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Recruiting

Note from the editor

Employers don't need a newsflash to alert them that recruiting has gained importance. They know — most likely from their own experience — that a swift, productive recruiting process will net them the employees they need. But what does such a process entail, and how can employers best implement it?

Think of the recruitment in stages. The first step: attracting candidates. From mapping out needed positions to posting job announcements in troves of talent, this initial phase sets the stage.

Next, recruiters and hiring managers start interacting with applicants as they read resumes, verify references and schedule interviews. Once applicants appear for an interview, whether in person or via telephone or video conference, the final stage begins. Candidates must prove themselves fit for the gig and a hiring committee is tasked with picking the right person for the job.

This report details multiple aspects of the increasingly-important recruiting process:

  • How to upgrade the quantity and quality of applicants

  • What to do when applicants won't communicate

  • GPA's shifting importance

  • The best — and worst — interview questions

  • How to make the most of pre-existing recruiting data

  • Attracting the best interns with employer branding

  • What it means to own diverse recruiting

  • Recruiting in a multigenerational talent pool

  • Leveraging employer brand to attract intern talent

This does not exhaust the ins and outs of recruiting, but it highlights the most pressing issues and evolving trends. We hope you enjoy this in-depth look into recruiting.

Katie Clarey Associate Editor

Recruiting's holy grail: Improving both quantity and quality of applicants

It's an ambitious goal but, like most things, it’s all in the prep

In a tight job market, those in talent acquisition often struggle to improve both the quantity and quality of job applicants. 

Recruiters are busy working to reduce time-to-hire while also optimizing the candidate experience. Balancing these priorities with challenging market conditions around staffing imperatives requires a special kind of equilibrium.

"Implementing active, passive and talent community sourcing strategies ensures that companies are in the correct position to win the war for talent," Bill Neese, VP of talent acquisition at Paycor, told HR Dive in an email, "while driving an exceptional candidate experience."

Short-term fixes

As you work to hone your recruiting plan, there are a few questions to ask yourself, the experts say.

What are you asking for? Whether your problem is quantity or quality, the first place to look is within. The language of a job posting has the potential to exclude or encourage. Terms like "go-getter" speak to younger candidates; "rock star" tends to deter women, research shows. Vet ads to make sure they're inclusive. Some sites or tools will even "decode" language you input.

Where are you posting? Are you casting your net in a pond with few fish? Or, sometimes worse, the ocean? Work to figure out where your competitors are sourcing and recruiting, and make sure you're reviewing the ROI of your efforts.

Search on the fly. Are you optimized for mobile? If not, you're missing more than half the applicant pool. According to Pew Research, the majority of searchers use their smartphone to find an opening; 78% of millennials, 73% of Generation X and more than 57% of boomers are looking for work on the small screen. 

Check your screens. Most companies are using some type of screening platform to weed out candidates that aren't a good fit, but these can be prone to errors. Periodically put through a "perfect" resume to assure screening is working properly.

Keep it simple. How long does it take to apply online? A recent survey found 60% of candidates will abandon the application process if it's too long or complex. The Society for Human Resource Management found an application that takes longer than 10 minutes to complete will result in the loss of half of potential candidates, but an application that takes less than 5 minutes will net 365% more.

"What fields are absolutely necessary to capture on a candidate expressing initial interest in a position?" Mahe Bayireddi, CEO of Phenom People, told HR Dive in an email. "Keep the application short and sweet to ensure a higher completion rate."

Translation please. Veterans are a large applicant pool waiting to be tapped. The problem is translating their experience to a language ATS or recruiters can understand. Unfortunately the language companies' use in job postings often limits the background and range of experiences of potential candidates," Zach Iscol, founder and CEO of Hirepurpose, told HR Dive in an email.

He recommended employers consider non-traditional experience as equivalent or greater. "A 25 year-old veteran with years of active combat experience, but no degree, has arguably more experience leading teams and thriving under intense pressure than someone at a similar age, no military experience, and a bachelor's degree," Iscol said. Sourcing through veteran employment and placement groups could open a vast applicant stream.

Long-term goals

While short-term fixes are important, experts recommend that recruiters adopt some long-term goals as well.

Boost your brand. Recruitment brand is key to attracting top talent. Increasingly, marketing the company as an employer is as important as marketing the product line. Many HR departments that focus on their recruitment brand find increased funding in their budgets, as well.

"Most job boards offer some form of branding to upload a logo, video or link to your website," Kristin Lockhart, vice president of recruiting services at Adams Keegan, told HR Dive in an email. "This allows a candidate the opportunity to learn about the company before applying. Additionally, it can make it easier for the candidate to decide if they are a fit with the company or not."

Want to try a marketing tactic that's cutting edge? Geofencing sets up a wireless fence around key areas to target candidates where they live or work. Whenever a candidate enters the fenced zone, he receives ads on his phone inviting him to apply, Bayireddi explained.

Networking works. Cultivating relationships are an investment in the future. "Employers need to build referral sources through local schools, whether it's MBAs or trade programs,"  Lockhart said. "The teachers and staff are motivated to place their students and are willing to share your company's name." She reminded employers to make time for students that are interested in order to keep those schools continually referring candidates.

Reputation management. Is your online presence costing you applicants? Only one in five job seekers will apply to a company with a negative online reputation. If you're not continuously monitoring your online presence, you should be.

Tech times two. "Tools like chatbots can be used to engage an even greater number of candidates," Jim Stroud, global head of sourcing and recruiting strategy for Randstad Sourceright, told HR Dive in an email. "This technology also has the added benefit of enhancing candidate experience by ensuring that their applications aren't being sent into the abyss, but are being carefully reviewed and considered."

Your talent management system may hold treasures, as well. Leverage the applicants who've already expressed an interest in joining your rolls, but didn't quite make the cut for the last position you’ve listed. A process that looks through "near-misses" can supply an employer with a steady stream of candidates.

Time for a change? Is it time to rethink that opening? According to Randstad Sourceright's 2018 Talent Trends Report, 25% of company leaders intend to shift permanent roles to temporary or freelance talent in the coming year. And today, 76% of HR leaders are open to roles being filled by any type of worker from employee to contractor.

Constant evaluation. "A very small percentage of employers steadily track the quality of their hires," Stroud said. It's important to analyze hiring metrics to understand what’s driving candidates to apply and where your best conversions from applicant to hire are originating.

Stroud recommended employers look at their hiring process from beginning to end to make sure it consistently engages candidates, while simultaneously satisfying business needs. Improving the quality and quantity of applicants requires a bit of work, but like most things, it's all in the prep.

Are your applicants ghosting you?

To minimize the chances of it happening at your company, better communication policies may be key.

Ghosting has come full-circle. Dozens of websites are devoted to the complaints of candidates who’ve been ghosted by employers — never receiving acknowledgement for their application, no callback after an interview, being left hanging for a hiring decision. And now employers are seeing the same actions (or non-actions) taken against them.

Recruiters who hire for almost every level of employee, from entry-level to management, are experiencing the phenomenon. It runs the gamut from applicants who never respond to initial calls; those who miss interview appointments; candidates who hem and haw over offers, promising to ‘get back to you soon’ with an answer; and those who simply vanish off the face of the earth, never reporting for their first day on the job.

In relationship-speak, ghosting is clear: no response is the response. As the market tightens, with competition getting even more fierce, ghosting may be a new paradigm.

The new normal

How common is ghosting? The phenomenon may be learned behavior from when employers would ghost candidates.

It may be that some candidates and employees believe its acceptable business etiquette. In a recent piece, LinkedIn suggested ghosting may be partly due to inexperience. Younger workers who aren’t accustomed to multiple job offers may simply not know how to say no politely and professionally.

To save time, some recruiters are starting to act like doctors or airlines, LinkedIn said — double booking interview slots, particularly for entry-level openings, in anticipation that up to half the candidates will no show. Others recommend hiring managers remain in a continuous recruitment mode to adjust for those who will walk off the job without notice. This, of course, could lead to more candidates being held at bay, which of course could lead to them believing they’ve been ghosted: bad manners coming full circle.

At its core, ghosting is a lack of communication. To minimize the chances of it happening at your company, it’s important to communicate in a way that invites job seekers and employees to be forthright. If a candidate can’t make the interview or won’t accept the offer, a recruiter can let them know he or she understands, but that the company would appreciate the honesty and professionalism of an upfront word. Another tack may be to gently let candidates know they would be eliminated from consideration for any future openings if they failed to make the interview or accept an offer without notification.

The vanishing employee

The first weeks can be critical for retention. More than one-fourth of employees quit within 90 days of hire, a Robert Half survey revealed in 2017 — and much of that upfront grief can be tied back directly to a poor onboarding process.

Arun Prakash, chief learning architect and executive vice president at Infopro Learning, said the remedy for the evaporating employee could be a structured onboarding system that creates connections and gives purpose to the work. "HR leaders must evaluate their onboarding programs to make sure they’re communicating how their organization will fulfill their side of the contract," Prakash told HR Dive in an email, "defining what success at the organization looks like, explaining where the new employee will fit in at the organization, and illuminating how their individual impact feeds into the success of the company at large."

The same holds true for existing employees. Whenever there’s a transition — promotion, transfer, even mergers or downsizing — shifting your onboarding programs to re-board employees can keep the lines of communication open.

An eye on the future can be a strong motivator for retention, even in a competitive market. "By ramping up your development plans to include career growth plans, self-directed learning and two-way continuous feedback, HR leaders can make a measurable difference in building and maintaining their talent bench," Prakash said. While recruiters and even bots may be trying to lure staff away, a solid career path within the organization can help keep them on your payroll.

"I am inclined to believe that the primary reason why someone would abruptly leave a job without notice is due to bad relationships in the workplace," Jim Stroud, global head of sourcing and recruiting strategy for Randstad Sourceright, told HR Dive in an email. "People leave bad managers and workplace bullies in order to find a safe space in another work environment. I think explaining that reason makes people feel more vulnerable than they are comfortable with, so they avoid detailing the reason to avoid the discomfort of the situation."

Stroud suggested a secondary reason to walk off the job: "If a worker is feeling that their career is going nowhere, they are disengaged at work and their workplace relationships are nil, then it’s an easy choice to walk away and not look back."

Creating buzz

You can curb some of this behavior with a stellar candidate experience, Stroud said. 

"Hiring managers should follow up with job seekers as much as possible, give them a timeline on when you expect to fill the role and the negative consequences for the enterprise if it is not filled in a timely fashion," he added. Employers can also try generating excitement about the company by disclosing available career paths and how others have risen within the ranks from the same starting position.

"Create a workplace culture of transparency and communication by personally speaking to each person that was interviewed and/or sending a handwritten note. Such things will reach social media, reflect well on your employer brand and make it easier to attract people who will show up for work," Stroud said.

Whatever the motivation for ghosting, it’s clearly a growing problem for employers. Keeping the employer brand in mind when hiring may help — as well as opting not to ghost employees in return.

Should employers care about GPA anymore?

In some areas, like academia or finance, the data may be significant. But in many cases, GPA may be a false indicator of future success and a potential discrimination risk.

In 2013, Laszlo Bock, then senior vice president of people operations at Google, revealed to The New York Times in an interview something most businesses probably already knew: GPAs were "worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation."

Several years later, many employers still rely on GPA to forecast success in the workplace.  

A recent study by Kingsley Leadership Academy suggests only 12% of those surveyed at the C-suite level think grades are an important consideration when hiring new employees. But for new grads, GPA is overwhelmingly highlighted on the CV or resume. With few other selling points to offer, the inclusion can be demonstrative of their work ethic and commitment. And in some areas, like academia or finance, the data may be significant.

But in many cases, GPA may be a false indicator of potential success as well as a potential risk for discrimination. "Proxies — like degree credentials or minimum GPA’s — ineffectively evaluate talent and artificially cull the candidate pool," Mike Knapp, CEO at SkillSmart, told HR Dive in an email. "Skills-based hiring is more efficient, less risky, and better suited to today’s skills economy than job boards or traditional resumes."

As more workers pursue self-guided learning and online courses, the skills-based model will become even more relevant, and GPAs less so, he said.

New and recent grads

"We are still seeing candidates placing GPA on resumes," Bill Kushner, manager, Administrative and Human Resources Direct Hire Division at the Addison Group, told HR Dive in an email. "That said, it is more prevalent in candidates with under 10 years of experience and with individuals that carry higher GPAs."

How long candidates leave it on a resume depends entirely on your GPA, Kushner says. Candidates that had a GPA under 3.5 would likely not put it on a resume, while those with GPAs above 3.5 are more often recommended to keep it on the resume. Companies primarily within the financial services and professional services space place more emphasis on GPA than other industries, Kushner said.

"Skills acquired through hands-on projects, volunteerism, extracurricular activities, or internships/work experience are far more valuable indicators of the skills they would bring to the workplace — and not reflected in a GPA score," Knapp said.  

What are you doing with the data?

In the absence of other real indicators of an applicant’s skills and abilities, hiring managers often use the GPA as a proxy for the work skills they hope an applicant has acquired, Knapp said.

"Unfortunately, using the GPA as a screening method often takes qualified, skilled applicants out of the candidate pool," Knapp added. "When employers rely on traditional — and often unnecessary — proxies like degree or GPA requirements, they shut out entire portions of the workforce from opportunity and limit their access to a skilled labor pool."

He warned that at a time when there are more open jobs in the United States than people to fill them, these types of requirements can arbitrarily reduce the pool of applicants and may have a disproportionate impact on all protected classes.

Kushner suggests using GPA as a portion of the hiring equation, but not as the final determinant. "It is weighed in conjunction with the experience level of the candidate," Kushner said. "Typically with candidates with only a year or two of experience, their GPA represents what most likely is their largest body of work to date, and as such, will be weighed more heavily than that of individuals with a few years of relevant experience."

Potential pitfalls

GPA, like so many other "rules" for employment, could put businesses at risk.

"Scored tests have long been used by employers to make employment selection decisions, and have just as long been challenged by job applicants as having a discriminatory impact on protected classifications," Allison Kahn, labor and employment attorney at Carlton Fields, told HR Dive in an email. "While GPAs are not a traditional scored test, this measure may also be subject to non-discrimination laws if used as selection criterion for a position."

A claim must show statistical evidence that supports disparate impact, but there are defenses employers can make to protect their hiring policies and practices."For example, employer proof that the selection procedure, like GPAs, is 'job-related and consistent with business necessity' may defeat employer liability, particularly where there is no less discriminatory alternative that would predict job performance," Kahn said. The responsibility is on the employer to provide evidence that GPA is a business necessity to avoid liability.

Luckily, employers have a few resources available to analyze whether GPAs should be used as a selection criterion for a position. The EEOC has a fact sheet on Employment Tests and Selection procedures with best practices that may be useful for employers considering whether to rely on an applicants’ GPAs as selection criteria. The Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP) for employers can also help determine if selection procedures are lawful under a disparate impact theory.  

Hiring holistically

While companies may not yet be shying away from GPA, more are becoming focused on a holistic approach to a candidate’s background. Recruiters would be wise to consider GPA as only part of the equation, experts said; experience, education, and ability to learn new processes, concepts, and technology should round out the decision making process.

The Kingsley data reveals C-suite level managers defer to other traits in favor of GPA. Work ethic was cited by 60% of respondents, while 45% cited teamwork as the most important skills. Leadership ranked around 55% for professional services and manufacturing companies. And in large firms, grades were relied on only to determine where the candidate’s expertise lies. For leadership roles, the focus is on people management, creativity and cognitive flexibility.  

For Kushner, GPA is a data point in a data series. Using only GPA, he says, "eliminates candidates that may have strong related or transferable experience that have the potential to make an immediate positive impact on the business." 

Are you overlooking top talent searching for the "Perfect Candidate"?

Let’s face it: The “perfect candidate” simply doesn’t exist. As recruiters, we know there are good candidates, better candidates and even great candidates — but spending valuable time searching and sourcing the “perfect candidate” narrows your talent pool and can result in missing out on great talent.

Today’s tight labor market has made it challenging for recruiters to attract and hire quality applicants. While roles that require in-demand skills, such as high-skilled medical professionals, scientists, mathematicians, engineers and architects, are among the hardest to fill, the talent shortage has impacted hiring at all levels. In fact, according to Indeed data, 56% of small businesses find it tough to find the right employee, while 82% of retail employers expressed difficulty finding candidates with appropriate cross-functional experience.

With the pressure on to not only find the best person for the job but to do it faster and for less money, how can you fill your open roles when talent pools are tight and perfect candidates don’t exist?

1. Determine the deal breaker

We all want to hire a candidate who checks all the boxes — is available immediately, lives nearby, has similar salary expectations, has relevant qualifications from a top university and adds to the company culture. But more requirements don’t equal more candidates, and finding a candidate who meets all of your expectations is highly unlikely.

In today’s job market, you have to compromise on what’s required and what’s nice to have, and the first step is to determine the dealbreaker.

  • What must-have does a candidate need for you to offer them the role?

  • What’s negotiable, or nice to have?

  • What doesn’t matter?

  • What are your absolutely-nots?

For example, if you’re hiring for a Sales Representative and you know the role requires the candidate to go onsite to visit clients, you may choose to set “ability to travel” as one of your must-haves but discover that a college degree isn’t a requirement.

Focusing on one must-have instead of a long list of requirements will open your search to a wider selection of candidates.

2. Hire for soft skills

A job for life is becoming less and less common. Years ago it was expected that you’d get hired, stay for decades and retire with a pension and a gold watch. Today, research from Indeed shows that 54% of employees stay in the same role for at least 5 years. Candidates are moving from company to company, growing their skill sets and experience and building their resumes. This means employers need to focus on skills, characteristics and attributes rather than years of experience.

As companies compete for top talent, soft skills are critical. According to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report, executives now consider these skills important for driving employee productivity, engagement and retention. Crafting your job descriptions to highlight soft skills or transferable skills will open your candidate pool and enable you to attract a range of candidates. Here’s an example of a job description that focuses on soft skills:

“The successful candidate is an engaging communicator, passionate about technology, employment and hiring, and loves interacting with clients and prospects. We’re seeking not only a great presenter but an excellent listener who will be curious about the needs and concerns of our clients.”

From the description, a candidate can identify a mix of unique traits, including communication, tech-savvy, interpersonal skills, presentation skills, listening skills and intellectual curiosity. While it may be easier to teach or train particular hard skills, soft skills (or people skills) are unmeasurable, subjective and difficult to teach. For instance, when onboarding your new hire you can offer training programs to get them up to speed on your company’s computer program, but it’s a lot harder to teach them how to communicate, or work as part of a team.

Evaluating candidates for soft skills doesn’t stop with the job description — it’s a measured approach that needs to be incorporated throughout your hiring process. Interview candidates with soft skills in mind, ask questions that will reveal a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and check references from managers and coworkers.

3. Embrace flexibility

As the world of work changes, so has where people work. Employees today have home offices, host conference calls in coffee shops and tailor their work hours so they can spend less time commuting and more time at home.

In a recent study, 47% of employees say that whether a company allows remote work is an important factor in choosing a job. With the growing demand for talent, we need to listen carefully to what job seekers are asking for to stand out from our competitors.

Beyond getting ahead of the competition, flexible work options offer opportunities to source from a wider pool of candidates. Working remotely may be more desirable to parents with young children, graduate students and employees nearing retirement age. And it has its benefits for employers too. For employers who offer telecommuting, evidence shows that flexible work has had a positive impact on productivity — 57% of employees think they are more productive when working from home. Employee experience overall improves as well with:

  • Improved morale

  • Reduced employee turnover

  • Reduced absenteeism

  • Operational cost savings

  • Reduced health insurance costs

Flexible work isn’t always a one-size-fits-all approach. In companies or industries where the role or work culture isn’t conducive to telecommuting, there are other alternatives to flexible work.  According to Gallup, these companies can offer flexibility-related perks, such as job swapping, or exchanging responsibilities with a coworker, or geographic job, rotating between offices or locations.

Conclusion

Tight talent pools mean candidates can be more selective about where they’d like to work. So if you’re spending time searching for the perfect candidate, it may be time to adjust your mindset. By determining what's essential for the role, considering potential over tenure and evaluating the benefits of flexible work, you’ll find quality talent while also increasing the quantity of candidates.

Aaron Schwartz is a senior manager with the Indeed Employer Insights team. He leads a national team of recruitment evangelists who pair platform data with industry trend analysis to share Indeed’s story and bring the value of the company’s programs and solutions to life. He has helped hundreds of employers optimize their recruitment solutions and make the key hires they need to grow their businesses. Schwartz was a distinguished and award-winning member of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland and also served as an officer in the Israel Defense Forces.

How to ask the right interview questions — and avoid the wrong ones

It's a tall order for HR professionals and hiring managers: get the information you need, without running afoul of the law.

Those new to the field might think that interviewing a candidate for a job would be a straightforward task: ask candidates questions, get answers and make a hiring recommendation or decision.

But HR and hiring managers must be careful to ask the right questions, and avoid those that are off limits. Questions that would be fine among casual acquaintances often are inappropriate for a job interview; conversely, those who look to avoid a mistake may hesitate to probe subjects that should be discussed.

So where's the middle ground? Experts who spoke with HR Dive helped to create a concrete list of guidelines that can help you get the information you need without exposing you — and/or your organization — to legal risk.

Know which topics are off limits

Some questions should obviously be avoided, Jeffrey Beemer, business lawyer at Dickinson Wright, told HR Dive. These are questions that ask directly or indirectly about protected classes including age, race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, marital status and disability status.

"Questions that are asked in an interview don't necessarily violate the law in and of themselves," Beemer said. "The problem is when an employer asks about an applicant's membership in a protected class or that would lead to the discovery of whether someone is in a protected class." If the applicant is then not hired, she can say that information was used in a discriminatory way, Beemer said.

While it's a simple concept, the execution can be trickier, especially when the intent is not to violate discrimination laws, but to build a rapport with a candidate.

If a candidate appears obviously pregnant, for example, a natural instinct might be to ask when she's due. Or if someone has an interesting accent, it may be tempting to ask where they are from — but don't, said Jenn Betts, employment attorney at Ogletree Deakins. "It's human nature to want to be friendly and build a connection, but part of being an HR professional is recognizing what is and what is not an appropriate thing to say," she said.

Avoid the unnecessary questions

While few applications still ask an applicant's age, many still get an approximation by asking the applicant when they graduated from college. While this is not an obvious age question, it still solicits information that is protected, and therefore should be avoided, Betts said. It also does not provide information that is useful in assessing the candidate's qualification for the job.

Likewise, salary history questions have long been used to determine whether a candidate's previous salary was in range for a given job. But research showing that this practice may perpetuate gender and racial pay gaps has prompted a growing list of states and localities to ban such questions. What's more, not all state and local laws are uniform in spelling out what employers can ask and how they can use the information. Given this picture, Betts said, HR professionals should focus on salary expectations instead.

Ask the sticky 'accommodation' questions

Newer HR professionals may worry they can't ask any personal questions, yet it is sometimes their responsibility to do so. One area that can make interviewers uneasy is disability accommodations.

Interviewers can ask a candidate about accommodation, but it's how you do it that is key, Sarah Riskin, labor and employment attorney for Nilan Johnson Lewis, told HR Dive. If you're interviewing for a job that requires using heavy machinery and a candidate has an obvious physical disability, you can ask specific questions, she said; "You can ask about an essential function."

For example, an interviewer could say, "An essential function of the job is X. Are you able to do that with or without a reasonable accommodation?"

Riskin said she advises interviewers not to ask about the disability itself or why an accommodation is needed, but to focus on the candidate's ability to perform the job.

Interviewers should be asking all candidates the same questions for consistency, Riskin said. But interviewers also do not have to ignore an obvious disability that could prevent an individual from performing the essential functions of a job. "As a matter of federal law — and every state could be different — if there's an obvious disability that makes you question if someone can do the job, you're entitled to ask specifically to make sure they can do the job," she said.

Sidestep interviewing minefields

Even if an HR professional diligently focuses on keeping an interview on track, a candidate can inadvertently steer the conversation off the rails. Suppose, for example, the interviewer asks, for job-related reasons, whether or not the candidate speaks another language. The candidate not only answers the question, but describes how she learned the language, how she grew up in a certain country, or perhaps her experience moving to the U.S.

Because this information could tap into an existing bias, it is important to redirect quickly, Riskin said. Interviewers can pivot, saying, "That's really interesting. I'm glad you speak that language. Let's talk more about the other requirements of the job," she suggested.

Maintain accurate, updated job descriptions

The ability to ask job-focused questions relies on having accurate and updated job descriptions, Betts said. Some companies have outdated job descriptions that have little to do with the current requirements of the job. To be safe, make sure the description is for what the position is really doing, Betts said.

In creating these job descriptions, hone in on essential job functions. If the job requires that candidates be able to stand for six hours, lift 20 pounds or other tasks, include them. And if it doesn't truly require those tasks, they should be excluded. Then, when you look at the job description alongside your interview questions, you can ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of each question?
  • Is there underlying information I'm trying to get and, if so, can I ask for it directly?
  • Does the question provide information on the candidate's ability to complete an essential job function?

This review will help new and experienced interviewers avoid the questions they shouldn't ask and tackle the ones they should, Beemer said. "The trained HR professionals don't get squeamish. They are well-prepared and have a plan of how they're going to cover [these issues] with all applicants during the interview process."

Improve recruiting results by mining the data you already have

With a tight applicant market, it may be tempting to take swift, drastic measures. But it can be worthwhile to consider some key metrics first.

With a tight applicant market, it may be tempting to take swift, drastic measures. But it can be worthwhile to take a step back, and consider some key metrics before taking action. Mining available data to determine applicant conversion rates can show where in your recruitment pipeline you’re hitting a snag and where your time and money can be most effective.

Measurements can come from various stages of the process, and each can offer information about effectiveness and efficiency (and no, they’re not the same). An effective means of sourcing that reduces time-to-hire may appear more fruitful, but what costs are you incurring in the interim? If those hires have a high turnover rate, what have you gained? The key is to find effective and efficient methods — and you’re likely sitting on the data that reveals all.

Numbers to know

In addition to standard time-to-hire and time-to-fill numbers, metrics to examine among applicants can include: web visitors who apply for jobs; applications received per opening; applicants called; applicants who pass a phone screen; applicants scheduled for an interview; interviews per offer; and offer-to-acceptance rate.

And when evaluating external sources, it's important to measure all of those metrics for each source used. Internally, it can be valuable to track employees notified of openings; referrals received per opening; referral to call ratio, as well as the above numbers.

While it may seem like a lot of data to cull, the information can be very revealing. Verifying that the sources you use are providing a good return is critical. After all, few HR professionals have time or resources to waste.

How do you stack up?

Once you have your data, you've got a baseline. From there you can create goals and identify steps for improvement. But it also can be worthwhile to see how you rate against the competition, as long as you keep in mind that location, industry and other factors affect results.

A recent report from Glassdoor looked at global trends with respect to time-to-hire. On average, the interview process for 2017 was 23.7 days, up slightly from 2016's 22.5 days. The jobs with the longest processes extended up to two months (professors); the shortest hires were in retail and restaurant at about eight days each.

From Jobvite, more details emerge: its 2018 Recruiting Benchmark Report looks at steps in the process. The report put the average time-to-hire at 38 days with 36 applicants per job. About 12% of applicants receive an interview, with 28% of those receiving offers.

But, remember that "[t]here isn’t a standard talent Acquisition-wide metric," Stephen Rees, managing director of client delivery for ManpowerGroup Solutions, said; "they vary by industry and skillset."

"Metrics worth examining include new hire performance (speed to deliver on expected performance levels), employee attrition/retention, in addition to career path and development," he told HR Dive via email. "We aim for year-over-year cost savings acquiring talent, quality of hire and retention.”

Best practices

In this challenging market, metrics depend a lot on what you’re looking to achieve, Greg Moran, CEO of OutMatch, told HR Dive. “The hourly market is really constrained right now, which is presenting a challenge for conversion rates.” A big mistake he said he sees is companies looking to overcorrect by eliminating critical steps in the screening process to speed time-to-hire; this can result in higher turnover, or selecting candidates unsuited for the position.

The challenge, Moran said, “is getting time to hire down without sacrificing selection.” Examining your practices to find where you’re bogged down can help and eliminating those snags can improve candidate experience.

Peter Bonjuklian, vice president, delivery of Starpoint Solutions, a Yoh Company, said that for every three candidates submitted, he expects one interview; for every three interviews, one placement. But recruiter style plays a role, he told HR in an email: "I have people that are submission machines as well as those that are very selective about who they submit. Both can be successful and both fall outside of these general guidelines. Think of a bell curve. There are people at both ends, but the bulk are in the middle, and that is where the three-to-one ratios are most applicable."

When working with a recruiter, metrics play a role, but quality may be more important. "My suggestion," Bonjuklian said, "is for clients to work more closely with a select set of staffing partners and put the emphasis on the right fit over speed of submission." Feedback is critical to a good working relationship with your recruiting partners, as well. Timely, substantive feedback results in successful long-term engagement.

Recruiters are known for having data on time-to-hire, source-of-hire, cost-of-hire and conversion rates, said Rees. "While these data points are helpful, what recruiters should be seeking are insights into a candidate’s potential success during the selection process. Since today’s ATS and CRM technologies can provide these metrics, recruiters need to make the most of the technology that’s available to them, allowing more time for the identification, evaluation and selection of top talent for their clients."

Regardless of how you cull your data, the key is carefully considering the information it reveals and creating a deliberate strategy that will not only boost your metrics but also improve your candidate experience.

Don't blame it on the pipeline: How to make diverse recruiting part of your company's DNA

Companies generally recognize the benefits of a diverse workforce, but actually creating one is a different story.

While many companies recognize the benefits of a diverse workforce, actually creating one is a different story. Federal nondiscrimination laws for the private sector have been on the books for more than half a century, but despite leaders making pacts and plans, progress is slow; recent research indicates that only 12% of organizations are truly inclusive.

And while companies frequently look to improve diversity in various areas, the first focus is often recruiting. It's certainly not enough on its own, but it's an important first step. Employers seeking to attract, nurture and keep qualified employees are re-thinking their previous recruiting methods and implementing new initiatives to make diversity inherent in the recruiting process.

Diversity recruiting trends

Check job descriptions for bias. When job descriptions are worded in a way that discourages candidates from certain demographics from applying, diversity will take a hit. Descriptions using aggressive terms like "rock star" and "guru" can signal a bro culture, some say — one that may be unwelcoming to women and minorities. Likewise, a listing seeking a “digital native” may discourage a qualified but older candidate.

Fixing this is important, but it requires some effort. EY, formerly Ernst & Young, reviewed all of its job descriptions for bias — thousands of them, says Larry Nash, the company's U.S. director of recruiting. “It’s important for us to have a diverse workforce and to tap into talent into all different areas,” he told HR Dive. “We went through a review to make sure we weren’t using words that might have masculine terms."

Biased job descriptions limit a company’s access to qualified candidates, Jenn Prevoznik, global lead of intern and early talent hiring at SAP, told HR Dive. “We want as many people of all backgrounds as possible [to apply],” she said, adding that SAP uses text mining and machine learning to weed out loaded words in job descriptions.

Look to new sources. Companies are recognizing that qualified candidates may not come through the traditional recruiting pipeline. Veterans and older candidates may not be found on a university campus, but through different organizations, says Nash.

“Never blame diversity on the pipeline problem,” Prevoznik agrees. Employers may need to look at candidates’ potential, versus their experience, she says. “If they have a math background [instead of a computer science one], how can we upskill them?”

Employers should also look at job descriptions to ensure that the requirements are genuinely necessary for the job, Kathy Goss, senior manager, head of inclusion recruiting at LinkedIn. “We have those conversations — what is truly needed and can we look at other pools?”

Seek a diverse slate. In-group bias is human nature: We tend to like people who are similar to us. But when it comes to recruiting, that bias can limit efforts to seek candidates who are different and who can bring new perspectives to the organization.

When EY brings in executives, they create a very diverse candidate slate that crosses ethnicity, gender and other backgrounds, Nash said, adding that it may take longer to fill a position when you are seeking candidates that may not be as widely available.

But don’t think that requiring a diverse slate means ‘lowering the bar,’ cautions Goss. “I’m not saying that we’re changing the standards. We don’t want to hire someone just because they’re diverse.” There’s plenty of talent available, Goss says. “The vast majority of the time, the way we’re thinking about that job is too narrowly defined.”

Next steps

Employers are expanding diversity efforts beyond gender and ethnicity, says Goss. Intersectionality is becoming more recognized as companies realize they cannot confine employees into buckets, she said. There’s also a need to help managers build the skills needed to manage different cultures.

Companies also should recognize that diversity isn’t a "recruiting" issue, Prevoznik says. And finding diverse talent isn’t the end game. When employees of all demographics and backgrounds are respected members of the organization, that sentiment shows up when recruiting, she says. Every interaction throughout an employee’s lifecycle should be viewed to ensure it is inclusive, she said.

“There are pockets where there is amazing work being done, and companies are thinking about this in the right way, putting the resources and strategies in place, and moving the needle in the right way,” Goss said. But not everyone is fully on board; some provide sponsorship for diversity events, but little else. “Some companies are just trying to not get sued,” she said.

But even if progress may be slow, there is reason for optimism, Prevoznik says. “This is not a trend, it’s not a hot item of the day,” she says. “The biggest trend is it’s not a trend.”

Recruiting in a multigenerational labor pool requires a wide net

From branding to interviewing, recruiters are thinking about ways to reach all five generations represented in today's workforce.

Editor's Note: This story is part of a series on the multigenerational workforce. The full package is available here.

Today’s workforce is as multigenerational as any has ever been. There are now five generations represented, bringing a wide variety of skills and perspectives.

And the numbers are impressive; according to the Society for Human Resource Management, here’s how today’s workforce breaks down:

  • pre-boomers (those born through 1945) make up less than 1% of the workforce;
  • baby boomers (born between 1946 to 1964) account for 27%;
  • Gen X-ers (1965 to 1980) represent 35%;
  • millennials (1981 to 1998) are 37%; and
  • Gen Z-ers (born after 1999) make up between 1% to 2% of the workforce.

There are many reasons why employers should aim for an age-diverse workforce. For one, age discrimination is illegal (when it comes to those 40 and older) and many attest that diversity boots morale and innovation. But many employers tend to forget about age when it comes to diversity initiatives.

In a recent study, "Disrupting Aging in the Workplace: Profiles in Intergenerational Diversity Leadership," AARP found significant disparities when it comes to hiring, according to Lori Trawinski, director of the financial security team at AARP Public Policy Institute. While 64% of CEOs have a strategy to promote diversity and inclusion, only 8% include age as a dimension of their strategy.

So how do you recruit in a way that neither discriminates nor limits your applicant pool?

Messages

Every communication you send out speaks to your company culture and priorities. But job postings and descriptions may be speaking volumes of which you are not aware. To be heard by the broadest audience possible, it’s important to update them routinely. Words that skew younger or older (energetic/established) could be sending the wrong message. Even the term “digital native” could lead to a discrimination claim.

New tech in AI and recruitment platforms can help: machines screen out biased language to assure your postings and descriptions are as generation-neutral as possible. But if you want to go the DIY route, there are ways to do so. Dan Westmoreland, marketing campaigns manager at Deputy suggests rather than "watch" what you say, "tailor" what you say: “If you know there are common traits a generational employee typically has, tailor your post to that generation. This will save time and increase quality of the candidates.”

Sourcing

Remember that not all sourcing channels are equal, says Maia Josebachvili, VP of strategy and marketing at Greenhouse. Social media skews toward younger respondents, for example. “Recruiters should be mindful of that as they’re planning their sourcing strategy and make sure they’re diversifying where they’re posting the job,” she said. Another aspect is imagery: do your images reflect a diverse workforce? If not, they should. “The companies that are getting it right are very thoughtful about the interview panels and candidate experience they put forth," she said.

Trawinski recommends recruiting from a wide range of sources — not just colleges and universities — and actively recruiting veterans. She said employers are taking a variety of steps, including “apprentice programs for people of all ages and programs to help people reenter the workforce following an extended absence.”  She suggests business can increase diversity recruiting by offering “multigenerational employee resource groups and using them to help.”

Messaging

In addition to the messages you send, the way you send them may be impactful.

Recruitment texting and AI screens are the newest toys in the HR toolbox, but will they inspire the same level of response across the generations? One survey claims 66% of respondents believe it’s acceptable to be contacted via text by a recruiter. Another survey finds 58% comfortable with AI for initial questioning. While all these stats represent the majority, they still leave a significant amount of candidates who prefer the human touch; don’t leave them behind.

Workspaces

While many in Gen Z can happily complete their work in a busy Starbucks with screaming children nearby, some boomers may refer a quieter office. Presentation of your workspace will affect your recruitment efforts.

While the younger crowd may appreciate the half-pipe in the reception area, older workers may think they won’t fit the culture. Review the initial impressions your workplace makes on candidates coming in to interview and make sure it's welcoming for everyone.

Flex work

Flex schedules, remote and contract work are on the rise, but surprisingly not driven by the younger generations. Older workers are driving the "gig economy" as they prefer to have more flexibility in how much and where they work.

A note about available flex work during recruitment may net employers a larger applicant response. In particular, companies that offer a caregiving option could open the door to more seasoned employees who may have elder care responsibilities, as well as employees at the family planning stage of their career.

Interviewing

Whether digitally or face-to-face, interviewing a range of age groups presents its own challenges. “I wish it wasn’t true, but we all have unconscious biases and these tend to show up in recruiting,” Josebachvili said. To build the best teams, she recommends you “structure your hiring process with agreed upon desired attributes and set questions for evaluating candidates against a predetermined scorecard.”

Westmoreland suggests training classes for recruiters and hiring managers to identify bias and differences, which can bridge gaps in communication and understanding.

While the challenges of recruiting across a 70-year span of potential employees is great, so can be the rewards. Making sure your workforce is as diverse as possible increases engagement, productivity, brand loyalty and more. Including multi-generational diversity as a priority not only helps mirror your customer base, it promotes a wide range of ideas and perspectives that can only help you grow. 

Leverage employer branding to attract top intern talent

As the market for interns gets tighter, can employers use their brands to drive applications?

While Indeed reported that internship posts were up in 2018, surpassing the prior two years, searches for intern opportunities haven’t followed, meaning employers could face some stiff competition for intern candidates. But as competition heats up, employers with a strong brand presence in the marketplace may have an advantage.

Companies are seeing the value of leveraging their brand to appeal to both consumers and applicants. A strong business brand can garner customer loyalty, increased sales and even better recruitment results. A survey from Glassdoor revealed that job seekers are 40% more likely to apply for a position if they are familiar with a company's brand. The same study found that 60% of employers identify their own brand awareness as a significant barrier or challenge to attracting and hiring candidates.

Intern applicants are no less savvy: they’re looking for a great experience and often have multiple offers to choose from. AfterCollege reports that for 2017 and 2018 graduates, 55% have had at least one internship before graduation, with 63% of them paid.

With internship opportunities on the rise, how can companies differentiate themselves from the crowd to attract top talent? Joe Shaker Jr., president of Shaker Recruitment Marketing told HR Dive via email, "There's absolutely a war for talent right now. In these instances, it's critical for employers to stress their differentiators, tell their brand story and really focus on attracting new talent."

"Any candidate," Shaker said, "regardless of experience, wants to know what that employer is going to provide for them." Leveraging your good name in the market is important, he said. "Early career candidates have a lot of options right now, so employers really need to focus on branding themselves to build awareness and affinity."

Unique examples

Some employers already know this. Harley-Davidson's #FindYourFreedom internship program may be the coolest thing on two wheels. The company is hoping to attract a younger demographic to their product line, and they may have found a marketing tool to accomplish just that: a branded internship program. For 12 weeks, eight interns will ride a Harley and learn about integrated marketing communications. The students will be trained to ride, attend local motorcycle and other functions and events promoting the brand. Throughout the program, participants are expected to post their experiences on social media. And at the end of the paid internship, they even get to keep the bike.

In 2017, Under Armour's Rookie Program was rated the top intern program in the U.S. according to Way Up, beating out the likes of Google and Facebook. In 2018, they called their interns the "summer league," and the company website said they'd go through the same training as corporate execs. The 12-week program promised the opportunity for real work and real results, and the company also makes clear that it hires from its intern pool. 

Boasting your brand

While not every employer has a motorcycle to offer, there are ways companies can boost their brand and attract top interns at the same time. Moritz Kothe, CEO of kununu told HR Dive in an email that branding "is one of the most important areas that a company HR department can focus on when it comes to enticing interns and full-time employees alike.” He said he believes that a clear explanation of the company's mission and values positions it in the marketplace to attract. "The core of what the company does is going to be the first reason why someone is initially interested in a company, but having a clear picture of the day to day (think culture, benefits, perks, management and more) is what drives someone to apply and/or take a position with a company once it’s been offered."

Shaker said discovering your brand means being able to identify what sets you apart from the competition. With brand in mind, "ensure that every candidate touch point exudes your new employer brand in a way that's authentic and effective for the touch point," he said. "The candidate experience must be the guiding principle in this process to ensure employers are getting the greatest ROI and attracting talent effectively."

A good brand can make your organization more recognizable and top-of-mind, said Troy Steece, project manager at Korn Ferry Futurestep, via email. "[S]tudy after study shows that for millennials, a culture fit is critical, so the brand should accurately reflect the culture."

The ROI of branding

HR should be vigilant in finding ways to position their brand in a favorable light: applicants are examining online presence scrupulously before they apply. A stagnant career page isn’t going to impress, but leveraging reviews, social media and opportunities to spotlight who you are — and who your employees are — is a good first step.

From there, make sure to include the human touch when recruiting. "Interns specifically are usually feeling out a number of different options," Kothe said. “So if they can find a company to call home or a specific individual that they feel they can trust and be mentored by, the chances of landing someone who fits your needs and is motivated to work hard will be much higher."

The benefit of a solid intern program can be a great hire, too. Steece said finding good interns is the best way to find great employees. He recommends clients source interns in their junior year: if they are a good fit, make them an offer in the fall of their senior year so they are secured to join the company upon graduation.

Steece believes converting interns into full-time hires should always be the point of the intern program. "Based off research I've done in the past," he said, "former interns are almost twice as likely to stay at the company past the first two years." In a tight applicant market, that can be significant. Hiring interns at the conclusion of their program takes them off the market long before the competition has a chance to snap them up.