5 Things You Will Never Know About the Hiring Process
The reality is when you are looking for a job at a target company you do not know anything about their hiring process. That is unless you have a contact at the target company with intimate knowledge of how hiring is done.
What we usually do is slip into making stuff up based on our past experiences. Yes, we all suffer from MSU (Make Stuff Up) Disorder at one point or another.
We think there are a set of rules that apply to hiring. The reality is there are no rules.
All of the ideas in this post come from the podcast I did with Gary O’Neal in December of 2017. I really think you should listen to this especially eye-opening podcast.
This is particularly true in this time of great flux due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How companies are hiring is changing. Who is a desirable candidate is probably changing. Where the new hire will work is changing.
So let’s get started on what you do not know about the hiring process.
Note: This post was originally published in February of 2018 and updated in July of 2020.
You Do Not Know When a Position Will Become Available
From the outside of a company and sometimes even when you are an employee, you will have no idea when a position will become available.
You do not know when:
- Someone is going to resign
- The hiring manager is going to fire someone
- A new contract has been signed with a client
- Funding becomes available
- The CEO gets a bee under his/her bonnet and they want to go in a new direction
All of these events can occur with few people knowing about them and all of them could kick off the hiring process. This is the real conundrum. Unless you have contacts at the company who are “in the know”, you can’t predict any of this.
Having connections at the target company is absolutely critical.
If you are known by the hiring manager before any of these events occur they may just reach out to you and hire you.
You Do Not Know Whether the Company Will Post a Position
The hiring process is different in just about every organization. When one of these events mentioned above occurs, the hiring process could start, and you have no idea whether they will actually post it publically or not. If this is a public institution or government – that is the only time that it is guaranteed that they will post the position.
You may be asking yourself why wouldn’t they post the position? Some small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) completely rely on word of mouth or employee referrals to find candidates. If they post the position they get so many applicants that they know they cannot deal with the onslaught.
The hiring process at many SMB companies can be a bit chaotic and if you believe they have a well-defined process, you will most of the time be very disappointed and left on the outside.
Even very large companies may not post the job. This is particularly true for companies that are privately owned. Privately-owned companies are less regulated. It used to be that most large companies were publically traded but that has changed dramatically. We have 50% fewer public companies in 2020 than we did in 2000. This has granted a lot of freedom in how companies hire.
What Does That Mean If They Post the Position
The company decides to post the position. That means there is a real job that you can apply for and possibly be hired! Right?
It could be:
- they already have the candidate they want and the only way for the candidate to get into the system is for them to post the position and let him/her apply. Once they have applied the position is taken down.
- there is a candidate selected and corporate rules dictate they post the position for a defined period.
- the company posts positions so they can collect resumes for the future.
- the company started to interview for the position, decided to go in another direction, and never took the position down.
- positions are entered into an applicant tracking system (ATS) which is displayed externally on the company website. There is no one responsible to look at the ATS and therefore, resumes just stack up.
I can tell you from practical experience that the last two possibilities have happened.
In my last corporate gig, the marketing department posted a position, started the interview process, decided to put it on hold, and for one whole year left the position on the website collecting resumes. Yes, it was on the website for a year and they never started the interview process again. After a year someone decided it would be a good idea to take the position down.
I recently was told the story by a 3rd party recruiter about a company that used one of the cloud-based applicant tracking systems. They had 10 positions posted on the corporate website. Approximately, 1,300 resumes had been collected and … here is the kicker … no one was responsible for reviewing the resumes. When asked how they filled the last 3 positions, they said all of the applicants were filled through employee referrals.
You have no idea what posting a position on the corporate website means to the hiring process.
How Do They Select Candidates to Screen
The position is posted and candidates start to apply. The resumes start flowing into the applicant tracking system.
The next step is for someone or something to start selecting resumes that seem the most qualified.
What you do not know is:
- the keywords they enter into the ATS to screen candidates. You would think that if you used a tool like JobScan.co your resume would be keyword optimized. Well… you have no idea whether keywords were ever entered into the ATS or the person working the keyboard knew what they were doing. You can refer to this as a GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) system.
- whether the junior recruiter who is doing the screening knows enough about the position to be able to identify a viable candidate.
Most of us will make the assumption that the hiring process is well defined and there are capable people to do the screening.
If you really believe that is true most of the time, you will be very disappointed.
Who Does the Phone Screens
I have heard a thousand times from candidates that they get a phone call from someone to do the initial phone screen. They go through a laundry list of questions where many cannot be answered without the interviewer having detailed knowledge of the position. This is often a third party recruiter (a recruiter that is not employed by the hiring company) that is often very junior and has to make hundreds of these calls a day.
What you do not know is whether the recruiter:
- actually knows anything or is just following a script.
- has made 50 calls so far, been yelled at multiple times, and does not give a crap anymore.
- is sleepy because they are 10-12 time zones away and it is in the middle of the night where they live.
You have no idea who is on the other side of the phone and whether they are capable of properly accessing whether you are a good candidate.
How to Determine the Culture
Over the next 18 months, it is highly unlikely that you will have a face to face interview. Most companies have moved exclusively to video interviews. The challenge for the candidate is how do you determine the culture of the company.
Yes, I know many of these companies will produce social media postings about how it is a great place to work. Is it a great place to work for you?
I know the last company I worked for I was sold on how great it was to work there but that was fiction. I could have and should have done more homework.
What if you never get to meet people face to face, walk the hallways of the office, see how people interact, and generally get a “feel” for what it is like to work there? It will be hard.
I have talked to a fair number of HR consultants who are very concerned about remotely onboarding new hires. I just had a conversation with an executive recruiter who had a candidate walk away at the last minute. The candidate could not determine if it was a good fit for them with all of the interviews being done over video.
It is equally important that you as the candidate determine whether this is a good fit for you. Do your homework and follow your instincts.
Hiring Managers Hire Candidates
Another way to say this is “people hire people.” Gary O’Neal talks about in the podcast episode, Gary O’Neal on Looking for a Job in the 2nd Half of Life [Podcast] that you need to do the following:
- Be clear on the problems you solve for your employer. It is not what you want but what you can do for the employer.
- Target companies that have those problems. Gary will tell you to target 100 companies, I am a little more reasonable and say 25. I refer to this a targeted job search and you can find more in the Targeted Job Search Series.
- Start an email campaign to three types of individuals: hiring managers, potential peers, and recruiters
- Be prepared for a lot of quiet from the email campaign but those that do respond will be willing to engage with you.
- Ask a lot of questions and make it about them when engaging with anyone and everyone who responds.
We have all been frustrated with the current hiring process. There are companies that know how to hire good candidates but I claim most are not very good at it. Heck, at my last corporate gig, I made a couple of pretty good hires. Does that mean I knew what I was doing? NO!
I was clueless.
Do not assume that hiring companies have well defined hiring processes. For those of us in the 2nd half of life, who have a ton of experience, we need to bypass the traditional hiring process and go straight to the hiring manager.
Are you ready to admit you know very little about the hiring process at target companies?Marc Miller