The Hiring Process

For the past two months this blog has focused on the skills that employers expect to see and the different ways that they view the applications of new college graduate applicants and more experienced prospects. Today I’m going to shift gears and write about hiring processes: what’s involved, and how they may be changing. (Note that this post will discuss nonacademic hiring processes. The academic process is different in many respects, and anyone reading this blog who would like to learn more about the academic hiring process can write to me at

For decades the hiring process hasn’t changed a whole lot:

  • An employer posts an announcement of a job opening, listing the requirements of the position.
  • Applicants submit materials indicating their interest in the position, which can include an application form, a cover letter, a resume, and/or writing samples and references.
  • Someone screens the applications. This can be a dedicated human resources facilitator, a hiring manager, or someone with knowledge of the specific needs of the organization assigned to do a first-round review. This is the only area where there has been any type of significant change over the years. Now, many organizations have adopted computerized screening for the first round of review, especially in those cases where they are likely to have many candidates. The computerized screening will eliminate the least likely prospects and pass along the best to a human screener.
  • Individuals whose application make it through the screening process may have their materials reviewed one more time before interview selections are made.
  • In many organizations, initial interviews are done by telephone or, with increasing frequency, some type of video-chat software such as Skype.
  • Some pre-determined number of candidates may be brought in for face-to-face interviews, which can range for a 30-minute session with one individual to a day-long series of meetings with multiple individuals or groups.

According to Marty Nemko, writing for Time magazine, says that the process is becoming a whole lot more demanding, and he connects that change to the fact that the cost of being an employer is rising for a variety of reasons, including the Affordable Care Act and increased costs associated with other programs protecting employees. He seems to be saying that, with those rising costs, employers want to try to ensure that they are getting the best possible employees—people who will not only do the work, but who will stay longer and justify the expense.

Nemko says that the process is changing in the following ways:

  • Applicants may be required to complete some type of work-related task as part of the initial application.
  • There may be multiple rounds of interviews.
  • All-day interviews will become more common, with applicants being grilled by multiple “interrogators.”
  • More employers will require a formal background check.

Under this model, the application process, in addition to becoming more rigorous, may take months instead of the customary weeks. What this means for you as a job seeke is that you will need to start your search earlier, develop patience, and make sure that your application materials are as perfect and closely matched to the job description as possible. It also reminds you to clean up any social media mis-steps—take down inappropriate photos or posts, polish your LinkedIn profile, Google your name to see what pops up and what you can eliminate and prepare to explain away anything else that an employer could view negatively!