I currently have several positions open, and the job descriptions clearly outline the experience necessary. I’m drowning in applications from overqualified people. I know with the unemployment rate so high people often have noticeably more experience than the jobs they apply for require.
However, I fear that if I hire overqualified applicants, they will leave as soon as better jobs come along. So I prefer to hire candidates ready to move up or laterally. Is it worth considering overqualified candidates? Or can we add something to the job description to improve our applicant pool?
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Throwing a Life Preserver to Hiring Managers
How to build a better application process
by Meryl K. Evans, editor, Professional Services Journal
I discovered a great new service that helped me reach a diversity of experts from all walks of business life. However, when I first used the service, I received more than 40 responses, and some were essay length. It’s funny, because in college we struggle to write an essay that’s long enough, yet when we need to be succinct in business, we do the opposite.
So I had two problems: too many responses and ones that were too long. I refined my query process to add more restrictions and mentioned that concise is better. From that time forward, the drowning stopped, and it was easy to toss out the ones who couldn’t follow simple directions. Much of the advice from readers takes a similar approach in adding upfront requirements in the job posting or changing the follow-up.
Provide more information in the job posting
Several people suggest doing something similar to adding more requirements in the job posting. Rachel Dotson, content manager, ZipRecruiter.com, recommends adding something like the following: “While we appreciate all interested parties, please apply *only* if your qualifications are a close match.” The reason to use “close” is to avoid losing out on candidates who may be ideal employees in every way except in one or two little areas. You want employees who have room to grow, or else boredom may set in.
Not only does this line help you narrow the candidate pool, but it also shows that the company cares. “By saying ‘We appreciate all interested parties,’ you are showing that you’re human and care about those who are interested in you,” says Dotson.
Also, include upper and lower limits in the job description to help candidates avoid applying if they don’t fall within the limits. “For example, if you are seeking someone who has some experience but is still fairly junior, you can include ‘2-4 years’ experience,’” says Lynda Zugec, managing director, The Workforce Consultants. “Or if you are looking for someone with a four-year degree and not a master’s or doctorate, include something along the lines of ‘preference will be given to those with a four-year degree.’”
Another important factor to consider is that some people are looking to move into another job — even if it’s a demotion — because they want a lifestyle change, such as working fewer hours or moving into a job for a nonprofit organization. Chelsea Callanan, career coach and president of Happy Go Legal, says, “Professionals may have a change of heart or plans, or financial need, and want to take a new position type. In that case, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to bring these folks on board.”
Callanan recommends adding a note in the job description that asks to include a cover letter explaining how a candidate’s education and professional experience will benefit the company, any discrepancies in the resume or what makes the candidate different.
Add a follow-up process
One way to change the hiring process is to sort the resumes according to Caroline McClure, principal of ScoutRock LLC. “Try separating your resumes into three piles: 1) not minimally qualified, 2) fits specs perfectly and 3) overqualified. Send a polite rejection letter to those who are not minimally qualified.”
Interview the top three people from the other two categories. “Communicate with those in the overqualified category the exact compensation; the scope, scale and responsibilities of the position; and whether or not there’s growth potential at the company,” McClure says. Ask them to respond to how they feel about being in a position that’s where they were a few years ago. Plus, you have a good roundup of overqualified candidates worth saving in case a more advanced position opens up.
Serious candidates will respond to follow-ups, so it helps to ask those submitting resumes to follow up. This could be sending a questionnaire, supplying a more detailed application form or asking a couple of questions that reveal more about the candidate than a resume could. Such questions or scenarios could be: Share a time when a team couldn’t agree. What would your worst fan say about you? What’s one thing you’d change about your last job?”
Voices.com Chief Marketing Officer Stephanie Ciccarelli advises sending questions that reveal more about the candidate and whether the candidate is more interested in company culture and the company’s work. Such candidates may be willing to negotiate more on the soft benefits than on salary. Ciccarelli says, “If their answers fall in line with what you would hope to hear from candidates up for that particular job, invite them in for an interview and get to know them better.”
Another approach is, for every submission you receive send a detailed follow-up application. “This more detailed application should attempt to get more at job-fit issues rather than just the traditional skills/experience/education information,” says Tim Ragan, principal with Career Coaching International. The follow-up application should match the job skills and include a deadline for submission. For example, have consultants share a success story in solving a complex problem as a way to test ability to write clearly and use problem-solving skills.
Once you land the best candidate, the key is to have an environment that encourages the person to stay with the company. “People stay in jobs that give them more than money. If the people are happy, involved, feel appreciated — that will make them want to stay. Can you offer that?” a reader says.
Just like I added requirements in my query, hiring managers who do the same will be able to quickly toss out some resumes and get the pile down to a manageable size. People who care and want to be considered will pay attention. After all, if they can’t follow directions, how can we expect them to listen in their jobs?
Do you have any tricks to finding the more qualified candidates without drowning in resumes? Please share your thoughts in the comments. If you or a colleague has encountered a work or management problem, ask a question (anonymous submissions OK).
About the editor
Meryl K. Evans is senior editor at InternetVIZ and the content maven behind B2B Marketing Technology Insights, Organizational Excellence Journal, Professional Services Journal and Sales Lead Report. Connect with her on social media.