In one of my posts last week I discussed the the need for job applicants to distinguish themselves from the pack given the time constraints and information deluge that hiring managers are presented with.  However, from an organizational perspective, selecting the candidates that differentiate themselves the most on paper does not mean that the hiring manager is making the best decision on behalf of the organization.  There are potential traps that hiring managers or HR screeners might get into without realizing that they are ignoring qualified candidates or giving unneeded attention to less than qualified candidates.  The best way I can explain this is by highlighting a few examples of practices that are likely going to hurt the hiring process:

  • Bio Data.  While there are many countries that consider it illegal (or perhaps inappropriate) to request that candidates provide bio data such as age or nationality, there are many that expect candidates to furnish this information on their applications.  The conventional wisdom is that if someone claims to have deep expertise in an area but he/she is discovered to be 23 years of age, then clearly that person is stretching the truth.  The problem however is that this line of thinking will naturally steer hiring managers and HR screeners to ignore strong candidates purely based on irrelevant data.  The “noise” that is created by that information biases the application and allows the decision maker to judge the “book by its cover” rather than spend the time to go through the resume properly.  Good screeners don’t need age for instance to tell them that a candidate has the right type of experience for a given job or not.
  • Current Salary. Many job applications require the candidates to provide current salary information.  The idea here is that if a potential employee is currently making $20K per year, hiring them for a job that pays $100K is not a good idea.  On the face of it the argument has some merit but it ignore a whole host of issues such as cost of living, geography, and industry. It may be necessary to require candidates to provide this information to help filter the serious applications from those candidates who effectively spam the entire world with their resumes, however, professionals evaluating resumes need to use other data points to help inform their opinion beyond current salary.
  • Titles: Hiring managers might develop a tendency to ignore candidates purely based on the titles they have held (to be a bit more precise, titles they have not held).  So if the opening is for project manager, candidates who have held this title stand a better chance of going to the next level of screening.  That can be a mistake because there are professionals who may have performed the types of tasks and activities that are needed for the job but have not held the exact title.  The problem is magnified because there are several organizations who list open positions with titles that have nothing to do with the job. The other day a friend forwarded me a project manager listing and asked for my help in finding a candidate.  He assumed that with my PM background I could tap into my network to help find someone that would be interested in the job.  After reading through the job description I realized very quickly that this company needed an office administrator, not a project manager.

The point that I was driving to by offering the above examples is that organizations need to develop a great deal of savviness beyond key word searches to help sift through the massive number of applications they receive.  In this area hiring managers and HR specialists can not simply rely on their gut instinct to screen out candidates, but have to put in place mechanisms that evaluate candidates more holistically.