The recruitment process: 10 steps necessary for success
The recruitment process is a strategic series of steps from job description to offer letter, designed to attract, assess, and hire suitable candidates. It includes recruitment marketing, searching for passive candidates, referrals, managing candidate experience, team collaboration, evaluations, applicant tracking, compliance, and onboarding.
Content manager Keith MacKenzie and content specialist Alex Pantelakis bring their HR & employment expertise to Resources.
We’d love to tell you that the recruitment process is as simple as posting a job and then choosing the best among the candidates who flow right in.
Here’s a secret: it really can be that simple, because we’ve simplified it for you. There are 10 main areas of the recruitment process that, once mastered, can help you:
Optimize your recruitment strategy
Speed up the hiring process
Save money for your organization
Attract the best candidates – and more of them too with effective job descriptions
Increase employee retention and engagement
Build a stronger team
What is the recruitment process?
A recruitment process includes all the steps that get you from job description to offer letter – including the initial application, the screening (be it via phone or a one-way video interview), face-to-face interviews, assessments, background checks, and all the other elements crucial to making the right hire.
We’ve broken down all these steps into 10 focal areas for you below. Read all about them, check out the relevant resources in our library – all linked to in this guide – and know that we can help you make the most of each step so you can recruit top talent with greater ease.
An overview of the recruitment process
An effective recruitment process will ensure you can find, and hire the best candidates for the roles you’re looking to fill. Not only does a fine-tuned recruitment process allow you to hit your hiring goals but it also facilitates you to do so quickly and at scale.
It is highly likely that the recruitment process you implement within your business or HR department will be unique in some way to your organization depending on its size, the industry you operate within and any existing hiring processes in place.
However, what will stay consistent across most organizations is the objectives behind the creation of an effective recruitment process and the steps required to find and hire top talent:
Applying marketing principles to the recruitment process Find and attract better candidates by generating awareness of your brand with your industry and promoting your job ads effectively via channels you know will be most likely to reach potential candidates.
Recruitment marketing also includes building informative and engaging careers pages for your company, as well as crafting attractive job descriptions that hit the mark with candidates in your sector and entice them to follow up with your organization.
Expand your pool of potential talent by connecting with candidates who may not be actively looking. Reaching out to elusive talent not only increases the number of qualified candidates but can also diversify your hiring funnel for existing and future job posts.
A successful referral program has a number of benefits and allows you to ttap into your existing employee network to source candidates faster while also improving retention and reducing costs in the process.
Iinterview and assess with fairness and objectivity to ensure you’re evaluating all qualified candidates in the same way. Set clear criteria for talent early on in the recruitment process and be consistent with the questions you ask each candidate.
Hiring is not just about ticking boxes or following a step-by-step guide. Yes, at its core, it’s just publishing a job ad, screening resumes and providing a shortlist of good candidates – but overall, hiring is closer to a business function that’s critical for the entire organization’s success and health. After all, your company is nothing without its people, and it’s your job to find and hire stellar performers who can make your business thrive.
Find hiring tools that meet your needs, once you’ve successfully found and placed talent within your organization the recruitment process isn’t quite finished. An effective onboarding strategy and ongoing support can improve employee retention and reduce the costs of needing to hire again in the future.
Source the best candidates
With Workable's AI recruiting technology, you'll automatically get the best-fit passive candidates every time you post a job.
“Recruitment marketing is how your company tells its culture story through content and messaging to reach top talent. It can include blogs, video messages, social media, images – any public-facing content that builds your brand among candidates.”
In short, it’s applying marketing principles to each of the steps of the recruitment process. Imagine the amount of energy, money and resources invested into a single marketing campaign to call attention to a specific product, service, concept or another area.
For example, consider that the marketing budget for the recently released Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdomtopped $185 million. Yes, dinosaurs are cool, but this is the fifth incarnation of an action series about dinosaurs and it’s not that new this time. So, that marketing machine still needs to get the word out and convince people to plunk down their limited time and hard-earned money to go see this on the big screen.
Now, you’re not going to spend $185 million on your recruitment efforts, but you must think of recruitment in marketing terms: you, too, are trying to coax valuable talent to apply to work in your organization. If the marketing minds behind Jurassic World opened their campaign with: “Wanted: Movie Viewers” followed by some dry language about two hours of yet another movie about actors running from dinosaurs but it’ll only cost you $15, it will not have the same intended effect. So, why are you continuing to use that same language about your job opportunities and your company in your recruitment efforts?
Yes, you’re not a marketer – we get that. But you still have to approach it in a marketing frame of mind. How do you do that if you don’t have a marketing degree? You can either hire a Recruitment Marketing Manager to do the job, or you can try it yourself.
Awareness: what makes the candidate aware of your job opening?
Consideration: what helps the candidate consider such a job?
Decision: what drives the candidate to make a decision to apply for and accept this opportunity?
Call it the candidate’s journey. Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with this journey, let’s go through each of the things you want to do to optimize your recruitment marketing.
a) Build your employer brand
First and foremost, you need to build your employer brand. At the In-House Recruitment Expo in Telford, England, in October 2018, ‘Google Dave’ Hazlehurst urged attendees to promote their employer brand everywhere, not just in job ads. This includes interviews, online and offline content, quotes, features – everything that promotes you as an employer that people want to work for and that candidates are aware of. After all, awareness is the first step in the candidate’s journey.
How often have you looked for a job and come across numerous companies that you’ve never even heard of? Exactly. On the flip side, everyone knows Google. So if Google had an opening for a job that was tailored to your skill set, you’d jump at the opportunity. Why? Because Google is famed not only as a tech brand, but also as an employer – Googleplex is prominent for good reason.
But you’re not Google. If your brand is relatively unknown, then you want to change that. Regardless of the sector you’re in or the product/service you’re offering, you want to look like a vibrant, forward-thinking organization that values its employees and prides itself on being ahead of the curve in the industry. You can do that via numerous media channels:
Candidates want to work for leaders, disruptors and original thinkers who can help them grow their own careers in turn – hence the popularity of Google. Position yourself as one, present yourself as one, and especially, communicate yourself as one. This involves a collective effort from teams in your organization, and it’s not about merely advertising that you’re a good employer; it’s about being one.
b) Promote the job opening via job ads
Posting job ads is a fundamental aspect of recruitment, but there are numerous ways to refine that part of the overall process beyond the usual channels of LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor and other professional social networks. As one-time VP of Customer Advocacy Matt Buckland wrote in his article about candidate hierarchy, paraphrased:
It’s about reaching the most people, and it’s also about getting the right people.
So you need to advertise in the right places to get the candidates you want.
Social media is another way to promote job openings, with three particular benefits:
Network: Social media involves significant social and professional networks who will help you get the word even further out.
Passive candidates: You stand a greater chance of reaching passive candidates who otherwise don’t know about your job opportunity and end up applying because they happened across your job ad in their personal social media feed.
Element of trust: People are more likely to trust and respond to job postings that appear in their trusted channels either via their networks or a paid placement.
Check out our tutorial on the best ways to advertise job openings via social.
d) Build an attractive careers page
This is the first page candidates will come to when they visit your website sniffing around for jobs, or when they want to learn more about your company and what it’d be like to work there. Rarely will you see potential applicants simply apply for a job; if the job fits what they’re looking for, they’re going to have questions on their mind:
The job description is a crucial aspect of recruitment marketing. A job description basically describes what you’re looking for in the position you want to fill and what you’re offering to the person looking to fill that position. But it can be a lot more than that.
While it’s important to outline the duties of the position and the compensation for performing those duties, including only those details will come off as merely transactional. Your candidate is not just some random customer who walked into your store; they’re there because they’re making a very important decision in their life where they’ll commit as much as 40-50 hours per week. Building your job description above and beyond the usual tick-boxes of requirements, qualifications and benefits will attract talented candidates who can bring so much more to the table than simply carrying out the required duties of the job.
Conceptualizing the job description within the framework of the candidate hierarchy (loosely based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model) is a good place to start in terms of talent attraction. Also, these examples of great job ads from the Workable job board have really hit the mark. Again, this impacts the consideration of the job, which ultimately leads to the decision to apply – the third step in the candidate’s journey:
f) Refine and optimize the hiring process
Each step of the hiring process impacts candidate experience, from the very moment a candidate sees your job posting through to their first day at their new job. You want to make this process as easy and as pleasant as possible, because everything you do is a reflection of your employer brand in the eyes of your most important customer: the candidate.
Make the uploaded resume auto-populate properly and seamlessly to the relevant fields
Eliminate the annoying repeated tasks, such as re-entering various pieces of information (a common grievance among job seekers)
Have clear tick-boxes for the basic questions such as “Are you legally permitted to work in XYZ?” or “Can you speak XYZ language fluently?”
Make sure your applications are optimized for mobile, since many candidates job-hunt on their phones and tablets
Screening call / phone interview:
Make it easy to schedule a screening call; consider giving several time-slot options for the candidate and allowing them to choose
Ensure a pleasant conversation takes place to put the candidate at ease
Make sure you’re on time for the interview
Same as above, but you should also ensure the candidate knows how to get to the interview site, and provide relevant details such as what to bring with them and parking/transit options
Prepare by looking at each candidate’s application beforehand and having a set of questions to lead the interview with
Inform the candidate of the purpose of an assessment
Assure the candidate that this is a “test” specifically designed for the application process and not “free work” (and this must be true, so avoid giving candidates excessive work to do in a tight timeframe. If you need to do it this way, pay them a fee)
Set clear expectations on expected outcome and deadline
Clarify what you need (e.g. do you want personal, professional, and/or academic references?)
Follow up only when given the go-ahead by your candidates – e.g. a reference might be the candidate’s current employer in which case, discretion is needed
Include all pertinent details related to the job such as:
Clarify the options of how a candidate can accept the offer – be it by email, phone call, signed letter, etc. You can optimize this process to make it easy for the candidate to accept, such as: “To accept, simply reply to this email stating you accept the job offer.” You can also use an electronic signature service, such as HelloSign.
And importantly, ensure that the job offer and its details are appropriate for the location where you’re making the hire. For instance:
in Greece, paid time off is universally understood to be a minimum of 20 days as per legislation and is therefore not normally included in a job offer
a 401(k) is unique to the United States
paycheck schedules may be biweekly in some jobs, countries or industries, and monthly in others.
Generally, think of this whole selection process in terms of customer satisfaction; ease of use is a powerful element in a candidate’s decision-making process, especially in the more competitive or specialized fields that regularly see a war for talent where even the smallest details can sway the most coveted candidates to your company (or to a competitor).
You often hear about that ‘elusive talent’, a.k.a. passive candidates. The truth is that passive candidates are not a special category; they’re simply potential candidates who have the desirable skills but haven’t applied for your open roles – at least not yet. So when you’re looking for passive candidates, what you’re really doing is actively looking for qualified candidates.
But why should you be doing that, when you already have qualified candidates applying to your job ads or sending their resume via your careers page?
Here’s how looking for passive candidates can benefit your recruiting efforts:
Make a targeted skill search. Instead of – or in addition to – casting a wide net with a job ad, you can narrow down your outreach to candidates who match your specific requirements, e.g. proficiency in X language, expertise in Y software.
Hire for hard-to-fill roles. There are high-demand jobs that will bring you many good applicants even from a single ad, and there are many others that are less popular. For the latter, it pays to do some research on your own and try to contact directly people who would be a good fit.
Expand your candidate sources. When you only post your open roles on specific job boards, you miss out on qualified candidates who don’t visit those sites. Instead, by looking at social media, resume databases or even offline, you bring your job openings in front of people who wouldn’t see them.
Diversify your candidate database. When you want to build a diverse hiring process, you often need to proactively reach out to candidate groups that don’t traditionally apply for your open roles. For example, if you’re looking to achieve gender balance, you can attract more female candidates by posting your job ad to a professional Facebook group that’s dedicated to women.
Build talent pipelines for future hiring needs. Sometimes, you’ll come across people who are highly skilled but currently not interested in changing jobs. Or, people who could fit in your company when the right opportunity comes up. Building and maintaining relationships with these people, even if you don’t hire them at this point in time, means that when you have hiring needs that match their profiles, you can contact them to see if they’re available and, ultimately, reduce time to hire.
a) Where you should look for passive candidates
While you should still use the traditional channels to advertise your open roles (job boards and careers pages), you can maximize your outreach to potential candidates by sourcing in these places:
Social media: LinkedIn is by default a professional network, which makes it an optimal place to look for potential candidates. You can promote your open roles on LinkedIn, join groups, and directly contact people who seem like a good fit using InMail messages. While they weren’t built specifically for recruiting, other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter gather professionals from all over the world and can help you find your next great hire. From posting targeted Facebook job ads to people who meet your requirements to identifying seasoned professionals or experts in a niche field, you can expand your outreach and connect with people who don’t necessarily visit job boards.
Portfolio and resume databases: Work samples are often good indicators of one’s skills and potential. That’s why you should consider exploring sites such as Dribbble and Behance (creative and design), Github (coding), and Medium (writing) where you can find interesting candidate profiles and creative portfolios. Large job boards also give access to resume databases where you can look for prospective employees.
Past applicants: There’s a clear benefit to re-engaging candidates who have applied in the past: they’re already familiar with your company and you’ve already evaluated their skills to an extent. This means that you can save time by skipping the first stages of the hiring process (e.g. introduction, screening, assessment tests, etc.).
Referrals / Network: When you have a shortage in job applications, it’s a good idea to start looking into your network and your coworkers’ networks. Referred candidates tend to onboard faster and stay for longer. You’ll also save advertising money as you can reach out to them directly.
Offline: Besides job fairs that are specifically organized to connect job seekers with employers, you can meet potential candidates in all kinds of professional events, such as conferences and meetups. When you meet candidates in person, it’s easier to build up trust, learn about their professional goals and tell them about your current or future job opportunities.
b) How to contact passive candidates
Finding potentially good fits for your open roles is the easy part; the harder part is attracting their attention and piquing their interest. Here are some effective ways to communicate with passive candidates:
1. Personalize your message
Few candidates like receiving messages from recruiters they don’t know – especially when these messages are generic boilerplate templates. To get someone interested in your job opportunity, you need to show them that you did your homework and that you reached out because you genuinely think they’d be a good fit for the role. Mention something that applies specifically to them. For example, acknowledge their good work on a recent project – and include details – or comment on a specific part of their online portfolio.
Good candidates, especially those who are in high-demand jobs, receive sourcing emails from recruiters regularly. This means that you’re competing for their attention with many other messages in their inbox. So, when sending sourcing emails or messages, keep two things in mind:
Provide as much detail about the job and your company as possible in a clear and brief way. Candidates are more likely to ignore messages that are too generic or too long.
No matter how good your email is, some candidates might still not reply or be interested. You shouldn’t follow up more than once, otherwise you risk leaving a negative impression by being an annoyance.
3. Build relationships in advance
The most effective approach is to reach out to people you’re already connected with. This requires investing some time to stay in touch with people you’ve met who could be a good fit in the future.
For example, when you meet interesting people during conferences or when you reject good candidates because someone else was more suitable at that time, keep the connection alive via social media or even in-person coffee chats, stay updated on their career path, and contact them again when the right opening comes up.
4. Boost your employer brand
When you approach passive candidates, one of the first things they’ll do – if they’re interested – is to look up your company. Unless your company’s name is high profile like Google or Facebook (see above), your digital footprint plays a big part in the opinion that candidates will form.
An outdated website will certainly not leave a good impression. On the flip side, a beautiful careers page, positive online reviews from employees, and rich social media pages can give you bonus points, even if your brand is not widely recognized.
c) Sourcing passive candidates with Workable
Finding those high-potential candidates and getting in touch with them could be a full-time job when you’re scaling fast. That’s why we built a number of tools and services to help you identify good fits for your open positions and create talent pipelines.
Workable helps you source qualified candidates by:
Providing access to a searchable database of more than 400 million candidates
Recommending best-fit candidates sourced using artificial intelligence
Automating outreach to passive candidates on social media
Asking for referrals means that you add one extra source in your recruiting mix. Your current staff and your external network likely already know a healthy number of skilled professionals; some of them could be your next hires.
Referrals help you:
Improve retention. Referred candidates tend to onboard faster and stay longer because they’re already familiar with the company, its culture and at least one colleague.
Speed up hiring. When your coworkers refer a candidate, they do the pre-screening for you; they’ll likely recommend someone who meets the minimum requirements for the role so you can move them forward to the next hiring stage.
Reduce hiring costs. Referrals don’t cost you anything; even if you offer a referral bonus, the total amount that you’ll spend is significantly lower compared to advertising costs and external recruiters.
Engage your current staff. With referrals, you’re not just getting potential candidates; you’re also involving existing employees in the hiring process and getting them to play a part in who you hire and how you build your teams.
Do you want to get referrals for a specific position or do you want to connect with people who would be a good overall fit for your company?
Are you going to ask for referrals for every position you open, or only for hard-to-fill roles?
When will you ask for referrals – before, after, or at the same time as you publish the job ad?
Do you have a particular goal you want to achieve with referrals (e.g. increase diversity, improve gender balance, boost employee morale)?
Once you decide how and when you’ll use referrals to recruit candidates, you can include the process in an employee referral policy that describes how employees can refer candidates, how the HR team will carry out the employee referral program, and other pertinent details.
Plan how to request and receive referrals
If you don’t have a system for referrals in place, email is your best option. Email your staff to inform them about an open job and encourage them to submit referrals. Mention what skills and qualifications you’re looking for, include a link to the full job description if needed, and explain how employees can refer candidates (e.g. via email to HR or the hiring manager, by uploading their resume on the company’s intranet, etc.).
Employees will refer good candidates as long as the process is easy and straightforward, and not complicated or time-consuming for them. Describe what you want (e.g. candidates’ background, contact details, resume, LinkedIn profile) and the best way for them to provide this information.
Consider including a form or a set of questions that employees can answer so that you collect referrals in a cohesive way. Here’s a template you can use when you ask employees to submit referrals for your open roles.
Referring good candidates is not always a priority for employees, especially when they’re busy. In this case, a referral bonus could work as an incentive. This doesn’t necessarily have to be money; you can opt for gift cards, days off, free tickets, or other creative, low-cost rewards.
Who is eligible for a referral reward (e.g. it’s common to exclude HR team members since they have a say on who gets hired and who doesn’t)
What constitutes a successful referral (e.g. the referred candidate needs to stay with the company for a set amount of time)
What the reward will be
What limitations – if any – exist (e.g. employees can’t refer candidates who have applied in the past)
The dark side of referrals
Referrals against diversity
While referrals can bring you great candidates at low to no cost, you should only consider them as a complement to your existing recruitment toolbox and not as your primary tool. Otherwise, you risk building homogenous teams. People tend to be connected with others who are more or less like them. For example, they have studied at the same college or university, have worked together in the past, or come from a similar socio-economic background or locale.
To bring more diversity to your teams, you should look for candidates in multiple sources and opt for people who have something new to offer to your teams. Also, to avoid nepotism and personal biases, remind employees to refer not only people they’re friends with, but also professionals who have the right skills even if they don’t personally know them. You could also encourage them to refer candidates who come from underrepresented groups.
Referrals lost in a black hole
One of the reasons why employees are hesitant to refer good candidates is because they don’t know what’s going to happen next. If they refer someone who turns out not to be a good fit, will that reflect back on them? Also, what if they refer someone but the candidate doesn’t hear back from the hiring team or has an otherwise negative candidate experience?
These are valid concerns, but you can easily tackle them if you organize your referral process. You can keep all referrals in one place and track their progress. This way, you’ll be able to get information on things like:
How many candidates you got from referrals for each position
How many people you hired through referrals
How many referred candidates you’ve pre-screened and are going to interview
This will also make sure you don’t miss a candidate which could easily happen when you don’t use one specific way to get referrals from your coworkers.
Want to learn more about how you can organize your referrals in one place? Read about Workable’s Referrals, a platform that requires zero administrative effort from you and makes submitting and tracking referrals incredibly easy for employees.
Candidate experience is a vital aspect of the overall recruitment process. It’s one of the ways you can strengthen your employer brand and attract the best candidates. Not only do you want these candidates to become aware of your job opportunity, consider that opportunity, and ultimately throw their hat into the ring, you also want them to be actively engaged. A candidate who’s still deliberating on a number of job opportunities can be swayed by the strong sense that an employer is engaging with them throughout the process and making them feel valued as a person rather than as a resource being “pushed through a talent pipeline”.
“The best way to build your talent pipeline is to care about your candidates. Every single one of them.”
There are numerous ways you can do this:
Keep the candidate regularly updated throughout the process. A candidate will appreciate clear and consistent communication from the recruiter and employer as to where they stand in the process. This can include more personalized communication in the latter stages of the selection process, prompt replies to inquiries from the candidate, and consistent updates about the next steps in the recruiting process (e.g. date of next interview, deadline for an assessment, recruiter’s plans to contact references, etc.).
Offer constructive feedback.This is especially crucial when a candidate is disqualified due to a failed assignment or after an in-person interview; not only will a candidate appreciate knowing why they aren’t being moved to the next step, but candidates will be more likely to apply again in the future if they know they “almost” made it. It’s important to make sure your hiring team is well-versed on how to deliver effective feedback. This kind of positive candidate experience can be very powerful in building your reputation as an employer via word of mouth in that candidate’s network.
Keep the candidate informed on practical aspects of the process. This includes the pertinent details such as location of interview and how to get there, parking options in the area, timing of interviews and deadlines (flexibility helps), who they’ll be meeting, clear details in the job offer letter, options for video, etc. Don’t leave the candidate guessing or put them in the awkward position of needing more information on these details.
Speak in the ‘language’ of the candidates you want to attract. Nothing frustrates a talented candidate more than a recruiter who is ill-informed on the latest programming languages yet is hiring a top-tier developer, or a recruitment agency who has only a rudimentary understanding of the audits, accounts payable/receivable and other important knowledge bases of a controller. It’s also important to understand what recruiting tactics appeal to a specific target audience of candidates, for example, artisans will be drawn to a candidate experience that shows value for autonomy and creativity as opposed to jobs that require them to fit a certain mold.
Appeal to different demographics when advertising a job. When you’re a startup, don’t just talk about the beer keg in the lunchroom, regular bowling nights, or free Red Sox tickets for the top salesperson (and moreover, remember to be gender-neutral in your terminologies rather than using, for instance, “salesman”). Consider the diverse range of interests, needs and wants in candidates – some may be parents or baby boomers who need to leave early to get their kids or catch the commute home, and others may not be baseball fans. It’s a powerful engager when you speak to the different demographic/sociographic/psychographic needs of potential candidates when advertising your benefits.
Keep it a pleasant, two-way street. Don’t be that horrible interviewer in your candidate’s story at their next social gathering. Do open up the channels of communication with candidates and ask them how their experience has been either within interviews or in a follow-up “thank you” survey.
The recruitment process doesn’t hinge on just one person – it requires the buy-in and, especially, participation of numerous different players in the business. Those players include, for instance:
Recruiter: This is the person spearheading the recruitment planning and overall process. They’re the ones responsible for putting the word out that your company is hiring, and they’re the ones who maintain the lion’s share of communication with candidates. They also handle the logistics – screening candidates, organizing interviews, rejecting candidates or moving them forward, sending assessments and job offers, etc. A great recruiter is one who can quickly find the best candidates for the right roles in the company. The recruiter can be a dedicated HR Recruiter, an HR Generalist, or a Head of Talent.
Hiring Manager: This is the person for whom the new hire will ultimately be working. They’re the ones putting in the requisition for a new hire (whether due to turnover, a newly created position, or other reason). They’re going through resumes and disqualifying or moving them through the pipeline, interviewing candidates, and making that final decision on who to hire. It’s essential that they work closely with the Recruiter to assure success.
Executive: In many cases, while the Hiring Manager puts in that request for a new employee, it’s the executive or upper management who must approve that request. They’re also the ones who approve salaries, purchase of tools, and other decisions related to recruitment. Generally, things don’t get moving without their approval.
Finance: Because they control the company’s money, they will need to be informed of any new requisition and any new hire. These sort of decisions impact the flow of money through the system, and there are many intricate details that can impact Finance’s ability to balance the books.
Human Resources and/or Office Manager: As a general rule of thumb, the Recruiter is one part of Human Resources. But the others in HR, including the Office Manager, are also responsible for the onboarding process and ensuring a new employee fits in well with their colleagues. You want them as informed as possible as to who’s coming on board, what to prepare for, etc.
IT: The person managing the overall IT setup in your company isn’t actually involved in the hiring process, but they’re a little like Human Resources in that they should be kept in the loop for training and onboarding processes. For instance, they’re very interested in maintaining IT security in the business, so they’ll want the new hire to be fully trained on security requirements in the workplace.
It’s vital that you understand the very different motivations of each player in the business, and what their role is in each step of the recruitment process flowchart. A candidate’s experience will be made more positive when the recruitment pipeline is a well-operated, coordinated machine where every person they interact with is well-informed and properly trained for their specific role in the process. Ultimately, it boils down to smart and regular communication between each player, being clear about the roles and responsibilities of each, and ensuring that each is actively participating – a good ATS such as Workable will go a long way here.
What would you say is more difficult: choosing between peas and pizza, or between cupcakes and ice cream? Unless you’re a peas nut, you’d more easily resolve the first dilemma than the second. Let’s apply that thinking to the employee selection process; we could say it’s easy to choose the one good candidate over other mediocre applicants; but choosing the best among really strong, qualified candidates certainly isn’t. That’s a “good” problem because it’s a testament to your talent attraction methods (for instance, you’ve mastered the recruitment marketing and candidate experience categories above) and you’re more likely to hire the best person for the job.
So, assuming you’re facing this “problem”, how do you identify the absolute best candidate among so many good choices? This is where you need to apply effective evaluation methods.
a) Determine criteria early on
Before you open a role, you need to make sure the entire hiring team (recruiters, hiring managers and other team members who’ll be involved in the recruiting process) is in sync. Writing the job ad is a good opportunity to identify the qualifications a person needs to be successful in the job.
You may already have this information in place if it’s not the first time you’re hiring for this role – of course, you still want to review the duties and requirements to make sure they’re still accurate and relevant. If you’re hiring for a role for the first time, use template job descriptions to help you identify common duties and requirements for each job. Customize those to your own company and team.
Then, identify those important qualities and values that all employees in your company should share. What will help a new hire in the role – for instance, adaptability to change or dedication to arcane details? Intelligence is a given in most cases, while integrity and dependability are common requirements. Also, reflect on what would make a candidate a culture fit for a specific team or the company.
When you have your list of requirements, go through it once more and answer these questions:
Is this requirement a must-have? If not, make this clear in the job ad, and make sure you don’t evaluate candidates solely based on nice-to-haves.
Can this skill be developed on the job? This particularly applies for junior or mid-level roles. Think whether someone can do the job well without having mastered a specific skill.
Is this requirement job-related? This might be useful when considering soft skills or culture fit. For example, you may have seen ads asking for candidates with “a sense of humor” but unless you’re hiring for a stand-up comedian, this is certainly not job-related.
With the final list at hand, rank each requirement to ensure you and the hiring team know which skills are more important than others, and whether the lack of certain skills is a dealbreaker.
b) Be structured
Among all the different interview types, structured interviews are the best predictors of job performance. Structured interviews are based on two main elements: First, asking the same set of standardized interview questions to all candidates – in other words, ensuring uniformity of analysis – and second, rating their answers on a consistent scale.
Rating scales are a good idea, but they also require testing and validation. Give them a go if you want, but you could also conduct objective evaluations by paying attention to your interview process steps and questions.
Craft questions based on requirements
You might have heard a lot about ‘clever’ questions, like brainteasers or common questions such as “What is your biggest weakness?” But it’s often difficult to decode the answers and be certain you learned something important about candidates. Google stopped using brainteasers (e.g. “Why are manhole covers round?”) precisely because they were deemed ineffective.
If you want to create your own questions, consider turning them into behavioral or situational questions. Behavioral questions ask candidates to describe how they faced job-related issues in the past, while situational questions create a hypothetical scenario and test how candidates would handle it. The advantage of these types of questions is that candidates are more likely to give genuine answers. You’ll get a glimpse into candidates’ ways of thinking and you can objectively evaluate how they’ll manage job duties. Here’s one example of a behavior question and one example of a situational question you could ask for the role of Content Writer:
Tell me about a time you received negative feedback you didn’t agree with on a piece of writing. How did you handle it? (assesses openness to feedback and diplomacy skills)
What would you do if I asked you to write 20 articles in a week? (assesses analytical skills and how realistically they approach goals)
When evaluating the answers to these questions, pay attention to how each candidate constructs their answer. Do they give the socially desirable answer (e.g. they just tell you what they think you want to hear) or do they adequately explain their reasoning?
Ask the same questions to each candidate
You can’t compare apples and oranges, so you can’t compare answers to different questions to determine whose candidacy is stronger. To be consistent, ask the same questions to all candidates, preferably in the same order.
Leave room for candidate-specific questions if there are issues you’d like to address. For example, you might ask someone who’s changing careers about what makes them want to enter the field they’ve applied for. But, try to keep these questions at a minimum and always make sure that what you ask is relevant to the job.
c) Combat your biases
Biases can be conscious and unconscious. Unconscious bias is difficult to recognize and ultimately prevent – after all, you may simply not know you’re biased against someone. Yet, it’s something you need to work on in order to hire the best people and stay legally compliant.
To recognize underlying biases against protected characteristics, start with taking Harvard’s Implicit Association Test. If you find you may have an unconscious bias against a protected characteristic, try to bring that bias to the forefront of your mind when you’re about to reject candidates with that characteristic. Ask yourself: do I have tangible, job-related reasons to reject them? And if that person didn’t have that characteristic, would I have made the same decision?
The same goes for conscious biases. Some of them might have merit – for example, someone who doesn’t have a medical degree probably shouldn’t be hired as a surgeon. But other times, we force ourselves to consider arbitrary criteria when making hiring decisions. For example, an experienced hiring manager declared that they never hire anyone who doesn’t send them a post-interview thank-you note. This stirred controversy because of the simple fact that the thank you note is an entirely unreliable proxy for motivation and manners, not to mention a potential cultural bias. Similarly, when you receive lots of applications for a job, you might decide to disqualify candidates who don’t hold a degree from Ivy League schools, assuming that those with a degree are better-educated.
Hiring is hard and you might be tempted to use shortcuts to reach a decision. But you should resist: shortcuts and arbitrary criteria are not effective hiring methods. Keep your criteria simple and strictly job-related.
d) Implement the right tools
Technology is your ally when evaluating candidates. It can help you assess the right criteria, structure your questions, document your evaluation and review feedback from others. Here are examples of such tools:
Qualifying questions on application forms
Gamification (game-based tests that help you assess candidate skills at the initial stages of the hiring process)
Online assessments (such as coding challenges and cognitive ability tests)
Interview scorecards (lists of questions categorized by skill – those can be built in your recruiting software)
An applicant tracking system to document your evaluations and collaborate with your team more easily. Plus, a good ATS will probably integrate with assessment providers, gamification vendors and more so you can have all of the best evaluation tools at your disposal at a single location.
Want to learn about those? See our section about technology in hiring further down.
Let’s say you found a hiring genie who grants you three wishes – what would you ask for?
“I wish I didn’t have a deadline to find the perfect candidate.”
“I wish I had an unlimited recruiting budget.”
“I wish I had fairies to do my HR admin tasks.”
Unfortunately, that hiring genie doesn’t exist and you obviously can’t incorporate magic tricks into your recruiting process. So, when thinking about how you’ll fill your open roles, you need to look at the full picture and consider the limitations that you have.
a) How the hiring process affects the organization
Advertising costs (e.g. job boards, social media, careers pages)
Recruiters’ salaries (whether in-house or external)
But we often overlook other costs that might be more difficult to measure, like the loss in productivity because of a job vacancy. An open role can be expensive, so reducing time to hire is absolutely a crucial business objective.
Hiring is not an individual’s job
Yes, it’s usually a recruiter who does the heavy lifting of recruiting: advertising open roles, screening applications, contacting and interviewing candidates and the like. But this doesn’t mean you always work entirely independent of others. For example, as a recruiter, you’ll work closely with hiring managers, executives, HR professionals and/or the office manager, finance manager, and others. Different people will be involved in each hiring stage – see #5 above for a deeper look at each role in the hiring team.
Hiring is not a one-size-fits-all solution
While this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a process in place, you have to be able to be flexible in the process and quickly customize it to address different hiring needs on the spot. Imagine the following scenarios:
An employee hands in their notice a week after a colleague from their team was fired, so now you have to replace two employees instead of one in the same time period.
Your company undertakes a big project and you have to quickly grow your engineering team by hiring eight developers over the next 30 days.
While you’re in the middle of the hiring process for an open role, the hiring manager decides – suddenly, to you at least – to promote a member of their team to that role, so now you need to freeze the first position and open a new one to fill the position just vacated as a result of that promotion.
The success of the recruitment process lies in your ability to quickly tackle these challenges. It also requires a holistic view of how the organization works: you might need to speed up the hiring process for sales roles because there’s usually a high turnover rate, whereas for tech roles you might need to include additional skill assessment stages, therefore making for a longer time to hire. You can also look at benchmark data for different positions, for example, in the tech sector.
b) How to turn your hiring into a well-oiled machine
Opt for proactive hiring instead of reactive hiring
Hiring shouldn’t be an afterthought, particularly when your teams scale fast. And while you can’t predict every hiring need that will come up in the next few months, there are some benefits when you organize your recruitment process steps in advance.
Compare forecasts with actual results (e.g. How fast did you hire for X role compared to your predicted time to hire?)
Prioritize hiring needs (e.g. when you know you’re going to need one designer in November, you don’t have to start looking for candidates until July.)
Understand current and future needs in staff and budget for the entire company (e.g. when you track how much you spend on hiring, you can also forecast more accurately the next year’s budget.)
Learn more about how you can create a recruitment plan so that you keep your hiring organized. Nick Yockney, Head of Talent at SuperAwesome, offers insightful tips in Ask a Recruiter on how you can design an optimal recruitment process.
Get all interested parties fully informed and in the loop
You can’t hire effectively if you work in isolation. Imagine this: You need the VP of Marketing to sign an offer letter before you send it to the candidate you’ve decided to hire for the Social Media Manager role. But that VP is either on a trip, in endless meetings, or otherwise AWOL. Time goes by and you lose this great candidate to another company.
The VP of Marketing – along with anyone else who’s involved in the hiring process – should know ahead of time what’s needed from them. They probably don’t have to see every resume in your pipeline, but they should be prepared to get involved in the hiring process when they’re needed.
When you’re hiring for only 2-3 roles per year, it’s easy to calculate recruitment metrics manually. It’s also easy to keep control of all the candidate communication. But things get a bit more complicated when hiring at high volume. Spreadsheets get chunky, emails get lost in an inbox pile and simple questions like “How much did we spend last quarter on hiring?” will be difficult to answer.
That’s when you probably need HR tech that offers some kind of automation. One centralized system that all stakeholders can access will do miracles in your recruiting. For example, you can keep track of all steps in the recruitment process – from the moment a hiring manager requests to open a new job till the moment a new employee comes onboard – and quickly generate reports on the status of hiring at any time. Likewise, to avoid back-and-forth emails, you can keep all communications between candidates and the hiring team in one place.
You can use the time you’ll save on more meaningful recruiting tasks, such as writing creative job ads or sourcing candidates, while being confident that your hiring runs smoothly.
Your hiring process is rich in data: from candidate information to recruitment metrics. Making sense of this data, and keeping it safe, is essential to ensuring recruitment success for your organization. You can do this by creating and studying accurate recruitment reports.
a) Reports tell you what you should know
For example, imagine a hiring manager complaining to you that it took them “more than four damn months” to fill that open role in their team. The cogs in your brain immediately start working: is this the actual time to fill and the hiring manager is just exaggerating, or is it a frustrated and legit gripe? If it’s the latter, why did that happen? If you dive deeper into the data, you might see that the hiring team spent too much time in the resume screening phase. That way, you’re able to see the areas of opportunity to improve your process.
That’s one scenario where robust reporting of recruitment data would come in handy. Another example is when your CEO asks you to brief them on the status of the annual hiring plan. Or when you need to decide which job board to keep investing in and which isn’t as worthwhile as you expected.
Allocate your budget to the right candidate sources
Increase productivity and efficiency
Unearth hiring issues
Benchmark and forecast your hiring
Reach more objective (and legally compliant) hiring decisions
Make the case for additional resources (human and software) that’ll improve the recruiting process
Here’s how to start setting up your reports:
b) Choose the right data and metrics
There are several metrics that can be useful to your company, but tracking all of them may be counterproductive. Instead, select a few important metrics that make sense to your company by consulting with all stakeholders. For example, ask your executives, your CEO, your finance director or recruiting team:
What information on the hiring process do they wish they had readily at hand?
Where do they suspect there might be issues or bottlenecks?
What data would help them when reporting to their own managers or forming a strategy?
Gathering accurate data manually is certainly a time-consuming feat (maybe even impossible). Identify the most important sources of data and see which of these can be automated.
Use software to your advantage. Your recruitment platform may already have reporting capabilities that will do the work for you.
Find ways to collect elusive data. Some data can be gathered via Google Analytics (e.g. careers page conversion rates) or via simple surveys (e.g. candidate impressions on the hiring process).
Having good reports in place means you can track the impact of any changes you make in your hiring process. If, for example, you implement a new assessment tool before the interview phase, you can track the long-term impact on quality of hire to make sure the tool is doing what it’s supposed to.
Also, you can see how your company is doing compared to other companies. Tracking metrics internally over time is useful, but you might need to get industry insight to see whether your competitors have any edge. For example, a time to hire of 52 days doesn’t tell you much on its own. But, if you find out that competitors in your location hire for the same role in 31 days, you get a hint that you might need to speed up your hiring process so that you don’t miss out on good candidates. Use benchmarks on key metrics like industry averages of qualified candidates per hire or tech hiring metrics if you’re in the tech industry.
d) Don’t forget compliance
With great power comes great responsibility – and the same stands when it comes to data. Your hiring process doesn’t only generate data, it also feeds on information from the outside. Most importantly? Candidate data. You likely store a wealth of information taken from submitted job applications or sourced profiles, and you’re both ethically and legally responsible for protecting it.
For example, laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR) cover companies that consider European residents as candidates (even if they don’t do business in the EU). GDPR tells you how you must handle any personal data you have on candidates. If you don’t comply, you can get a fine of up to $20 million or 4% of your annual global revenue (whichever is greater) under GDPR.
To keep data safe, you need to be sure that any technology you’re using is compliant and cares about data protection. If you aren’t using an ATS, consider investing in one. Spreadsheets, which are the most common alternative to software vendors, may expose you to risks concerning GDPR compliance as they provide poor audit trails, access controls and version control. A good ATS, on the other hand, will help you:
Store data securely. This will help you stay compliant and will also ensure you’ll have accurate reports since you won’t risk losing valuable data.
Control who accesses your data. You’ll be able to let people see the reports or the data they need without risking giving them access to confidential information they don’t have a reason to know.
To be sure your software does these, ask your vendor questions like:
How and where they store data
How they handle data and who has access to it
What safety measures they’ve taken to comply with laws and keep data secure
What their privacy policies are
What access control options they offer
Make sure to always review the privacy policies with help from both IT and Legal.
Apart from protecting data, you can also aim to get data that show you how compliant you are, such as data relating to equal opportunity laws. For example, in the U.S., many companies need to comply with EEOC regulations and avoid disadvantaging candidates who are part of protected groups. Keeping track of the right recruitment data (e.g. by sending out a voluntary, anonymous survey on candidates’ race or gender) can help you spot problems in your hiring process and fix them fast. Also, learn whether your company is required to file an EEO-1 report and how to do it.
These platforms are quickly becoming a must for the modern hiring process. Spreadsheets and email are no longer able to sustain growing hiring needs (or the legal obligations that come with them). Talent acquisition software, on the other hand, addresses many pain points of recruiters, hiring managers and executives. How? A good ATS:
Automates administrative parts of the hiring process.
Makes it easier for hiring teams to exchange feedback and keep track of the process.
Helps you find qualified candidates via job posting, sourcing or setting up referral programs.
Lets you build and follow annual hiring plans.
Improves candidate experience.
Helps you maintain a searchable candidate database.
Generates recruitment reports on various key metrics (like time to hire).
Helps you export/import and migrate data easily.
Allows you to stay compliant with laws such as GDPR or EEOC regulations.
So, when looking for a new system, be sure to ask how each vendor makes each of these benefits possible.
b) Candidate screening tools
Assessments are good predictors of job performance and can help you make more informed hiring decisions. It’s not just about coding challenges or personality questionnaires though; there’s a large variety of job simulations, cognitive tests and skills exercises available, too.
Assessment tools help you administer these assessments and track candidate answers. The three biggest benefits of using this type of technology are as follows:
The assessments will be well-crafted and tested. Professional questionnaires include lie scales that help you check reliability and validity in candidates’ answers.
The results will be well-structured and easy-to-read. And if your assessment providers integrate with your ATS, you can organize results under each candidate’s profile and have a full overview of their performance in different assessment stages.
You can get powerful reports with the right tools. Some companies prefer tools with extensive reporting, analytics and recommendations to help fine-tune their process.
Also, there are some providers that administer assessments combined with gamification tools. These tools have the added benefit that they make the process more attractive and fun for candidates, while also letting you evaluate their skills.
When looking for assessment providers decide what is most important to evaluate for each role: for developers, it might be coding skills, while for salespeople, it might be communication skills. There are different providers for each need. See our list of assessment providers to see what options are out there.
Of course, make sure to always think of the candidate when implementing evaluation tools. Are the tools easy-to-navigate and fast to load (when applicable)? Are they well-designed and secure? The best assessment providers will make sure the experience is seamless for both you and your candidates.
c) Video interviewing tools
There are two types of video interviews: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous interviews are basically meetings between hiring teams and candidates that happen over a tool like Google Hangouts, instead of in-person. This is usually done because the circumstances demand it, for example, if the candidate is at a different location than the interviewer.
Asynchronous (or one-way) interviews refer to the practice of candidates recording their answers to your interview questions on video and sending the recording back to you for review. Here are examples of platforms that offer this functionality:
This type of interview is somewhat controversial: some candidates may dislike speaking to a lifeless screen instead of a human, and this can hurt their experience with your hiring process. You also miss out on the opportunity to answer questions and pitch your company to the best candidates. But, if used correctly, even video interviews can be useful to your hiring process since they:
Save time you’d spend trying to book interviews at a time that’s convenient for all involved.
Help in evaluations because you can analyze candidates’ answers carefully on your own time and re-watch them if you miss anything.
To do them right, you can try to lessen the effect of their disadvantages. For example, you should probably avoid sending one-way video interviews to experienced candidates who may not be receptive to this. Also, use video interviews at the beginning of the hiring process and make sure candidates do communicate with humans throughout the process at a later stage, e.g. via emails, phone calls, or in-person interviews. A good example of using one-way video interviews effectively is to ask a large number of recent graduates to record a short sales pitch to be considered for an entry-level sales role. Think of it like holding auditions for an acting role.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the future of recruiting. The capabilities of this type of technology are still in their infancy, but they’re evolving fast. Soon, we’ll have powerful tools that can identify the best candidate based on complex algorithms, build relationships with candidates and take over the most routine tasks of recruiters (such as scheduling interviews and resume screening). These tools are beginning to appear already. For example, via Workable, you can search for the skills and experience you want and get publicly available profiles of candidates who match your requirements (and are in the right location).
Look at the market and see what tools are available. For instance, you may learn that face recognition software can boost the effectiveness of your video interviews. Generally, ask your network about tools they’ve used and do your research. Be aware of the potential pitfalls of such technology; for instance, someone from one cultural background may physically express themselves entirely differently than someone from another background even if they’re both equally talented and motivated for the role.
Now that you have an overview of the available solutions, decide which ones you need to use. It’s always better to choose tools that integrate with each other, either by default or through well-crafted APIs: this is a sure way to keep data intact and have easy access to the big hiring picture. Integrations are the basis of a refined tech setup that will drastically improve your process.
Shopping for HR tools in this rich market is a big project on its own. Complex systems, unfriendly interfaces and a lack of essential features could end up adding to your workload, instead of helping you hire more effectively.
When you’re deciding on the recruitment software that you’ll use to improve your hiring process, choose tools that:
a) Deliver what they promise
There’s nothing more off-putting than spending money on long-term contracts for a new tool, only to realize that it doesn’t actually have the functionality you expected it to have. When this happens, you either have to replace this tool (with the potential added costs of doing so) or buy additional software to cover your needs.
To avoid this mishap, book a demo before making your purchasing decision and benefit from the free trials that certain tools offer. Play around with the different features that recruitment systems have to better understand their functionality and their limitations. This way, you’ll get a better picture of how they work and how they can help in hiring without committing to buy.
b) Are easy to use
While, in most cases, recruiters are the main users of HR tech such as applicant tracking systems, there are other people in the company who will occasionally use them, too (again, see #5 above). For example, hiring managers do get involved in the recruiting process once a new role opens in their team. And HR managers will want to have an overview of all hiring pipelines as well as get access to historical data.
That’s why when you’re choosing your HR tools, you need to think of all the end users and try to pick systems that are intuitive or at least easy to learn even for those who won’t use them on a daily basis. You don’t want to buy a tool to organize communication during recruiting and then have hiring managers, for example, sending you their requests via email.
Demos and free trials can help in increasing user adoption. Try out a few different systems and involve your colleagues, too. Which system did you all enjoy using the most? Which system most alleviates everyone’s pain points? Use this information along with other criteria (e.g. your budget) to make your final decision.
c) Address your specific needs
You might not be able to find one magic tool that does everything, but you should pick the one that satisfies your high-priority needs, at a minimum. So, start by identifying what your next recruitment software should absolutely have and review what’s in the market.
At the end of the day, you need to pick recruitment software that helps your company hire better. To help you out, we created an RFP template with questions you can ask HR vendors so that you can compare different systems and pick the best one for your needs. You can also follow this step-by-step guide on how to build a business case for recruitment software.
There are several types of recruitment, each with its own process, including: talent pools, employee referrals, agency recruiting, internships and apprenticeships, and promotions or transfers.
What are the two sources of recruitment?
The two main sources for recruitment are internal hiring and external hiring. Both of these sources have different recruitment processes and depend largely on what size company you own and what your industry is.
How can I streamline the recruitment process?
You want to evaluate your recruitment process to determine if you are being as efficient as possible in your strategy. From there, work on your pre-screening process and try to standardize procedures such as background checks and reference calls.
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