Question: Our company needs to fill several IT positions, and we have posted employment ads on many online job boards. We have received dozens of resumes, but only a few of them seem promising. How can we attract more qualified applicants?
Katherine Spencer Lee responds:
Internet job boards are a convenient way for employers and candidates to connect. However, that convenience can be both a blessing and a curse. The Internet has removed some of the "barriers to entry" in the job hunt process. As a result, it is not unusual for job seekers to simply "shoot off" a resume in response to what looks like a good opportunity, even if they lack the appropriate skills and experience. Unfortunately, this approach leaves you, the hiring manager, with having to comb through a large number of resumes, looking for the needle in the haystack.
Job seekers, of course, want to increase their chances of landing a new position and, therefore, apply for as many openings as possible. But this situation also may be caused in part by an employer's own actions. The offense: Posting a generic or vaguely worded job ad that does not explain the experience required for and responsibilities of the position. As a result, unqualified candidates assume they might be a good fit for the role and submit their applications.
Start off on the right foot
A well-written job ad is especially important in an industry like IT, where so many positions require professionals to have a very specific set of skills, knowledge and experience.
But how do you develop a job ad that helps candidates understand the expectations of the position and how their experience compares to your needs?
Start with the following template, which can be used to structure any basic employment ad:
Position title—The full title of the job, and if possible, the title of the person to whom the candidate will report.
General description—A few sentences outlining overall responsibilities.
Key responsibilities—Specific tasks the applicant must carry out daily.
Skills and attributes—The hiring criteria that will be used to evaluate candidates, such as skills and knowledge required to perform the job.
Education requirements—Any licensing, certification or training a candidate must have to be eligible for the position.
Your job ad should be as specific as possible. For example, note how many years of experience is required; with which software programs, including versions, the person must be familiar; and if knowledge of your field or industry is necessary. However, don't be too strict with your criteria, as you may discourage promising people from applying. For instance, unless a certain certification is absolutely necessary for the person to perform the job, don't list it as a requirement. You should also distinguish between the position's requirements and other "preferred" traits that the ideal candidate would possess.
When crafting the job ad, remember to talk with members of your IT staff who will work with the person you hire. Their input on what skills a candidate should possess and what his or her responsibilities may include can be helpful.
In addition, use the job ad to give candidates a sense of how your IT department operates. You might note that you have "a highly collaborative team environment," for instance. Providing a glimpse into your organization will help ensure only people who are comfortable with your culture will apply.
Also make sure your ad "sells" your company—Does the job sound attractive? Does your company seem like an exciting place to work? Is there growth potential, the chance to use certain skills or other compelling opportunities, such as travel? Keep in mind that if you write a generic ad, you're likely to attract generic, undistinguished candidates.
Separating the wheat from the chaff
Even with a strong job ad, you're not going to be able to eliminate every unsuitable candidate from applying.
But a well-written job ad can serve as a useful roadmap during the resume-screening, interview and selection stages of the hiring process. By having a clear outline of the requirements for the job opening, you can better identify the ideal person for the role.
Start by comparing the job ad to each resume and look for matching details. Make sure a candidate meets at least the most basic job requirements, such as certifications earned or years of management experience. Eliminate those who do not.
Next, go through the resumes again and get tougher. For example, if you are hiring for a database administrator and seek an individual with at least five years of experience, you may consider eliminating those who have that level of experience but do not posses knowledge of your industry. Set a high standard at first, but if your rejection pile is growing and you haven't "cleared" anyone, you may need to lower the bar somewhat.
Go through this process several times, if needed. To finalize your list of candidates—particularly if you have a sizeable group of promising resumes—call each applicant for a quick five-to 10-minute phone interview. This can help you determine who to invite for an in-person meeting.
A final word of advice: Consider responding to each IT person who submits an application, even those who are clearly not qualified for the role. Everyone who comes into contact with your company forms a perception that can influence your firm's reputation. A simple, straightforward—even automated—message sent to all applicants is a good way to showcase your organization's professionalism.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, and offers online job search services at www.rht.com. For more information about writing an effective job ad, request a complimentary copy of Robert Half Technology's Glossary of Job Descriptions for Information Technology by calling 1.800.793.5533.
Other columns by Katherine Spencer Lee:
Success Strategies for Hiring IT Managers
How To Identify, Develop IT Talent
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