Rethink Screening of Job Applicants to Identify Serious Candidates

October 05, 2018

Contributor: Jackie Wiles

Awash in resumes? To hire productively and reduce time to fill, HR needs to identify early signs of commitment and quality among sought-after talent.

“It's your career. It's your life. It's your time.” This rallying cry to job seekers sits on the home page of one online career site, which also urges: “Add your resume and let your next job find you.” No wonder HR leaders increasingly feel they are chasing candidates in the digital world — and organizations continue to improve the ease and experience of their digital application process to stay in the game. But this approach often yields quantity over quality.

“ The average recruiter spends nearly one-quarter of his/her time screening applications — and candidates must wait and wait”

“In a recent survey of over 2,300 job candidates, more than one-fifth told us they agree or strongly agree that jobs should search for them,” says Cian Ó Móráin, senior principal at Gartner. “But in this environment, to identify good candidates and reduce time to fill, HR needs to redesign processes to enable candidates to demonstrate their commitment and quality earlier in the process.”

Read more: Are Your Employees Quitting in Their Seats?

Talent acquisition costs are soaring

Once upon a time, simply submitting an application showed a candidate’s serious interest in a job, but the one-click application has sharply reduced the transaction costs for job candidates. Commoditized searching means candidates don’t need to expend much effort on applications, and it’s practically effortless to express interest in a position.

With job applicants being less discriminating at the moment they apply, HR is receiving more applications per job posting than it once did. Spurred on by the response, especially since it is often hard to find sought-after talent, many in HR continue to invest more and more in simplifying the application process, even though the hiring process is often less and less productive.

The average recruiter spends nearly one-quarter of his/her time screening applications — and candidates must wait and wait for their applications to be screened.

Acquisition costs jumped 26% between 2015 and 2017. Those costs include branding, events, employee referral programs, sourcing technology and tools, as well as recruiter time spent on branding, needs definition and sourcing. The overall cost of hiring rose 18%. That includes the acquisition costs, assessment expenses including recruiter time spent on screening and interviewing and costs of conversion activities such as background checks.

Instead of simply investing in improving the application experience for candidates, progressive organizations are building a messaging strategy that focuses on what candidates value, starting with job descriptions that resonate with sought-after talent.

The best companies then build into the screening process ways of tracking signals of interest and suitability that candidates themselves generate via their own actions.

Surface signals of candidate commitment

Global hotel chain Hilton completely overhauled its applicant screening process for high-volume roles, which had included 100 assessment questions throughout multiple early stages of the hiring process. The intensive, manual process was protracted for applicants and tedious for recruiters — and extended the time to fill positions. Instead, Hilton automated its screening process to find passive signals of candidate interest — signals candidates didn’t even realize they were providing.

Hilton automated the front-end assessments via an on-demand video to replace manually administered and assessed questions. The video’s platform scored candidates based on an algorithm derived from assessments of current, high-performing employees in target roles. The process has reduced time to fill while improving candidate experience and conversion rates.

“ By surfacing signals of candidate commitment, HR more easily separates job surfers from committed candidates”

Healthcare multinational Roche employs a business case challenge for certain mid-level management candidates. Introducing the challenge early in the candidate journey helps to identify who is really committed to the application process.

The challenge might repel some candidates, but it’s designed with candidate value in mind and gives back to serious candidates. Its value lies in providing a very clear view of what the candidate would actually face on the job. For early-career software engineers, Roche gamifies its employment branding, asking candidates to play a coding game. Recruiters gauge commitment by how enthusiastically candidates accept and play the game.

By surfacing signals of candidate commitment, HR more easily separates job surfers from committed candidates, and increases the chances of acquiring sought-after talent who will turn into engaged, productive employees — and won’t regret deciding to accept your job offer.

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