Promising resumes often don't equal promising hires

With unemployment at record lows, it’s harder than ever to find and hire the right candidates, but there are ways to ensure success.

What you read isn’t always what you get when it comes to hiring. According to new research by staffing firm Robert Half, 64% of managers said it’s common for a candidate with a promising resume not to live up to expectations when interviewed, which can lead to delays to the hiring process.

New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also shows job openings increased to 6.3 million in January, a record high. While this is a great sign for job seekers, it can create challenges for employers. It may be harder to find skilled candidates, and if employers take too long to make an offer they risk losing the candidate as they’re likely fielding multiple job offers.

The latest jobs report from the BLS only reinforces these findings:

  • Employers added 103,000 jobs in March;
  • The national unemployment rate remains at 4.1% (a 17-year low) for the sixth month in a row; and
  • Professional and business services added 33,000 jobs.

“Just because a candidate seems to be good on paper doesn’t mean they will naturally excel in the role, or fit in with your organization’s corporate culture,” says Jim Jeffers, metro market manager of Robert Half in Madison. “According to our research, 64% of senior managers say it’s common for a candidate with a promising resume to not live up to expectations when interviewed. With Wisconsin’s unemployment rate at an all-time low of 2.9%, it’s becoming more challenging than ever for employers to identify and secure top talent.”

During the interview process, Jeffers says hiring managers need to assess cultural fit and find ways to evaluate whether a candidate has the technical ability to do the job. For example, adding behavioral interview questions can go a long way in providing the hiring manager with insight on how a candidate will react in certain situations. Another tactic to determine fitness for the job is to test a candidate’s technical skills with exercises that reflect the nature of the work.

Overall, hiring managers spend 13 hours — or roughly a third of the workweek — assessing each hire, notes Jeffers. On average, managers review 40 resumes per job opening and spend 12 minutes looking at each one. In the interview phase, managers interview an average of seven people per open position, and those meetings take an average of 41 minutes each.

“Managers conduct interviews for a variety of reasons,” explains Jeffers, “from verifying relevant experience (61%) and assessing soft skills and corporate culture (21%) to assessing technical skills (18%). But even after managers spend ample time on the hiring process, sometimes new hires don’t work out. Common reasons are a lack of soft skills or technical ability.”

Risky business: The current hiring environment

According to Jeffers, many companies take too long to start their search. “They extend hiring timelines and postpone decisions. They wait to see if a resume from the perfect candidate appears — one who may not exist. They get overwhelmed with time it takes to sift through resumes. They take big risks in losing candidates to other offers when they don’t quickly extend an offer to a promising candidate.”

Besides time, companies face a variety of other risks that are exacerbated by today’s hiring environment:

  • Counteroffers — The risk of losing your next great hire to a counteroffer is more prevalent than ever; it’s not a matter of if there’s a counter, but when. Firms that don’t manage the risk from the outset of the hiring process will lose time and prospects.
  • Compliance — The hiring process must follow specific steps to be in line with legal and compliance requirements. The biggest risk is what you don’t know. It can cost your firm in multiple ways.
  • Vacancy — The longer a role is vacant, the larger the risks. If a position is open a long time, then morale goes down. Work not getting done could mean less revenue, which impacts the bottom line twice —first from work not getting done, and again from turnover.
  • Wrong decision — Making the wrong hire costs time, training, lost productivity, lost business, morale, and additional turnover. Firms need to evaluate if the hire will stick.

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Ways managers can simplify the hiring process — and find the right fit

Hiring can be time consuming, but one of the ways managers can increase their chances of finding the right person for the job is to write a descriptive, fine-tuned job description, states Jeffers. This will help narrow down the types of applicants you receive for the job opening. Employers can help ensure a new hire works out by:

  • Offering a clear explanation of a new hire’s role and what’s expected. This can help ensure long-term success; and
  • Putting effort into onboarding new employees can set them up for success in the long-term. Some examples include helping the new employee feel welcome on their first day/week on the job, providing a clear explanation of the company’s objectives and mission, mapping out a plan of what success looks like in the role, scheduling regular check-ins to make sure the employee is meeting expectations, and being available to answer questions.

Robert Half recommends the following six tips to head off hiring headaches:

  1. Juice up the job description — Generating interest from highly qualified job candidates is often one of the most difficult aspects of the hiring process for a business. So when a position opens up, take the time to write a job description that’s both detailed and compelling. While you don’t want your job posting to be excessively long or so specific that it deters qualified candidates from applying, you do want to include enough information to attract job seekers who are well suited for the position. If it’s a new role, carefully consider the tasks you want the employee to take on short term and long term and the levels of education and experience your ideal candidate should possess. If you’re filling a vacated role, take the opportunity to evaluate whether you want to make changes to the position. Chances are you’ll want to add or shift some responsibilities.
  2. Cast a wide net — When you’re ready to start recruiting candidates, cast your net deep and wide. Of course, you want to post the opening on your website and on job boards that cater to your company’s industry or the creative field, and you should also share the job ad on your company’s social media accounts. However, don’t forget about the power of in-person networking to spread the news of your open position, whether you’re attending a casual lunch, professional event, or industry conference.
  3. Don’t shortchange the resume review — Evaluating resumes can be tedious and time consuming, but as the hiring manager, you’re best able to decide if a candidate’s qualifications fit the bill. Look for resumes with key words and phrases that match the job description. This shows that the candidate is focused on details and has experience that aligns with the job duties. Also, keep an eye out for resumes that highlight both technical and soft skills and that include concrete ways the job seeker added value and helped meet company goals in previous roles.
  4. Conduct consistent interviews — During each interview, pay attention to whether the candidate is well prepared by testing their knowledge of your company and industry. Again, zero in on both technical know-how and interpersonal abilities. Your job is to not only find the most qualified person, but also build a well-functioning and cohesive creative team. While your conversations will naturally take different courses, be sure to ask all candidates the same questions to keep the playing field level. And don’t forget to sell yourself and your company. After all, interviews are a two-way street.
  5. Determine the right salary range — Offering an attractive salary package is a must given the competition to attract talent today. According to a survey by The Creative Group, a majority of hiring managers polled (57%) say they are willing to negotiate salary with top candidates.
  6. Act fast when you find the right candidate — According to the aforementioned survey, it takes five weeks, on average, to fill an open staff-level position, and filling an open management-level role takes an average of seven weeks. So once you’ve identified your top candidate, extend an offer quickly. Candidates with strong portfolios and the right mix of skills frequently have multiple opportunities from which to choose. Expect the candidate to take a day or two to consider your offer, and plan for some back-and-forth negotiating. Finally, make it clear the job offer is contingent upon any reference or background checks you need to complete.

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