Job Application Flood
About a year ago, we hired another system administrator. We wanted someone locally and reached out to EmployFlorida, JaxJobs, and other outlets. The local news even highlighted the job position.
After a week, I had over 300 job applications. Unfortunately, unqualified applicants filled my Inbox. Even with screening tools, I found wasted time narrowing down the list. Ultimately, I selected just three people for a phone interview.
Technology was killing itself. The online tools made posting a job listing easy, but it also made applying for a job easy. As a result, unqualified applicants could apply with a click of a mouse.
My solution? If you wanted to cut down on junk applications, then you had to make the applicants do a bit of work.
Make Applicants Work for You
I had to find a smarter way to hire people. The system I used made it too easy to apply. If the applicant wanted to apply, they just clicked the checkbox and then the apply button.
To get better applicants, I had to make apply harder than just two clicks of a mouse.
I did this by adding a prescreen questionnaire using Wufoo.
Recently, we had two other projects involving some database programing and market research. This time I turned to O’desk to recruit independent contracts. From past projects, I know O’desk and Elance can easily flood you with possible applicants, so I did not want to repeat the same mistake again.
To cut down on the number of applicants, I created a new simple process.
- Post job to recruiting site, such as O’desk.
- Use built in screening tools to select top applicants.
- Invite top applicants to take the prescreen survey.
- Invite those with great answers to the survey to interview via Skype.
Now this seems simple enough, but I needed an easy way to create, change and manage the survey questions. I turned to Wufoo.
If you have never used Wufoo, you are really missing out. The tool is now essential for us. Wufoo makes it easy to quickly design online forms. I’ve used it for market research, customer satisfaction, client proposals, hiring and more. They offer a free account but the $15/mo account meets our needs.
If you want to quickly design online forms, Wufoo can save you tons of time. So check it out.
Now back to hiring.
Ask Killer Questions
A trick to prescreening is writing a couple of killer questions. I call these killers because if the job applicants get this wrong, they do not even get an interview.
A killer question must seek a clear and simple answer. You do not want to be tricky, but the answer you seek needs to be precise. For example, when hiring a sysadmin, I asked
Explain to your mother how to login to a Red Hat Enterprise 5 server and restart the Apache web server.
In another employee search, less than 2% of applicants got this correct. That saved me a lot of work. I only had to interview 3 people. All of the rest either did not know what they thought they knew or were not paying attention to details.
With the question above, the “Explain to your mother” is just a diversion. The answer would need to be:
service httpd restart
If you use Red Hat frequently, this is the way you would be restarting Apache. Other answers, even if technically correct, were not acceptable. Other answers suggest the applicant did not have solid Red Hat expertise or was not paying attention to details.
By looking for an exact answer, I could quickly weed out most of the applicants.
Hiring on O’desk
I’ve ran a few jobs through O’desk using this procedure. For entry level jobs, you can get flooded with applications. However, using my screen process, I was prepared.
For a recent database job, I had over 150 applicants within a week. At O’desk, you can screen using a star rating and number of hours. I look for applicants with active, recent work history and over 4.5 stars. Using this filter, I reduce the pool of 150 down to just 21. These 21 candidates were invited to take the survey on Wufoo. Only 12 of them actually bothered with the survey. From here, just 3 provided great answers to the killer questions. Of these, the first firm had communication issues. The missed an appointment with no apologies or warning. So they were out. The second firm was great. They were hired and are working on the project.
I’ve had similar results with marketing, graphics and other tasks.
Now that I have the process down, I can screen 100’s of job applicants very quickly. The amazing thing is in some cases as many as 50% will not even bother with the survey. They are simply looking for the quick buck and turnkey job.
Tip: Ask the Right Way
In the last round of hiring, I had a curious problem. I had a bunch of people completing the survey, but they could not work on-site, which was a requirement. In my prescreen, I even asked:
Can you come to our San Marco office M-F 9AM-5PM?
Nearly every answer was yes – despite many people not living anywhere near us.
The problem? I had the default set to yes. So I changed all defaults such that if they did not actively change them, they would be cut from the process.
If you want better applicants, make just add a little extra step.