Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Corporate Recruiter - The typical process

*Originally posted May 2006.

Calling someone a recruiter can mean that he/she takes on broad range of activities and responsibilities dependent on multiple factors. For this posting, lets focus on the corporate recruiter.

A "Corporate Recruiter" is someone who works for a corporation and attempts to recommend hires soley for the needs of that company alone. He/she is an employee of that company typically in the HR department. Part of the responsibility of a recruiter is to update people on status. There are emails/phone calls/meetings going back and forth all day discussing "the next steps" in one of many steps in the interview and hiring process. Feedback needs to be given to the candidate, hiring manager, interviews scheduled, background check companies contacted, etc. Most of the time people on one end (such as applicants) have no idea of the challanges that take place simply to get them hired. Hopefully the information below can shed some light on this process. I am going to talk about what happens from an HR and corporate perspective.

Step 1 - Determining a job opening or hiring need / Requisition.
This is often determined by a combination of outside factors such as the economy, profitability of the company, and forcasts on where the business is headed and internal factors such as plans for growth, change, mergers or aquisitions, etc within the department or corporation at large.

Often times the hiring manager has to put together some justification whether formal or informal to get the additional hire approved since there will be an extra expense to hire someone. This justification can be as simple as replacing someone who is leaving or expanding needs due to up coming projects that would demand more manpower.

Step 2 - Going through the approval process.
Once the job is approved and is given the OK it doesn't meant that it can be worked on right away (although at times for high profile needs this might happen).

Formally, it needs to be processed appropriately through the predefined channels by "approvers" who are high ranking execs who make spending and other major decisions. This approval process means that every step needs to be documented. Typically, larger companies (Fortune 500) have an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) which is a web based database used to store and filter resumes, job openings, and track this type of activity to ensure legal compliance.

Going through the approval process might mean that several different layers such as a manager, director, and VP need to sign off which might take a couple of hours to several weeks depending on the size of the company and complexity of the organizing and frankly (the priority of the hire compared to other corporate agendas).

Step 3 - Posting the Requisition and Sourcing.
So the position finally gets approved and posted. All of a sudden it’s visible to the general public. It’s on popular job boards and on the company "Careers" web page.

Now the resumes start coming in with all the creative cover letters of why they should be hired. Some positions get 20-30 resumes in about 2 months others get 100 in 5 days. Imagine a company has 10, 20, 50 or more job openings each with 20 to 100 resumes and you might be able to see why it would take a while to get around to calling everyone back. Simultaneously, the recruiter should be doing his own sourcing on the internet, via referral and any other resources he has at his finger tips leaving voice mails and emails and having conversations with candidates with folks who initially seem qualified for the role in question. However difficult this may be to read, I can tell you from experience that if you're not getting a return call it usually means:

A) you're not qualified, B) you don't appear to be qualified even if you think you are, C) the recruiter doesn't know you exist. Note that calling back someone who isn’t even in the running for the job is last on the priority list of "Things to Do". It's not that we lack common courtesy (I would hope most recruiters like myself really genuinely would like to call or email back every applicant or at least provide some feedback on each applicant's status) however time simply won't allow this to be the case most of the time. Sometimes ATS do this kind of stuff for us automatically.

This means that there is an art to following up appropriately and knowing the fine balance between being an effective applicant by showing enthusiasm and assertiveness and on the flip side, just simply being annoying. Following up on status is good, but don't over do it.

Step 4 - Screening and Interviewing.
The recruiter will call several people, conduct some level of phone screening and resume work history review, a brief enthusiasm gauge and forward those who meet the requirements to the hiring manager. The hiring manager and the recruiter then coordinate with the candidate to set up the first interview. Once this interview is completed, feedback is assessed and then a 2nd and possibley a 3rd interview takes place before the final decision is made. Often times one job opening will get 4-5 initial interviews, 2 candidates that make it to the 2nd round and a decision is usually made by the 3rd if there is one. In a typical environment, once the position is posted and the interviews are started, it might take about 3 months to identify the right person to extend an offer. By the time the person starts it’s been about 4-5 months since the position was first approved. (These estimates are true for most IT and other positions that have a significant impact on overall business functions). The hire cycle can be much quicker for lower or entry level positions but rise as the difficulty of the position moves upward.

Step 5 - Hiring and Closing the Requisition.
Once the right candidate is identified and he/she accepts the offer the position needs to be closed. (The offer negotiation is a whole other ball of wax which actually should have begun from the first conversation with the recruiter and continued on throughout the process to ensure a proper alignment in expectations for all parties involved with the range the position will ultimately pay). However, the position will typically stay posted and appear available until the candidate shows up to work on day one in many cases. This particular detail is specific to each organization. There are last minute things that happen sometimes that prevents the position from being filled and a good recruiter will want to prepare for that event. Another way to handle this is to close the position so no new applicants can be received and then reopen a new one should the original candidate back out.

In a nutshell by the time a position is actually visible on the internet the position has been bouncing around internally in the company for at least 2-3 weeks and at times in larger organizations much longer. Once interviews begin it might take another 4-12 weeks before an offer is made and accepted. Once a position is accepted, it might take another 2-4 weeks before the person actually starts depending on relocation and resignation needs. In all the process can be about 3-4 months before the average IT or other significantly impacting open position is filled. This cycle is much shorter for entry level roles and of course market conditions and resources differ from corporation to corporation which impact effecctiveness of recruitment along with the actual diligence and skills of the recruiter among other factors. These figures are just meant to be generalizations in a broad sense.

1 - If you don’t get a call within 10 business days after submitting your resume, follow up with the recruiter. You may want to shorten this cycle if you know the company is smaller or competition might be fierce for the role. If you leave a voice message make sure it’s short and to the point. Just leave your name. position, and your phone number and date you applied.
2 - If you haven’t heard from the company after leaving your first voice message in 2 business days, call again and leave another message. Wait another 2 days and keep calling for another week without leaving a message. If you cannot get a hold of the recruiter or HR rep then that should be a clear indication of how busy it must be. Leave another message maybe after a week after the 2nd voice message and remind them that you called before. Keep it short. Leave your name, position, date and time of the last message, and your number.
3. If you don’t get called back after the 2nd message you should seriously evaluate whether you really are qualified for the position in question and see if you might be barking up the wrong tree. If you still feel that you are qualified there is a chance that another candidate was already selected or that there are just a lot of things going on. There’s not much you can do except make sure you’re contacting the right person at this point. You may want to get creative and try the hiring manager but ensure you submit him your resume and give him the tools to make some sort of decision on whether you should move forward or not to the next steps. Going straight to the horses mouth might be OK but most companies do have strict policies regarding the hiring process so act on this with caution.

Good luck!

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