Many Employees Don’t Believe They’d Survive Their Employer’s Current Hiring Process

We’ve all read the numbers about the current state of hiring shortages. And while most of the discussion has focused on important macro issues like unemployment benefits, working conditions, and what constitutes a living wage, there’s one issue that has gone largely undiscussed. In many companies, the criteria used to weed out applicants are irrelevant or unnecessarily strict.

In a new Leadership IQ study called “The Worker Shortage Is Partially Self-Inflicted,” we discovered that only 39% of employees think they would definitely make it through the hiring process if they applied for current job openings at their organization. 

We asked people, “If you changed your name on your resume and applied for your current job, do you think you would make it through your company’s screening process?” In an ideal world, the vast majority of people whom you currently employ would make it through your screening process. (If you wouldn’t rehire the vast majority of your current workers, then you’ve got a major problem with your performance management processes).

What this study revealed was that around a quarter of employees believed they would only stand a 50/50 chance of making it through the selection process. And 16% said they would definitely not successfully navigate the process.

If your current people don’t believe they could make it through your hiring processes, this may indicate that current employees don’t fully understand what it takes to get hired at your company. That, of course, is going to greatly reduce the extent to which they’ll recommend that their friends apply there. It also implies that the criteria developed by the HR or recruiting team are disconnected from the operational realities of the jobs for which they’re hiring. Any employee should be able to read the open positions at your organization and see a clear linkage between daily realities and the position description.

If you’re serious about tackling staffing shortages at your organization, you need to replicate the concept in our study but take it even further. What I’m going to suggest is not for the faint-of-heart, and it will need to be top-secret, but there is no more robust way to test your hiring processes. In essence, you’re going to conduct a secret-shopper program for your hiring processes.

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First, identify about a half-dozen of your best employees who fall within the job roles you’re most struggling to hire. Perhaps you’re short of nurses or programmers or engineers or waitstaff; just pick the role with the most openings and then select your best current employees in that role.  

Second, take their resumes, update where necessary, and change their names. As you can imagine, these are applicants that you’re going to put through the selection process. Depending on your applicant tracking system or hiring process, you may need to generate some free email addresses. You undoubtedly know the ins and outs of your particular system, so take whatever steps are necessary to get those applicants into the system.

And then third, submit their applications. You’ll want to track how far they progress through your screening process, how long it takes, and the types and frequency of communication. Unless you work for a mammoth organization, you won’t be able to get candidates all the way through the hiring process because they’ll get found out. But you will be able to assess to what extent your current high performers can even get their foot in the door.

Ultimately, as much as companies talk about creating a candidate-centric hiring process, most have never actually subjected their own people to the process to test its effectiveness. But if you’re serious about solving your staffing shortages, problems in the hiring process represent a significant opportunity.

Mark Murphy is the CEO of Leadership IQ and a New York Times bestselling author. His books include Hiring For Attitude, Hundred Percenters, HARD Goals, and Managing Narcissists, Blamers, Dramatics and More. Mark’s groundbreaking leadership studies have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and U.S. News & World Report. Mark has also appeared on CNN, NPR, CBS News Sunday Morning, and ABC’s 20/20. He’s trained leaders at the United Nations, Harvard Business School, Microsoft, Mastercard, and hundreds more.

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