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Dec 1, 2020
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

If you’ve been in recruiting for any length of time, you’ve dealt with that one hiring manager. You know the one. The one who is never satisfied, who wants to see just a few more candidates before making the final decision but asks you to keep all the other candidates “warm.” The one who is looking for that perfect candidate, that diamond in the rough, who can hit the ground running. The one that doesn’t exist.

Such hiring managers think that this person is out there just waiting for this opportunity. But we know the truth: The perfect candidate doesn’t exist. And in a recession, when we have more candidates than spots, these hiring managers seem to have more fodder to keep that requisition open just a little bit longer. So it’s on you, the talent acquisition professional, to reign them back in — because we all know that just because you have more choices doesn’t mean the right person is even looking.

This coming Thursday, Dec. 3, at 2 p.m. ET, I’ll be talking in greater depth in a webinar about how we can build a better candidate experience when we have a high volume of applicants. During It’s Raining Candidates! Hallelujah? Creating a Hiring Strategy When Candidate Supply Is High, I’ll be diving into how we can screen better, fast-track quality candidates, support inclusive hiring strategies, ensure better candidate and hiring manager experiences, and leverage data to make better decisions. 

Ultimately, it all comes down to transparency.

The Job Hunt Is Often a Game Without Winners

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 6.7 million jobs open in the United States, and there are 12.6 million people receiving unemployment benefits. (I’m not going to get into the lie of the unemployment rate. We know there are more people who are un- or under-employed than the 7.9% unemployment rate would lead us to believe.) The only thing that more people in the talent pipeline does is add more hay, making it even harder to find that needle. 

We’ve also made the job hunt a game, which means people are applying for jobs they aren’t really interested in or qualified for. They’re applying for anything and everything that seems somewhat interesting, that might be in their pay range. Which leads us to talk about the skills gap. Except, we aren’t all that willing to bring people’s skills up to date or help re-skill potential employees. Meanwhile, we also complain about candidates who are overqualified for roles.

But we can help ourselves and candidates by doing one thing — being more transparent.

We need to be clear about the job requirements, the job posting, the pay, the application, and the overall process. I believe that if we are clear about these five areas from the very beginning, we’ll be able to give each and every visitor to our careers webpage a great experience without overwhelming recruiters with candidates. Jobseekers will know exactly what we are looking for and will self-select out if they aren’t interested. No going through a long selection process first! Here’s how to make this happen:

The Job Requirements

The status quo: Katrina Kibben recently wrote about this, and she is so on the money. We focus our job requirements on years of experience and education (which aren’t based on any data I’ve ever seen) and floofy words like “quality,” “high-level,” or “advanced” without any other clarifying words to help candidates understand what we mean. Hiring managers might know what they mean when they first say such words, but we don’t always follow up to understand their definition of “quality” and make sure it’s the same as recruiters’. And how exactly should we be measuring “advanced” skills?

Instead: Let’s refocus our job requirements on the actual knowledge, skills, and abilities the job actually needs and let the candidate know how we are measuring them.

The Job Duties

The status quo: Way too many of us simply post the job description and think that legalese is easily transferable to a job ad. We think we have to do this. We might even add a generic culture statement. Or we might go overboard and get completely corny in our job ad, which is more likely to turn candidates off than on.

Instead: Give candidates a true job preview — photos, videos, a podcast — to help them understand the job, Let them see the good and the bad before they even hit the “apply” button. Work with marketing to create a seamless brand across all areas of the company. 

The Salary

The status quo: Let’s stop rewarding the best negotiator, OK? I’m not sure why we expect everyone, right down to the applicants for the night shift custodial staff, to be excellent negotiators to the point that we have to keep our salary information secret. And definitely stop penalizing people who ask about salary “too soon” in the process.

Instead: Share a realistic pay range in your posting. We don’t have to share the full range, just where we expect to have someone fall for the role we’re looking to fill. Additionally, let’s train our hiring managers to understand our compensation philosophy. (If you don’t have one, develop one.)

The Application

The status quo: The No. 1 complaint in my non-scientific poll of things we hate about applicant tracking systems is uploading a resume only to be asked to fill out a traditional application, as well. 

Instead: Let’s make our application as easy to complete as possible. Think about the information we are asking for in the application and determine if we really need it at this stage. And no, references and Social Security numbers aren’t needed right now. The less we ask for, the more likely candidates will complete the application.

The Process

The status quo: This is definitely the best-kept secret at every organization. Very few people understand the hiring process, why it is the way it is, or how long it should actually take. There’s also confusion over who is responsible for which parts of the process, which leads to candidates falling through the cracks or feeling ghosted.

Instead: Let’s be completely upfront with our process. Let’s share it online! Provide regular email updates, even if there isn’t an update. Hold hiring managers accountable to screening expectations and don’t let them sit on candidates. Let’s not allow them to put “maybe” on a candidate. Train recruiters and hiring managers to review resumes and applications for skills and not just years of experience and education.

We’ve been playing this recruitment game for a long time and there are people out there making a living helping candidates to game the system. Recruitment should not be a numbers game. Recruitment should be about finding someone who can do the job, or who can be trained to do the job, and add something more to our organization. 

If we want to continue to grow, we have to evolve our talent acquisition thought process. We’ve got to be open to sharing information about our jobs, our organizations. If we are transparent, we won’t be overwhelmed with candidates. We’ll have the right ones.

Register here for It’s Raining Candidates! Hallelujah? Creating a Hiring Strategy When Candidate Supply Is High.

This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.
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