Forced Change and The Status Quo

In the first half of 2020, how many times have you been forced to rethink how and why you do something as a leader? Technology has extended the reach of many creative ideas to improve collaboration, workflows, and be more productive as a team. Yet in hiring, one thing still hasn’t changed in decades – screening applicants.  Surprisingly, HR leaders are slow to let online screening assessments do the heavy lifting.

It’s a familiar story. HR leaders, recruiters, and hiring managers still bemoan – and tolerate – the wasted time, money, and productive energy of manually screening applicants. Most have online application systems to automate and standardize how they gather resume data while some still ask for a resume by email. In either case, too many employers skim applicants one by one – hour after painful hour – and often settle for average hit and miss results. You wouldn’t tolerate average results with employees, why accept it in hiring? If you want better interviews, stop manually screening applicants.

We’ve Always Done It This Way

Painful Past – For decades the go-to questions have been, “What do you know, how well can you do the job, and how long have you done this?” For straight-forward task related jobs, this seemed like enough.  If an employer needed to know more about the person, they added “who do you know?” hoping for a clue on actual performance and personality. The US Department of Labor reports experience is required in about half of all jobs. The potential employer still has to decide if that experience is useful. This approach breaks down quickly when faced with hundreds or thousands of applications. However, since many of us were hired this way it must be OK, right?

These resume and reference strategies are often hit-and-miss, causing employers to adopt a “hire fast, fire faster” mantra hoping to reduce the damage a bad hire can cause.  Even HR teams who add knowledge, skills, and abilities to screening are only slightly better. Even with added information, it is still unclear what makes each person unique. Paul McDonald, Senior Director for Robert Half states,

A bad hire signals that your hiring process may be flawed. It could be that you are not putting sufficient weight on soft skills or are overemphasizing qualities that aren’t crucial to the role.

If your screening is neither effective nor efficient, you’re wasting time with people who are better suited for other jobs, and missing the ones being hired by other employers.

Happier Future – What both approaches miss is the stress and strain these accepted strategies have on leaders, the hiring team, and co-workers.  Even worse, the new hires are back to looking for a job again, demoralized from a bad experience. To move beyond the resume:

        • Ask questions about an applicant’s talent beyond the resume early in the hiring process.
        • Screening questions about talent lets applicants know you value people while giving you data on how their talent fits your needs.
        • Confirm your applicants have the tools AND the talent to be a great employee.

Experience, Skill… and Luck

Painful Past – Reading through a list of resumes for potential talent can feel like a spin of the roulette wheel. It’s still a hunt and hope gamble based on reported experience and skill. That self-described experience is inaccurate 49% of the time according to Resumes give context, but how much can you trust them?

To increase the odds, maybe you check reference letters looking for a vote of confidence – or a warning flag.  References can be helpful but written references can become “fan mail” without a phone call. When talking with references, do you expect the same things of employees? What are they not telling you?

Resume skimming software was a way technology improved the process of finding relevant information and sorting applicants by experience and skill. Applicants caught on and started using resume templates. If you jumped on that bandwagon, you were still stuck with manually screening applicants on very similar experiences and skills. In either case, relying on resumes and references still leaves everyone hoping their next interview is the lucky one.

Happier Future –Deciding which applicants to approve for a full interview too often feels like an educated guess. To improve your candidate pool:

        • Use a clear description of a top performer to help screen for talent.
        • Ask a set of focused situational questions at the application and phone screen level to know if a person is worth pursuing.
        • If an applicant doesn’t match your top performers at this point, let them pursue another job while you focus on candidates with a better chance of success.

That Gut Feeling

Painful Past – The best recruiters and hiring managers confirm an applicant’s knowledge, skills, and abilities. This step may involve a resume checklist and even a phone screening conversation narrowing down the list. Even the most process-driven screening faces a problem at this point. Too often, the decision to invest valuable interview time is still a gut feeling.

Without some kind of talent-based assessment, we’re usually guessing if the person recognizes the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors important to your team. Unless you consider both knowledge and work style, it’s hard to make the best hiring decision every time. It’s easy to remember the times your instincts were right, while ignoring all times you missed.

Happier Future – It’s vitally important to know a candidate can step in and perform their duties well immediately. And yet we often hire people for what they know and fire them for who they are. To sharpen your instincts:

        • Take the guesswork out of sorting applicants by adding online talent screening to your workflow.
        • Don’t wait until a new employee is on the job to know if they will add, subtract, or divide your team. Screen for talent up front!
        • Seek relevant, comparable data.

A Happier Side of Screening

Screening applicants doesn’t have to be a gamble. HR leaders can easily reduce stress and wasted time of manual screening by getting to know applicants who recognize qualities you value. Using online screening assessments as part of your workflow brings clarity and consistency to your hiring team while stretching your recruiting time and budget. To create a happier HR future:

        • Ask questions about an applicant’s talent beyond the resume early in the hiring process. Know if you should pursue or pass.
        • Compare applicant responses with the way talented top performers think and act.
        • Use an online talent screening assessment so your gut instincts have some relevant, comparable data to make better hiring decisions.

If this article describes you, it’s time to take a hard look at your past practice and pivot to a happier side of HR.