keen eye for which applicants seem like a genuinely good fit for the industry, the role, the company, and its particular culture.
If you like your coworkers, you can thank the recruiting team for that. Hiring is much more strategic than it was in my parents’ generation and a well-supported recruiting team has the tools they need to turn an office into a cohesive workspace.
If your company or office environment is frequently tense, perhaps your recruiting team doesn’t have the tools they need to their job effectively and efficiently. A panicked and isolated recruiter may hire candidates in consideration of quantity over quality, leaving you with the potential for sloppy workers who don’t want to be there.
The possibilities with recruiting are endless. There are too many wonderful candidates on the job market or who are actively looking for work to be able to count them all. If you have a well-thought-out strategy and an empowered recruiting team, you’re sure to find the right people for the jobs.
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