Treat Job Applicants Like Customers - Because They Are!

by Richard D. Galbreath,

SPHR (877)739-4747

Winter 2006


When the economy was slower, candidates competing for limited job openings routinely waited months for job offers. Often, there was little or no communication from the employer between resume receipt, interview and offer. Candidates were expected to wait patiently. It was a buyer's market. Little thought was given to how the candidate might react to this unprofessional approach.

There are two reasons why this will no longer work today. The first is by 2010, we will be millions of people short of having enough employees to fill available jobs. We are entering a raging seller's market for labor. Employers who fail to shorten and improve their hiring processes will lose scarce candidates. Candidates will no longer wait patiently or accept thoughtless treatment from prospective employers.

The second reason is that candidates who feel that they have been treated irrespectively wield considerable marketing clout today. A company's poor hiring practices can easily result in negative public relations. The candidate not placed tells colleagues, friends and family about the experience. The Internet is filled with complaints about a lack of professionalism. All this has the potential to negatively impact sales. In a highly competitive global economy, every customer is meaningful.

There are a number of simple things that can be done to improve hiring processes.

Know What is Wanted

Job requirements are often the product of a few minutes of casual conversation rather than a focused process to identify the factors that will lead to successful performance. Requirements like "good work history," "good office skills," and "good people skills" are open to very wide interpretation. Because of this, good candidates are overlooked, bad candidates are hired and the process yields few successes.

Start by clearly thinking through the work that must be done. Understand the specific factors that led previous incumbents to succeed. Develop specific qualifications and, if possible, measurable requirements. Share these guidelines with everyone involved in the selection process.

Advertise for What is Wanted

Whether placing print, radio, television or internet advertisements, ask for exactly what is wanted. Ads that ask for "hardworking people" may bring in more resumes, but not the right ones. This lack of specificity also encourages those who are "mentally qualified"-those who think they have what it takes-to apply. Again, this causes unnecessary work and inconvenience for everyone.

Interview Properly

A candidate who has five interviews in the same day has the same interview five times. Candidates quickly tire of telling their life stories and being asked the same inane questions. Without committing to doing good interviews, flipping a coin to make employment decisions is a better choice.

Anyone who conducts interviews should attend appropriate training to ensure that he or she has the skills necessary to legally and effectively select employees.

Additionally, develop clearly defined requirements for hiring processes. What is the target date that the position will be filled? What steps will be taken to ensure the flow of needed information to candidates? A coordinated, organization-wide approach to interviewing will help deliver much better results in less time.

Select Quickly

Make recruiting, interviewing, reference checking and job offers high-priority activities. Don't let anything interfere with the ability to secure good candidates. As the economy picks up, good candidates will have many opportunities from which to choose.

Show Them They Matter - Especially if They Aren't Hired

It is fairly easy to make the person being hired feel good about the outcome of the process. It is harder, but equally important, to make those not selected appreciate the quality of the process. Each candidate is a potential customer and influences many others.

By knowing what you are looking for and advertising appropriately, limits the number of candidates who will apply. A personal phone call or hand written note thanking them for their interest enhances the company's professional reputation at a very minimal cost.

Good selection processes will help attract the best candidates, improve the company's reputation, reduce the number of bad hiring decisions, and the flood of problems that accompany them.

Richard Galbreath, SPHR, is president of Performance Growth Partners Inc., a full service organizational improvement firm. Contact Rick toll-free at (877) 739-4747 or e-mail him. © 2005 Performance Growth Partners Inc.