Browse FAQ Topics
- Job Advertising Strategies15
- Writing Job Descriptions11
- Interview Process11
- Screening resumes5
- Negotiating Salaries5
Job Advertising Strategies
What if you knew ahead of time whether your job advertisement would succeed or fail?Recruiting is like a jigsaw puzzle, but it's a puzzle where you don’t know how many pieces there are, or what the picture looks like. In 2 minutes, the Recruiting Results Predictor gives you that missing picture of the job market, so you can understand how many pieces of the hiring puzzle you might be missing.
Where are all the good people?Research studies show that during the course of a year, only about 18% of currently working people will respond to any sort of job advertising (even if they’re open to pursuing new job opportunities). Depending on when, where, and how you post your ad, you'll reach a small fraction of those 18%. A typical ad might reach 3% of the “peer group” of people working in similar roles.
Why didn’t more people answer my ad?At any given time, less than 3% of people working in similar roles will even see your job ad. Even very clever people cannot apply to an ad they did not see.
How do I decide where to post my ads? Indeed, Careerbuilder, Craigslist, LinkedIn, or Facebook?This may be the simplest answer on the entire website.
If I can’t spare much time for reading resumes, should I just post on a niche board?That’s the backwards approach. If you want to hire the best person for the job, don't narrow your responses; expand them. It’s smarter to choose job boards by finding which ones have the most people in your target audience who have the skills to do the job. Yes, it may take longer to sift through the extra resumes. But that’s the price you pay to get the most qualified available candidate into your open job. (If you’re concerned that you’ll miss the people who visit niche job boards, fear not. Our research has shown that most of the people who respond to niche job board advertising also see the same posting on a mainstream job board like Indeed or CareerBuilder.)
How do I limit the number of resumes I receive from unqualified people?Some people would rather poke their eye out with a stick than plow through 100 resumes. Sometimes these resume-haters let their imaginations run wild. Instead of hunkering down and dutifully reading the resumes, they instead dream up creative barriers to applying like making the candidate submit a business plan or solve a complex algorithm. The resume-hater's dream is that their clever test will knock out only the lazy people with bad resumes, leaving the manager with a blissfully short list of good-looking, passionate, hard-working, determined people (who would happily spend hours of their free time for the pleasure of interviewing with a total stranger who has yet to give them the time of day).
Should job ads be long or short? Wordy or terse?Consider your audience. Think about what information the reader would need to consider taking a day off of work to interview with you. (How compelling would a job need to be for you to trade one of your own vacation days?)
Is the caliber of people who answer job ads any better or worse than the people who must be actively recruited?Being data geeks, we have studied this question very, very closely. Our own research shows that the caliber of people who respond to direct recruiting outreach versus those who respond to advertising is virtually identical.
What’s the difference between an active candidate and a passive candidate?This is an artificial distinction of very limited utility. So-called "active" candidates respond to job ads. So-called "passive" candidates don’t respond to job ads and therefore need to be recruited, because if you don’t actively engage them they won’t put their name forward to be considered.
Should I ask candidates for cover letters and salary history?By and large, candidates already feel like they’re submitting their resume directly into a black hole. The vast majority of employers do not even acknowledge receipt of a resume and most do not have the courtesy to even send rejection letters when a position is closed. And why are employers so rude to job seekers? Because HR departments are woefully understaffed and most employers are inundated with 300 resumes every time they run an ad. Good manners cost good money, and HR departments are just not swimming in budget money.
What is keyword advertising, and is it better than paying to post an ad?Keyword advertising is the business model that Indeed uses, and is similar to Google’s core advertising revenue model. Instead of paying an upfront flat rate to post an ad, your ads are posted for free, and you pay a small fee every time anyone clicks on your ad. The business model is invisible to the job seeker. They don’t care how you pay for your advertising. So go ahead and post your ads where the people are most likely to see it.
What is the best time of day or best day of the week to post job ads?Way back in the olden days (when Bob started in the recruiting industry), recruiters posted ads in the Sunday newspaper, so job seekers would all look at the ads on Sunday. If they were interested, they faxed in resumes on Sunday or Monday. (Yeah, it’s fun to remind Bob that he’s really old.).
What is mobile recruiting? Why should I care about candidates on mobile devices?Mobile recruiting is commonly defined as the task of making your recruiting efforts attractive and effective on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. In 2014, 50% of traffic on job boards and career sites is expected to be on mobile devices, which has only been accelerating with the advent of job-seeking apps. In fact, career site apps like Indeed have become some of the most popular business applications for smartphones.
Why don't people follow the instructions in my ads?People don't follow instructions because answering job ads is frustrating and demoralizing. It feels like a waste of time to most job seekers.
How do I know if my job ads reached the best qualified people in the job market?That's an easy question. They didn't.
Writing Job Descriptions
How does a well-written job advertisement affect recruiting?An effective job advertisement enables candidates to imagine themselves succeeding in the job. Savvy, smart candidates with good options appreciate an employer that takes the time to think deeply about a position.
Why is it so difficult to write a good job description?No doubt about it, writing a great job description is difficult.
What questions should you ask yourself to write an effective job advertisement?Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Why does the job exist? What business goal is achieved by this job?
- What does the employee primarily spend their time doing?
- What level of decision-making is required in the job?
- What would someone find rewarding about the job?
- What competencies must someone have to excel at the work?
- Why would someone take this job if they’re qualified to work elsewhere? (Or why choose this job above all others?)
- What measurable, tangible, concrete results will indicate that someone has done the work successfully?
What examples do you have of a good, clear job description?Well, gosh, we thought you'd never ask. (Just imagine our website blushing, looking down and kicking the dirt with a boot.) Check out our current searches and take a look at what we've written.
What do candidates look for in a good job description?Candidates want to be able to picture themselves in the role and understand why you think the work is important. They want to know what the challenges are. They want to know what’s expected of them, and know enough about the situation to see themselves succeeding.
Who should write the job description? Someone in HR or the hiring manager?It’s a combination of both. HR should provide the framework of what to include, and provide the manager with the questions the job description must answer. The key is making the description clear and interesting. The writing of the description should be done by the person closest to the actual work (e.g. the person who is most clear about the job’s performance expectations.) This is typically the hiring manager.
What if I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for in the role, can I leave the job description vague?When you don't know precisely what you are looking for in a candidate, it’s a common mistake to start recruiting and hope to, “Know it when you see it.”
Bad job descriptions and bad resumes are bad for the same reasonThink of the empty meaningless words you don’t like in a bad resume. Is it full of terms like “self-starter” and “team player,” and lacking in specificity of accomplishments?
How does a vague job description lead to poor performance on the job?Lack of clarity about performance expectations is ... ummm, oh darn, what's the word for it?
What’s missing from most job descriptions and job advertisements?Most job descriptions and job advertisements lack real world examples. Candidates want to understand if they would be a good fit for the job, so they need to understand the scale and complexity of the work. If the job description talks in vague generalities and does not present the performance expectations in a concrete, tangible way, selective candidates won’t engage.
What’s wrong with using the job description when posting a job ad?Most job descriptions are simple lists of job responsibilities. But for candidates, these lists lack the context of why they will be performing those responsibilities. Top performers want to know why their work is important, and what business impact it has. They want to know that their work makes a difference. A standard job description fails to provide that context.
What’s the interview scheduling mistake everybody makes?The most common interview scheduling mistake is to wait to block time on your calendar until you receive a good resume. This results in weeks of unnecessary delay.
The manager took weeks to schedule 2nd interviews, and now nobody's interestedSorry. Unfortunately, that's pretty common. Busy managers often forget that other employers are chasing the same candidates. Highly skilled people can get multiple job offers. If you moved too slowly last time, all you can do is start over and try to move things along faster next time. Just remember the cruel math of the hiring process. You will typically lose about 10 - 15% of your most desirable candidates for every week of delay. If you think someone is great, odds are good that some other employer agrees with you.
Should I interview candidates as they respond to the ad, or wait until I have a slate of 6 people before interviewing?This is one of those cases where going slower in the beginning can help you go faster in the end. It’s a common mistake to cherry pick a few good looking resumes and rush into first interviews. It often takes time for the full pool of candidates to develop, and we always recommend considering a broad cross-section of candidates who might be qualified. That said, don't use this advice as an excuse to let months go by.
Who should interview the candidates and how long should interviews last?Typically in a first interview, candidates should meet their hiring manager. The manager’s goal is to make a fair and consistent determination of which candidates merit the further consideration of a second interview. A first interview typically requires 45 - 60 minutes, with the manager asking most of the questions, ideally keeping the candidate talking 80% of the time.
Should a subordinate ever interview their boss?No. Before they accept a new position, many candidates will want to meet the team they’ll be working with (both peers and subordinates). But having a subordinate interview their boss is not useful. Subordinates lack the proper perspective to select their own manager. It’s fine to include subordinates in the process, but it’s wiser to structure the meeting as a briefing instead of an interview. Simply have the subordinate tell their prospective manager about a few of their projects. Both parties get a sense of each other, and it neatly sidesteps the awkwardness of an interview.
What’s the ideal structure for a first interview?In a first interview, the hiring manager should arrive on time, offer the candidate a beverage, and allow a few minutes of friendly small talk. These small courtesies allow candidates to become familiar with their surroundings and to relax a bit. Because they are in familiar surroundings, hiring managers always have a home court advantage, so they forget that most people need a few minutes to warm up and gauge the situation. After a brief warm up, we recommend the manager ask about 45 minutes of behavioral interview questions, and then allow candidates 5 or 10 minutes to ask a few questions. As a rule of thumb, candidates should be talking 80% of the time, and managers only 20%. Hiring managers often talk far too much in a first interview, and learn too little.
Are panel interviews a good idea?Some people think panel interviews are very stressful for the candidate, and they are. But many jobs have exactly that kind of stress. Many people take meetings with multiple unfamiliar participants, so in that case, panel interviews would be no different from the job. We recommend panel interviews because, properly structured, they are a very efficient use of time. Panel interviews also allow less experienced interviewers to improve their skills without consequences. You can read more about panel interviews in the Resource Center.
How should the second interview differ from first interview?The first interview is fundamentally a screening interview to determine who is worth a larger investment of time. The second interview should not be a repeat of the first. It should be a very substantive, 3 to 4 hour conversation where the hiring decision can be made. It should include a rigorous work-sample test. The second interview should also provide ample opportunity for the candidate to ask questions to understand more about the job and your performance expectations.
What happens when interviewers disagree about who to hire?When interviewers disagree, it’s usually because they did not evaluate the candidates on the same criteria. Ideally, you want to prevent this problem by agreeing upon the selection criteria in advance of the interview. But once the disagreement arises, the best way to resolve it is to get back on the same page. Discuss the hiring criteria point by point. Share how you think each candidate scores on each of the required skills. That way if you disagree, at least you are talking about the same issue, so you can forge consensus more quickly.
Why do most candidates do such a terrible job of preparing for an interview?Most candidates aren’t very familiar with how to best research a company, and some organizations are not particularly forthcoming with information. Unless you’re interviewing someone for a research position, you need to be careful how much emphasis you put on this issue. It’s unwise to generalize from one data point. Poor interview preparation does not necessarily mean that the candidate is lazy, uninterested, or stupid.
Is it a good idea to give quizzes and tests before scheduling the first interview?No. Testing does have its place in the hiring process, but it’s not at the very beginning. In fact, employers who make candidates invest significant time prior to the first interview are widely considered rude among job seekers.
How important are education and experience in predicting success on the job?Extensive research has shown that the pedigree of someone’s education or experience is nearly worthless in predicting success on the job. After studying their own hiring data, Google reached the same conclusion, and they have recently de-emphasized the importance of a college degree for many positions.
What are the most common mistakes people make in screening resumes?Managers assume they know more about a person than can possibly be known from reading a resume. Without realizing it, they “fill in the gaps” and assume candidate motivations without any basis in fact. Then they judge the candidate based on the “facts” they invented. (The poor resume should at least be offered a public defender.)
Do the best people have the best resumes?Quite the opposite. Many people with unimpressive resumes are more skilled at doing work than they are at self-promotion (or looking for work). Many people with beautiful resumes are merely skilled at self-promotion. (Because if you are not good at doing work, you need to become very skilled at looking for work.)
Why do only “bad” people answer job ads?It only appears that way, because 85-95% of typical job ad responses are “Not the droids you’re looking for.”
What can’t you learn from a resume?Resumes can’t show you if someone is a hard working team player or a credit-grabbing narcissist. Resumes cannot give you any insight into work ethic or cultural fit. But the real issue is this: too often managers hope to learn more from a resume than it can possibly offer. Managers make big assumptions from small details that could have many plausible interpretations. And when that happens, managers interview the wrong people--giving too much credit to a few people and completely ignoring potentially great candidates who just happened to write their resumes in a format the manager was not expecting. LEARN MORE
The person I'd like to hire wants more money than I can afford to pay.Are your department salaries in keeping with the job market? Because you cannot fight the job market and win. Your internal budget is irrelevant to hiring. If you want to hire the best people, you need to pay as well as every other employer you are competing with. Once you understand the market rate for the kinds of skills you need, all you can do is decide to adjust your budget or figure out how to solve the business problem without hiring (consultants for example).
Everyone I want to hire has salaries above the other people in the same department.Internal equity within a department is important. But often when you are hiring, you are often trying to "raise the bar" on performance, or bring in someone more capable than your current team. You cannot expect to do that at the rate of pay your current team earns.
Everyone I want to hire has salaries above their peers in other departmentsIf you think pay should be the same across all your functional areas, you don’t have a hiring problem, you just need better HR advice.
When candidates look at our benefits package they ask for more money or turn us down.Yes, this is much more common now. As employers have revamped their compensation strategies, candidates have begun to realize the cash value of their employee benefits. Benefit packages were once almost an afterthought at job offer time, but have emerged to be a critical factor long before the job offer. If you want to attract the brightest and best, be prepared to have candidates pore over the details your benefits package with the precision of an IRS auditor.
The best people don’t seem very willing to prove themselves and want higher salaries up front.Lots of managers look for “proven experience” in a resume and job interview, and then want that top performer to prove themselves again on the job before granting them the market premium pay they have already earned. That’s not the way the world works. If you want to hire a top performer, plan to pay toward the 75th percentile in salary. If you don’t want to pay above 50th percentile, then your best bet is to find someone on a career upswing who is hungry and may not yet have proven their ability. But you can’t have it both ways. We have lots of content in the Resource Center on this topic.