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Give Your Hiring Process a Check-Up

By Mary Lloyd

As we come out of the swamp of this recession, it's time to take a look at what hiring processes have become in the last few years. All those slick automated procedures that helped deal with the massive volume of applications may not be what you need as hiring picks up.

The last few years have been unique for those doing any hiring. So many candidates apply for every opening that the work required just to deal with that volume has changed the process entirely for most businesses. Online applications and sorting by keywords are here to stay, but are they all you need to find the right employee to do the job? As the economy improves and your need to find qualified candidates returns to normal levels, it's wise to assess whether what you have in place now is what you need going forward.

The everyday version of a selection process review may not be enough, either. Yes, you still need to be sure that the qualifications you give to those responsible for finding candidates match what's actually needed to do the job. Yes, you still need to be sure that you're publicizing your openings widely enough that protected classes are aware of the opportunities. But there's more to it than that.

Consider the following as well:

Has your process become "keyword centric"?
Creating keywords to use in the automated sort is critical to dealing with the volume of applications these days. But have you oversimplified your job qualifications so they can be used as keywords? Candidates are advised to respond in terms of those words as well. In a recent survey reported in the January 2012 issue of Talent Management, 58% of the businesses who responded admitted they are already struggling to fill many high-skill and technical positions. Perhaps that's because we're trying to make the hiring parameters we advertise too simple.

Are you using obsolete assumptions about how this particular work can be done?
You may already know the right person for the job and that person may be willing to do it-if it weren't an all day every day commitment. In a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report, over half of employers contacted said they planned to hire more temporary and part time employees in the future. This is not just to deal with the unpredictability of labor needs. Highly skilled workers have discovered the flexibility that comes choosing to be part of the contingent labor pool. Does your selection process take that into account?

Are you relying on "overqualified" as a preliminary sorting dimension?
This is just plain too stupid to do. You may was well be sorting on eye color. The reasons for solid, strong talent to want a less demanding job are plentiful. If you don't hire that person, your competition might. Count the extra skills and experience as the bonus they are.

Are you relying exclusively on the virtual network?
Working the job boards and posting all your openings online is only part of what you need to be doing to be "where the talent is." Relying on the internet--or on staffing outfits that rely only on the internet--is going to put you at a disadvantage as hiring heats up. The high volume of applications will continue, but the best candidates will be talking to those who recognize the need to actually be looking for talent…at association meetings, trade shows, guild meetings, and even a cousin's bar mitzvah. Noticing potential high performers before they're needed has always been a hallmark of superstar managers. Are you doing that?

Are you looking for just the skills instead of the complete right fit?
How the person fits in your company culture and business environment is just as important as whether he or she already knows how to do the specific tasks of the job. It's much easier to teach a bright, enthusiastic new employee how to use your specific widget-testing device than to teach an experienced widget tester how to be an effective part of a team. Such "yes/no" qualifications are easier to translate into job search dimensions and keyword clusters, but that doesn't mean they're what you really need.

Are you STILL insisting on younger workers?
If your hiring process is biased against older workers, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Older workers have better work habits, fewer accidents, and are more loyal. They are better at anticipating problems and solving them. Ruling them out on age makes as much sense as deciding not to hire left-handed people.

Now is the time to look at these things. You can't do it any sooner. Regardless of the economy, when it's time for you to hire, they can make a big difference in the quality of the talent you bring on board.