How to Get Hired
One hiring manager offers insight, advice to job seekers
by Joe Conklin
As an employee, I have tons of insight on what the job hunt looks like from the seeker’s point of view. This comes from my own and others’ experiences. But I’ve often wondered what the process is like for the person on the other side of the hiring desk.
When a temporary office relocation put my desk next to a recruiter for a few months, I had a chance to find out. My work neighbor recruited and hired many IT projects in the department I worked in at the time. He talked with me about his experiences from the hiring manager’s perspective.
JC: What tells you it’s time to hire new people?
IT: I use a combination of short and long-term views. I have predictable seasonal demands that call for targeted additions to staff. I’m responsible for keeping up with the progress of all our projects. The required mix of skills changes with each stage of work. When a particular stage is on the horizon, I try to hire in preparation for it. Occasionally, we land work that calls for skills we do not have in-house, so I go to the market to satisfy those needs.
From a longer-term perspective, I try to find the optimum balance of new and experienced people. As people advance in their current assignments and move on to more demanding ones, I sometimes hire to handle the backfill created when they move up.
Turnover is a major concern in my industry. While we try to keep our people happy, they do sometimes retire or leave for other reasons. It is not unusual for me at any given time to be seeking very experienced people to compensate for attrition at the high end of the learning curve.
JC: How do you find new people?
IT: Particularly in my industry, the internet has completely changed how we do things. Our company website is the primary source for advertising and accepting applications. Some of the general job search websites pick up our listings as part of their routine sweeps of the internet.
We also use, to a lesser degree, newspaper ads, referrals from existing employees and contacts in our industry at other companies. On somewhat rarer occasions, I have been known to contact old college professors for referrals, especially when I am looking for something a new college graduate could fill.
We get periodic contacts from recruiters who scour our postings. If they send us a particularly strong candidate, we will consider him or her. If I had to guess, I’d say direct applications through our company’s website are the source for half to two-thirds of our eventual placements.
JC: What kinds of applicants stand out?
IT: I like people who take the time to respond to the specific wording and requirements of the listing. I guess about 10% to 15% of the applications are complete failures in that respect. I normally take that as a sign of the shotgun approach. Even recruiters are occasionally guilty, but far less frequently than individual applicants. If the applicant gives the impression my company doesn’t deserve more than the shotgun approach, he or she shouldn’t expect any special consideration from me.
JC: Are you flexible in how you review résumés?
IT: I have the benefit of the folks in HR who prescreen applications for me. So, almost all of the time what I see are the most promising candidates. We do not automatically rule out applications because they do not mention some predetermined set of keywords. The experience does not necessarily have to be a perfect match for what we are trying to fill, but the better the connection applicants make on their résumés, the better their chances of being hired.
JC: What’s your opinion on mentioning salary?
IT: If the applicants insist on volunteering no information, they aren’t doing themselves any favors. I have to at least make sure they are not completely outside the range I can offer for the position. I don’t want to invest the effort a good hire requires only to find out I wasted my time as far as salary expectations are concerned. When it gets to the offer stage, we encourage the applicant to consider the whole salary and benefits package.
JC: If you had to name one theme running through your selection criteria, what would it be?
IT: I would say promotability. We are most interested in people who can grow with our organization on a long-term basis.
JC: Do you have any suggestions for how to minimize negative surprises at the offer stage?
IT: Most of the negative surprises I can think of come from poor references. Applicants should make sure their references are current and able to address their qualifications for our job.
JC: Do you have any closing thoughts to offer job seekers?
IT: Don’t be afraid to check out new opportunities in the marketplace even if you like your current job. Be careful about staying too long in your comfort zone and growing stale. Let the company see the real you during the interview. We can usually spot phonies, and they don’t fit in well here.
Finally, don’t accept an offer without getting reasonable answers to all your questions about duties and coworkers. Keep up to date on the industry so your training and skills are current. Strive to advance, but be flexible on the manner and timing.
Joseph D. Conklin is a mathematical statistician at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He earned a master’s degree in statistics from Virginia Tech and is a senior member of ASQ. Conklin is also an ASQ certified quality manager, quality engineer, quality auditor and reliability engineer.