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The ABC’s of establishing a good hiring process

Surfing Your Way Back to Fitness at Work

Author: Nancy Dunne

Financial Times, May 2, 2003 - The match between job candidates and interviewers has often come down to chance factors. Online services are trying to change all that.

Let me introduce myself.

I take commitments seriously but I am easy going. I am "reasonably well organised" but "might become somewhat disordered under heavy workload". I am open to new ideas unless they are "too far-fetched", caring, creative, cool under pressure, "somewhat outgoing", and possess "a generally forgiving nature".

I am, to my profound relief, a perfect fit for a career as a reporter or correspondent.

This is the verdict of Fitability Systems, which as a member of the growing e-recruiter industry, designs and delivers web-based assessment and employee retention products. It drew up my personal profile on the basis of a 10-minute online quiz, which for a real job applicant would be just Fitability's first step in a scoring, rating and candidate advisory selection process.

With more than 13m people unemployed in March (about 4.8m of whom have given up looking, according to the Labor Department), innovative companies such as Fitability have been prolific in developing e-solutions designed to help job seekers, headhunters and corporate hiring managers.

"The days of screening [job candidates] manually have come to extinction," says Scott Burton, senior vice-president of selection solutions at DDI, an industry leader. "It used to be recruiters would take home a batch of resumés and give each 30 seconds while they were eating pizza and had one eye on the television. Now there are electronic job boards in any shape or colour for any kind of job." And there is software to do the screening.

For job applicants, there is an online course called Interview Mastery, which offers hints on strategies and interviewing techniques. Most job hunters know to prepare for interviews by researching their prospective employer. InterviewMastery also advises them on the physical preparation (exercise) and the emotional (sing on the way to the interview or repeat inspirational phrases).

"The conventional advice is that an interview is like a selling event," says Michael Neece, author of the programme. "It is much more like playing a game of darts if you are blindfolded. You have 20 darts. Each represents the dimensions of your experience. The target is hidden in the mind of the interviewer. You have to find out which three darts the interviewer wants to hear about."

You achieve that goal by asking the question: "What do you feel are the most important skills for this position?"

In another assist to the interview process, many executive recruiters - Michael Page and Korn Ferry among them - have signed on to OneSource Information systems, both to find prospective job openings and prepare their clients for the intellectual part of the interview. One Source, a spin-off from Lotus, integrates data from more than 30 diverse providers on global public and private companies. It makes available company profiles, financial pictures, executives' biographies, colleague relationships, industry profiles, and analyst reports.

It is a "good, robust tool" for researching merged companies, growing industries and their competition, says Ed Hutchinson, OneSource public relations director. Increasingly, recruiters are giving clients short-term subscriptions to the service to prepare themselves for interviews.

There is an untold number of online classification and assessment tools to help hiring managers and recruiters cope with the flood of resumés from many applicants chasing relatively few positions.

Brass Ring Systems manages several targeted career boards, runs career fairs and trains recruiters. The company's soft ware processes the resumés - searching for key words to classify them - creates talent records, searches through its employee bases when jobs open up and tracks applicants.

It searches for specified skills, and keeps records of each employer's recruiting process - tracking the sources that produce the most qualified candidates, the length of the recruiting period, and how the company spends its recruiting dollars.

DDI has been helping companies assess talent for 32 years, deploying what it calls "the most widely used behavioural interviewing system in the world". Among other functions, it helps companies develop career sites, beginning with the creation of "success profiles" for vacant positions. These are based on job requirements not just for today but the future.

"Jobs change faster than people," says Mr Burton. "If you are picking people based on the past, you will hire people who will not quickly become the cut ting edge." He looks for adapt ability and a broad range of knowledge, which he says demonstrates a motivation to learn.

DDI systems offer a variety of screening and testing programmes but first it gives applicants "realistic job previews" - through a video or a narrative - to let candidates understand what a day on the job entails.

Applicants may then be offered a qualifying screening test to ensure that they are "a motivational fit". This can consist of eight to 12 easy questions. Are you mobile? Willing to travel? How often? Will you work swing shifts? Do you prefer working in teams or alone?

"We build a candidate profile and match it with the success profile before we have committed even one hour of recruiter time," says Mr Burton.

A core DDI objective is to leave applicants feeling that they have been treated fairly. Each job seeker is asked to fill out a survey at the end of the process.

DDI also coaches the interviewers. "Many do not have the right experience, and the higher you go, the worse they are about interviewing," Mr Burton adds. "We also make sure they ask the correct questions and ensure consistency if there are several interviews." The value of interviewing guides cannot be under estimated, and Fitability offers them as well. Many frustrated job hunters say human resources departments are increasingly deploying woefully unprepared interviewers.

"The harsh reality of the job market is that more than 90 percent of the interviewers stink," says Mr Neece of InterviewMastery. Job candidates spend days preparing for a big interview only to find that the hiring managers have learnt about it only five minutes in advances. Some times they have not even opened the candidate's file until they get to the interview.

It is to be hoped that with e-recruiting assistance, the process will take a turn for the better.