Look Behind the Curtain: Demystifying HR’s Recruiting Process

From the time an IT manager identifies a hiring need until a new employee moves into their cubicle, an arduous process takes place in corporate HR departments. Although each company puts its own twist on hiring, understanding the basic steps can help you stay the course – and land an offer.

Blue CurtainStage One: Sourcing

It starts when recruiters tap the ideal sources to identify potential candidates. They use demographic data to evaluate each source’s candidate pool and plot the best ways to mine its talent. When it’s difficult to find the tech professionals they want, corporate recruiters post openings on the Web, search job board databases, engage outside recruiters and pluck potential candidates from social networking sites. When the supply is plentiful, referrals
or applicants from the company website may yield an adequate selection of candidates.

According to a 2009 survey among 41 large employers by consulting firm CareerXroads, referred candidates accounted for 26.7 percent of all new hires. Company websites represented 22.3 percent, job boards 13.2 percent, and direct sourcing contributed 6.9 percent.

A company’s location and brand can magnify challenges and influence a recruiter’s sourcing methodology. For example, finding experienced SAP professionals among Sandpoint,
Idaho’s, population of 7,500 is practically impossible. So Clay Reed, HR manager and business partner with the women’s clothing firm Coldwater Creek, searches the Dice database for relocatable talent. Then he calls candidates to sell them on the company and
the town.

“I pull fresh resumes,” says Reed. “Because when a resume’s been posted for more than 90 days, chances are the candidate has already found a job or isn’t anxious to make a move.”

Though some companies consider current employees before publically posting openings, most concurrently evaluate internal and external talent. CareerXroads says 60 percent of exempt positions were filled by internal candidates in 2009. To assess your chances of receiving an offer, ask the recruiter if internal candidates are being considered and whether they receive preferential treatment.

Stages Two and Three: Screening and Selection

Recruiters select resumes by searching databases using keywords from the job description, and frequently hasten the process by using an applicant tracking system (ATS) to filter resumes and rank candidates.

Next, they quickly screen for mandatory requirements, such as technical skills and education, using cover letters as a tie-breaker. A concise resume replete with keywords and strategically-placed information is the best way to grab a recruiter’s attention.

“I expect to find a generic resume when I pull acandidate from the database,” says Mike Jin, senior corporate recruiter with AT&T Interactive, based in Glendale, Calif. “But when a candidate responds to a job posting, I expect their resume to be tailored toward the job

Jin reviews each resume from back to front, to assess each candidate’s career progression and eliminate job hoppers. Repetition of keywords and prioritizing crucial technical experience helps to vault a candidate onto his short list.

“If I’m looking for someone with Java experience, and it’s fourth on their technical skills list, I assume it’s not their strong suit,” says Jin. “I also look for candidates who have worked for Internet companies, since I recruit for an interactive division.”

Since technical expertise is the first priority, candidates undergo a series of phone interviews and technical evaluations beforeproceeding to in-person meetings. Reed often e-mails candidates a series of technical questions to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The Home Stretch

The final hurdles include personality assessments, behavioral questions and group interviews that look beyond a candidate’s technical competencies. Along the way contenders are evaluated and eliminated, much like a reality TV show, before an offer is finally extended and the chosen candidate undergoes a background investigation.

It takes roughly 15 qualified candidates and 30 to 60 days to make a single hire, but recruiters say that difficult searches may take six months. If you wonder why a job remains posted after you’ve applied, it could indicate a shortage of qualified candidates. But it’s more likely that the recruiter is working on multiple openings, suggests Jin, who has filled 35 Java positions in the last year.

So is it okay to follow-up given the length of the hiring process?

“Absolutely,” says Jin. “I appreciate candidates who are proactive. Don’t call every day, but it’s definitely a good idea to stay in touch and inquire about the status of the search process.”

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in August 2010.

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