Monday Mornings with Madison

STAFFING UP: PART 3

SCREENING APPLICANTS WITH A PAPER INTERVIEW

For the last few weeks, we examined whether the timing is right for companies to start hiring again.  As some sectors see business pick up, companies in those industries are able, once again, to add staff after years of hiring freezes. Once the decision to hire is made, the next step is to formulate a solid job description of the ‘right candidate’ including not only the technical skills and work experience required for the job but also the personality type, soft skills and innate abilities that best fit the company. With a clear and precise picture in mind, it is easier to determine the best candidates from a pool of applicants. 

Sorting the candidates from the pool of applicants is, in fact, the next step in the hiring process.  With the unemployment rate hovering nationally at 9 ½%, there are sure to be many applicants for most openings today.  But 200 applicants does not equal 200 candidates.  Many people will apply for any and all job openings they see.  Of those, few may be sufficiently qualified to be deemed candidates. Identifying which are the worthy candidates from a pool of applicants is like finding needles in a haystack. .

There are three opportunities for employers to sort the wheat from the chaff and zero in on the best candidates for a position:  the paper interview, the phone interview and the in-person interview. 

Most applicants don’t realize that when they submit an application, cover letter or resume, they are basically doing a paper interview.  Through their written submission, the employer meets each applicant for the first time.  Thanks to email and online job boards, employers often don’t even see applicants.  Interest in the opening is transmitted electronically.  The paper interview is a one-sided communication where the applicant does all the talking and the employer learns only what is presented in writing.  From that information, the employer must decide if the applicant is sufficiently qualified to be considered for the job.

The first step in the paper interview is to compare each application, cover letter, resume or other information to the job description.  The goal is able to eliminate anyone who is obviously not qualified.  With so much available talent, employers can afford to be selective.  To minimize the cost of training new employees, it behooves employers to identify candidates who will require the least amount of skills training.  The task of eliminating clearly unqualified applicants should be done as quickly as possible. 

If the task can be done by a Human Resource or department manager, even better.  To make it easy to delegate the task of screening paper interviews to someone else, simply create a job rubric for the opening.  Rubrics are used to assign a score for how well each applicant meets the job requirements.  For example, if the job description states that the right candidate will have:

JOB REQUIREMENTS Excellent
10 pts
Good
8 pts
Satisfactory
7 pts
Minimum
6 pts
Unmet
0 pts
Bachelors degree in Accounting, finance or related field          
Strong written communication skills          
At least 3 years experience in accounting or finance          
Comprehensive knowledge of both Microsoft Excel and Word          
Ability to travel for work 20% of time          

*  Sample rubric for a job opening.

Using a rubric such as this, all applicants would be scored using only the information in their paper interview.  For instance, if a candidate’s resume indicated he had a Bachelors degree in Accounting, she would receive the full 10 points.  But if another candidate had a Bachelors degree in business administration, he might receive 8 points.  Still another candidate with only an Associates degree in Accounting but was nearly finished with his Bachelors degree might receive 7 points. A candidate with only an Associates degree in finance might earn only 6 points. Finally, a person with no degree at all would receive no points.  By using the rubric, the process would be quick and objective. 

Depending on the applicant to position ratio, the goal would be to eliminate applicants and reduce to a manageable number how many applicants would go to the next round of interviews.  For example, if there were 200 applicants for 1 opening, the goal would be to reduce the number of applicants to 10-12.  If there were 3 openings, then the number of applicants to move on to the next step in the hiring process might increase to 20.  Those with the highest scores would continue to the next step in the hiring process:  namely, the phone interview.

Tune in next week as we review the steps for conducting effective phone interviews.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Time spent on hiring is time well spent.” Robert Half

© 2010 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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