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You’re sitting in a restaurant, enjoying a sumptuous meal with an entertaining companion. Your mind is about as far from the office as it could possibly be. But as you lift your fork, anticipating the next taste sensation, you’re also recruiting, screening, and qualifying IT job candidates.
If you optimize the “careers” or “jobs” portion of your corporate Web site, 24×7 recruiting is not farfetched–and you’ll enjoy your meals a lot more. The fact is, most corporate Web sites are in their infancy when it comes to capturing interested, qualified, and available IT workers, according to Kevin Wheeler, principal consultant for Global Learning Systems, a recruitment consulting firm in Oakland, Calif. Most sites simply post job openings online and instruct applicants to send a resume to jobs@ABCco.com. Nothing’s wrong with that approach, but you can do so much more to leverage your existing Web site.
With the right tools, Web sites can attract passive as well as active job candidates, automate and accelerate the hiring process, weed out unqualified job seekers, and provide a give-and-take relationship, where both the company and the candidate come away with a personalized and more complete view of one another.
For instance, instead of accepting prewritten resumes, you can create a “resume builder” to collect the background information you want, in the format you need. Or you can require candidates to answer a series of prescreening questions. Or you can make your own employees available to “chat” with potential hires.
For an idea of some hardworking Web sites, Wheeler suggests taking a look at two network providers: Cisco Systems Inc., in San Jose, Calif., and Lucent Technologies, in Murray Hill, N.J.
Both Lucent and Cisco provide resume builders, but Lucent’s requires applicants to create an online resume before applying for any jobs on its Web site. Applicants are instructed to fill in fields including name, contact information, employment, education, languages spoken, job preferences, and career objectives. Alternatively, they can cut and paste their resume into a space provided. The information is then placed automatically into the appropriate fields.
With resume builders, “companies can control the information they get,” Wheeler says. It’s also a potentially more straightforward approach. “Resumes are really a marketing piece, and some people are better at marketing and advertising than others,” he says.
Plus, “most good candidates don’t have a resume,” notes Doug Miller, vice president of marketing at World.hire, an Austin, Texas-based firm that helps companies with their Web recruitment strategies. He’s referring to passive candidates, individuals who may visit your Web site for information or another purpose but are drawn to your careers page because you’ve made it an attractive area to visit. “If you can engage them, they might be interested in pursuing a position but may not have a resume. The [submit] resume button will turn them right off.”
Wheeler actually imagines a day when paper resumes will be obsolete. “This year, we’ll see more companies saying, ‘Either submit your information via a resume builder, or we don’t want it.’ And in the next two to three years, the resume as we know it will more or less fade away,” he says.
Furthermore, Wheeler believes candidates will start to create electronic portfolios. For instance, software engineers could provide mini case studies of how they contributed to a project, outlining their role and the areas of implementation in which they participated. They could include snippets of code and procedures they created. “The concept here is to provide credible proof that they have a skill or did contribute to the project,” Wheeler says.
Scratching below the surface
Cisco’s Web site goes a step farther than Lucent’s with a feature called the Profiler, which bears the motto, “Because the best resume is no resume.”
Like a resume builder, the Profiler asks candidates about their education and employment history. Then it starts digging deeper with such questions as, “What functional areas in IS have you supported?” and, “What technical tools do you use?” and even, “Describe your experience in writing documentation for users.”
Candidates are also asked to choose from a list of competencies that best describe them. Choices include “industry knowledge,” “functional/cross functional knowledge,” and “solve problems and make decisions.”
Then candidates are asked to provide a list of their top 10 skill sets (such as TCP/IP or C++) and the amount of experience they’ve had with each. Finally, the site asks for references “to corroborate your story.”
With tools like the Profiler, companies stand a good chance of weeding out unqualified candidates as well as conducting a pretty thorough prescreening of viable applicants. And think of the time you save by receiving this information right away, rather than having to conduct a prescreening telephone call.
Going even further
World.hire delves even deeper into the prescreening process. First, when visitors go to the careers site–be they active or passive job candidates–they are asked for an e-mail address. They can also subscribe to information about the company, such as quarterly reports and job fairs, or ask to be notified when jobs come up that might be a good match for them.
Second, candidates are asked to describe their own characteristics and the traits of their ideal job, including their experience level, field of expertise, desired salary range, and location.
Meanwhile, hiring managers fill out the same information about the specific jobs they post. “And that’s the first step of matching,” says World.hire’s Miller. “We have a matching engine that’s constantly matching those characteristics.”
Once a match is made, candidates receive an e-mail that links them to the job description. If they want to apply, they answer a series of screening questions, which the hiring manager has specifically written for the particular job posting. These include true/false, multiple-choice, or open essay questions that the manager scans for certain key words. A scoring metric automatically filters out unlikely candidates and forwards the acceptable ones to the hiring manager.
Some questions deal with cultural fit, asking candidates which environment they prefer–small or large teams, structured or unstructured. Others might test rudimentary skills, like asking prospective employees to write Java code. In the end, hiring managers have practically completed a preliminary interview without opening their mouths.
Of course, there are lots of kinks to work out in this new world of Web-based recruiting. For one, I can see resume builders and lengthy prescreeners leading to application fatigue on the part of job seekers. Rather than typing up a short cover letter and attaching a resume, they’ll have to customize answers for each job.
On the other hand, “you’re allowing candidates to market themselves specifically to a job, as opposed to allowing hiring managers to pull out your qualifications from a static resume,” World.hire’s Miller says.
Also, I can see candidates becoming savvy enough to outsmart prescreening questions. For instance, companies might start asking similar questions for common job titles. If candidates see this, they could prepare their responses beforehand, thus losing the spontaneity and customized nature the company is seeking to capture.
Worse, unqualified candidates could preview the screening questions and do some basic research to find out what responses would be acceptable. “The way some of our customers are dealing with that is to change the questions on a regular basis,” Miller says.
Another way might be to throw in some unexpected questions to get a feel for candidates’ personalities, in addition to their capabilities. World.hire suggests including open essay questions. For instance, ask candidates how they would react in certain situations, such as “the specification has just been changed but your manager won’t allow you to extend your deadline.”
As Global Learning Systems’ Wheeler says, more organizations are bound to use these techniques more frequently over the next few years, adding in aptitude tests, personality tests, and more. “If you indicate that you can read and write French, you may be asked to do so on the spot as part of the screening process,” he says.
At the same time, “there is also no doubt that candidates will rebel, learn to evade the tests, develop techniques for using the computer to psych out the interrogating computer, and so forth,” Wheeler continues. That’s why, no matter how much you use your Web site to do recruiting for you, you can never eliminate the human touch. “In the end, it will always boil down to two things: people talking to people and results,” Wheeler says. //
Mary Brandel is a freelance writer in Norfolk, Mass., specializing in business applications of technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.