Understanding how employers hire - and where to find open positions in today's market - will help you tremendously in landing a job. You will need to consider and act upon ideas for impressing employers with your skills, background and knowledge. Knowing how employers think and presenting your best professional image to them is the key to success.
But it isn't easy. And the bottom line is that while you may "get" how employers hire new people, there will be times when you will be baffled, upset and mystified by the processes and outcomes.
Some employers may contact you with great interest and then not return your phone calls. You might get an interview and be assured of a position only to find the company had to pull back due to an acquisition, or the economy, or half a dozen other reasons that make sense or don't make sense.
On the good days you will discover a host of decent employers who like what you have to offer and sincerely want to speak to you. Ideally, you should roll with the punches. Prepare for potential setbacks but maintain a sense of optimism. The way you will feel when you get that new job will outweigh any setbacks incurred along the way.
The Hiring Process
Larger employers have a formal hiring structure and often involve multiple people in the process. In contrast, smaller employers may have one individual assigned to handle the hiring, and the process may be less formal. Other issues arise. Industry-specific practices found in health care, education and government have unique hiring stages perhaps influenced by labor agreements.
Not everyone in a company has the authority to add new employees. Typically, a manager of the department where the person will work makes the final decision. When possible find out who makes the final decision. However, treat everyone as though they are the hiring authority during your encounters with potential employers. Kindness and curiosity will go a long way toward impressing employers and their staffs during the interviewing processes.
You will hear a lot about human resources departments. They manage the process, sometimes taking a first swipe at a pile of resumes and reducing their numbers by removing unqualified or under-qualified applicants. HR may be assigned to appointing entry-level applicants to positions, but the majority of its work involves recruiting, screening and scheduling interviews. Don't underestimate its influence when you're dealing with an employer.
Hiring practices vary based on particular industries, employers and hiring managers. Generally, however, employers follow a few common hiring strategies and tools to select candidates. It comes down to three stages: recruitment, screening and selection.
Stage 1: Recruitment
Employers need an applicant pool to fill job openings. Employers who do extensive hiring may continuously recruit applicants even when they have no immediate need. The reason? To always have a deep pool of applicants. Employers who hire occasionally, or for very specialized positions, often recruit as needed. Others may be planning a future expansion and want to know if they could fill their labor needs. Actively recruiting does not always mean actual job openings.
Companies get the word out on jobs in a variety of ways, ranging from word of mouth, to advertising (on company websites and job boards, and in online and offline newspapers and trade publications), to hiring personnel staffing services to asking employees to refer qualified candidates to them.
Stage 2: Screening
Once employers have an applicant pool, they narrow it down to the best qualified candidates. This comes after dozens, or hundreds, of applicants have been screened out of the pool. During the initial screening, employers usually spend no more than a few seconds on each application.
Larger companies often use applicant tracking systems to efficiently screen large applicant pools. Applicant tracking systems are designed to select candidates who have the desired qualifications for the job. The resume section in the chapter on Resumes and Cover Letters addresses the need to consider those tracking systems when putting together your resume.
Stage 3: Selection
Interviews are the key part of the hiring process. Companies use interviews to verify qualifications and to evaluate how you will fit into the organization. If you get a call for an interview, that means you passed one hurdle and are in the running for a position. It will be up to you to convince a company that you are the best qualified person for the job.
"Best qualified" can mean many things: skills, experience, education, motivation, a passion for excellence, and a dedication to continuous learning and quality. Companies want value for their money because every employee is a major expense in terms of salary and benefits. You have to convince an employer you are the best qualified.