By Stephanie Hammerwold
Applying for a job can start to feel like a full-time job itself. Searching online is time consuming, and once a job seeker finds something they are interested in, there is often a long application process. While it is important to get enough information from a candidate to ensure that a good hiring decision can be made, often companies ask for unnecessary information, which results in tedious application processes that can scare good candidates away.
Long & Detailed Application Process
Several years ago, a friend and former coworker of mine was looking to relocate out of state and was applying for jobs prior to her move. After spending a couple hours on the application, she heard back from a company that sounded like a good fit, but they sent her several links to a long online personality profile as well as some skills tests. Once my friend was confronted with the several hours it would take to complete all the tests, she decided to give up on that company and to look for jobs elsewhere. As a result, the company lost out on someone who would have been a great employee.
A common best practice in HR is to have a job seeker fill out an application even if submitting a resume. The job seeker then signs the application stating that all the information is true. The application serves two purposes: it is a signed statement from the applicant about the veracity of their work history and it also gives the recruiter and hiring manager all relevant information in an easy-to-read format. The problem with this approach is that we often ask far more than we need to know in the initial application.
Prior to embarking on my HR consulting career, I did quite a bit of hiring in both grocery and warehouse/manufacturing industries, both of which constantly had job openings. As such, I developed expert screening skills to sort through a large volume of applications. What I started to realize over time was that the application asked for far more information than I needed to do my initial screening. If this sounds like you, do a review of your job application.
In an initial screening, I am most interested in work history and if the person’s experience shows that they have the skills required to do the job, which means that the first thing I scan is the job history section. Many applications include a variety of screening questions that require paragraph-long responses. I often breezed right past those and did not bother to read them unless the applicant’s work history piqued my interest. Instead of asking for detailed information from all applicants, consider a shorter pre-application that gives you just the information you need to determine if someone would be worth pursing. If they are, send them a more detailed application where you can ask screening questions and for more information about their experience.
When it comes to pre-employment tests, evaluate whether the information from the test really helps in determining if someone would be a good hire. As in my earlier example, hours of tests coupled with a long application could scare good candidates away.
I remember interviewing at one company where I went back four separate times for interviews, only to not get the job in the end. The process involved a mix of a group interview, panel interviews and one-on-one interviews. It was tedious and required me to have a flexible schedule to fit in all those return trips to the company. On top of that, I found myself answering the same questions over and over again.
Making the decision to hire someone is hard, so often companies go to great lengths to have plenty of people meet the candidate. In reality, a lengthy interview process could result in losing candidates who end up taking a job elsewhere while they wait for yet another interview with your company.
To edit your interview process, start by looking at the list of people involved in interviews. I was once hiring for for an entry-level produce staff position in a grocery store. Interviews included the hiring manager, produce director, store manager, director of operations and me representing HR. When I looked at the candidate who was visibly shaking due to nerves as he stared at the five people across the table from him, it was clear to me that we had too many people in the interview room. For higher level positions, it is important to include more people in the process, but entry-level positions rarely warrant that kind of interviewing. When it comes to such hiring decisions, trust your managers to make good choices for their team. In the case of the produce position, it would have been sufficient to simply have the hiring manager and HR involved.
When you are hiring for a position that requires a number of interviewers, set up panel interviews whenever possible. This reduces the chance that the candidate will keep answering the same set of questions over and over again. It also cuts down on the amount of time a candidate must spend in the interview process.
While we are on the topic of interviews, take the time to review the questions you ask. While it may give you insight into a candidate’s critical thinking skills to ask why manhole covers are round, such questions can become unnecessary when asked of a retail worker. Do your questions give you the information you need to see if the candidate is a good fit for the particular job? If not, cross the questions off your list. Avoid questions that are not relevant to the job.
Failing to Follow Up
So, imagine that you have put someone through a long and tedious interview process and at the end of it, they hear nothing from you for weeks. Aside from the risk of losing a good candidate to another company, this also shows a lack of respect for the time the candidate has already put into the hiring process.
Let a candidate know during the interviews how long you expect the whole process to take. Even if remaining interviews, reference checks and such are delaying the process, take the time to write an email or make a phone call to keep the candidate updated. If a candidate really wants to work for you, they will be more inclined to wait and push away other offers if they know there is still a possibility they will be hired at your company.