It’s an exciting moment in the life of any company when you can open your doors to applicants wanting to join your team.
You write up the job description, list the role on relevant websites, and watch the candidates roll in. But what happens when the majority of those candidates are unqualified? This is happening across companies all around the world — and it’s costing them dearly. Making the wrong hire has been shown to lead to an average company loss of $14,900 (CareerBuilder Report, 2017).
But how, and why, does this costly mistake actually happen?
How the recruitment process leads to unqualified applicants
The problem often begins when the job is posted. When organizations are trying to fill a position, it can be easy for them to not take the necessary time to actually understand the role. Their description becomes vague or poorly written, which just creates a lot of room for misinterpretation. So when résumés start arriving, what first seemed like an exciting opportunity now begins to feel like a never-ending chore.
It takes time to vet candidates properly, and rushed résumé reading can only lead to good candidates getting lost in the pile. Companies in a hurry may unintentionally favor early applicants. But it's these people who may be sending off hundreds of résumés on the off chance of employment, rather than researching and crafting a detailed cover letter. What’s more, 85 percent of employers have caught applicants lying on their résumés or applications — a detail that is often lost in a rushed recruitment process (HireRight 2018 Employment Screening Benchmark Report, 2018).
This is problematic. It either wastes time and interview slots, or it results in poor-quality candidates filling positions they don’t understand or don’t really want — costing the company productivity, money, and even integrity.
To avoid filling your company with the wrong people, here are some simple strategies to slot into your recruitment process that can help you sort the future top performers from the spam résumés.
1. Identify the attributes of your best team members, and screen for specific skills.
One way to make sure you choose the right people for your company culture is to decide on stellar employee qualities and hire for those attributes.
Evaluate the skills of your well-liked, top-performing, and culturally-in-sync people, and look for the common denominators. Use these attributes as checkpoints in the interview process, and don’t let any old sweet-talking CV get through the net.
And don’t be afraid to think outside the box. For example, I once needed to hire underwriters in a tight market, so I looked at the top-performing underwriters in our office and realized that all but one was a former teacher. They all shared characteristics that made them great at both jobs: an attention to detail, a positive response to being under pressure, and an ability to work well with others.
This realization led me to start a teachers as underwriters program. We recruited teachers to work part-time, trained them, and assigned them to an experienced underwriter for mentorship. Our program had a 97 percent success rate, and we no longer had to sift through the résumés of unqualified candidates.
[Related: Candidate Screening Checklist]
2. Rethink referrals.
You may think you need to systemize your recruitment process so that everything is standardized and measurable. But it's important to never underestimate the power of a simple referral. It’s likely that the great people within your organization know other great people. Whenever you're hiring, ask your employees for referrals — these people are more likely to embody your culture than random résumés you pull from an online platform.
You could even incentivize employee referrals by offering bonuses to those who recommend strong matches from their networks. For example, Accenture will match a donation that an employee makes to his favorite charity with a portion of his referral bonus (Source: Recruiterflow blog, 2017).
[Related: How to Recruit Informed Candidates at Scale]
3. Hire in small stages.
Many big hiring mistakes are made because everything hinges on one interview or application. Give yourself a better chance to suss out unqualified applicants and zero in on the best ones by splitting the process into more stages.
Use technology for early screening to reduce travel expenses and to lessen early investments in candidates. Your first interview stage might be a phone call with the hiring manager. Ask a small set of culture-based and role-based questions to see how the candidate relates. If the candidate seems good, use a group video call for the next round so you can get a good sense of how he or she would get along with the team.
4. Never sacrifice integrity.
A careless hiring process isn’t just a short-term hassle — it can have far-reaching consequences for the integrity of your entire organization.
For example, when an insurance company was overwhelmed with work and hurriedly hired five new underwriters to catch up, it didn't realize how much it had compromised the company. None of these people had the desired experience or commitment. As a result, they were approving loans without even looking at the applications and were breaking all kinds of ethical codes and regulatory laws.
At that time, I came in as the new vice president of operations and chose to fire those employees even though it would means months of searching for the right new staff, rebuilding client relationships, and protecting the reputation of the company with regulatory agencies, all problems that should have been avoided.
Your people are the lifeblood, the soul, the expertise, and the culture of your company. Don’t scrimp on your hiring and wind up with unqualified employees. Protect what you’ve built by implementing a few simple strategies to spotlight those candidates who fit your culture seamlessly.
Chris Carosella is the CEO for Beta Gamma Sigma. Beta Gamma Sigma is the premier international business honor society recognizing the academic achievements of the top 10 percent of students at the top 5 percent of AACSB-accredited business schools. With experience across multiple industries as a corporate senior executive, entrepreneur, and nonprofit CEO, Chris has benefited a variety of businesses and organizations throughout every stage of growth.