The job market is as hot as ever, with the threat of a “Great Resignation” on the horizon. In a candidate’s market, it is now more important than ever that companies have a solid and competitive recruiting process in place. To put this into context, a bad hire can cost a company as much as 30% the individual’s projected first year earnings, according to estimates from the U.S Department of Labor.
With so much riding on hiring successfully right now, it’s particularly important to get it right. In my company’s work helping combat bias in companies’ hiring process, we see so many companies and leaders making mistakes that cost them time, money, as well as great candidates. Here are some top tips for a better hiring process.
Pass on the traditional job description
Far too often, job descriptions get passed between half a dozen people, from hiring managers, to team leaders, to coworkers, to HR, and each person who touches it adds something to it. At the end of it all, you’re left with a nearly impossible laundry list of requirements that no single candidate has.
Not only does this make your hiring manager’s job more difficult, but it can impact diversity applications. Research shows that women are unlikely to apply for jobs unless they meet every single requirement. Likely, many other candidates will take a look at a huge job description and pass on it. You’re hurting your candidate options before anyone even applies.
Instead, try to structure your descriptions as sales pitches. We’re not suggesting you remove important requirements on your job descriptions, but our experience has shown us that there really shouldn’t be more than about seven requirements in a job description.
If you’re having a hard time narrowing down or convincing others to remove things from your job descriptions. Try to separate skills into “must haves” and “nice to haves.” This way, you can guide candidates based on interest and supplementary skills, but you won’t entirely discourage people from applying.
Rethink technical tests and make home tests no more than an hour
Technical tests are an imperfect measurement of ability. When administered, they create high pressure situations, aren’t reflective of the day to day tasks of most roles, usually contain large amounts of knowledge that isn’t relevant or important, and rely exclusively on memory, which is simply not how most people work.
As an example of an imperfect measurement of ability, let’s look at coding tests—in which a candidate is watched by an individual or team while they code. These sorts of timed tests create an enormous amount of stress and occasionally include specific code or questions that candidates have not encountered since college. Candidates who are more senior, and who may not have not coded as much recently, often spend months preparing to take coding tests.
Further, coding test requests are often sent out as an initial screening for candidates, before an interview or even a brief chat with HR. Frequently, companies admit to us that candidates drop out of the process instead of doing tests.
One of the main issues my company sees with technical tests is that entire cohorts often perform poorly. Many companies tell us that women consistently score lower than their male peers on technical tests. To address this, some companies have lowered the minimum entry score for female candidates, a solution that we simply cannot get behind. Diversity hiring isn’t about lowering the bar, it’s about widening the gate. If entire groups of applicants perform poorly on a test, it is an issue that’s likely more reflective of the test than the candidates taking it.
As an alternative, take-home assignments are often lauded as the solution to the technical tests. And while providing a candidate with a business problem is a better judgement of their capabilities, they aren’t perfect either. I’ve witnessed some outrageous examples at my company—from creating an entire website to publish, to solving a business problem that would normally take weeks for a full tech team to complete. Sometimes candidates choose between a 40-minute live coding session or a take-home test that companies recommend completing in four hours (but may obviously require more time).
Unless you’re going to compensate candidates for their time and work, make your take home assignments no more than an hour’s worth of work.
Skip the personality and cognitive tests
Consistently shown to be poor indicators of future job performance, a personality test is not able to capture the complexity and potential of a human being. In addition to that, tests that measure workplace culture and personality to match potential candidates can end up just reinforcing homogeneity.
Companies should strive to bring in different kinds of people, to challenge their workforce with people who don’t think like everyone else. A much better assessment is the use of standardized interview models, which brings us to the next point.
Use a standardized interview model
Interviews are one of the most important parts of the hiring process, and are often rife with bias. The main issues we see with interviews are group interviews and unstandardized processes.
What do I mean by this? It means the interview experience varies by candidate. For example, a candidate hired through a referral is brought in for a casual chat with the hiring manager and their prospective boss, while a candidate who applied online sits through a coding test and multiple interview panels. Not only do these candidates not step into the workforce on equal footing, but the chances of one getting hired over another is high. Work with your peers, with your company leaders, and figure out a rubric or evaluation model that’s used for unilaterally for every hire. Create a plan for a standardized interview model so that all candidates are asked the same kinds of questions, put through the same kinds of tests, and offered the same starting offers.
Go beyond how a candidate “looks on paper”
Lastly, we implore you to look beyond the resume when hiring a candidate. Especially in fast-paced, changing fields like marketing, technology, and other evolving industries. For example, if you start a technology job today, a year from now a huge portion of your role will likely be totally different.
So rather than worrying too much about whether or not a candidate checks every single box, focus instead on what they bring to the table beyond hard skills. Are they passionate, committed, and always hungry to learning? We find that hiring for attitude and aptitude is far more impactful than simply hiring to a checklist, especially when so many skills are easily learned on the job. Focus on people who mesh with your company, candidates who love to learn, and those people you believe can move your organization forward when hiring in a competitive employer market.
Rena Nigam is the founder and CEO of Meytier, a human resources company that focuses on offsetting unconscious bias in hiring. Rena started Meytier with the mission to help improve diversity at scale through a technology-based approach.