There are no shortcuts when it comes to choosing the right candidate for a job
ONE thing we're not short of these days is applicants for available job vacancies. The recession may mean a no-hire policy in some quarters, but there is still plenty of recruiting taking place, even in supposed areas of cutbacks, and lots of mobility within specialist jobs.
The consequence of the imbalance between the number of advertised jobs and jobseekers is that you can be deluged with applications if you advertise a vacancy.
The current recession therefore presents an added challenge to those who need to hire: how to best sift through that mountain of CVs and pick the winners.
There are a few tricks that may help hard-pressed managers and recruiters through the maze.
Be clear from the very start what exactly you are looking for and spell this out in a thorough job description and clear advertisement.
Good calibre candidates make judgments for themselves about what jobs are worth applying for. It is a two-way process, after all, particularly for those who have moved beyond their first step on the career ladder, even in times of recession.
Companies who put time into developing a bespoke application form can cut down significantly on the numbers applying. They design the application to ask for relevant and explicit details of previous experience.
They also include a few challenging questions that will stretch applicants to show how they will approach the job and draw the links between what they have done and what the advertised role requires.
The advantage is that you get more consistent information from all candidates and you get the information that you want, rather than what the applicant wants to tell you.
Remember, though, the application process should not be so demanding that good jobseekers are put off applying.
Some companies still choose to go the route of asking candidates to send in a CV rather than an application form.
You have to develop a nose for reading between the lines and getting a sense of the person behind the piece of paper, including patterns of behaviour, preferences and levels of achievement.
A clearly designed CV with just the optimum amount of information is always rated higher, but it is impossible to know whether the applicant has written it or has taken guidance from an expert, so you can't afford to give too much emphasis to layout and presentation in ranking CVs.
If numbers are very large, consider using a scoring system to develop an objective shortlist. At its simplest it is based on a mix of education, skill and experience requirements.
It can be as discriminating as you want it to be and can drill right down to the detail of exactly which degree course is allocated the most marks, and allow for preferences you might have, say, for graduates from certain universities or who chose particular options within a course.
By adding criteria around the specifics of the length and depth of work experience you value, (eg supervisory role, project management or familiarity with a particular system) you can separate off the candidates into "yes" and "no" piles very clearly. The beauty of this approach is that you have objective reasons for accepting or rejecting candidates that will hold up to scrutiny.
Whatever route you go, there are no shortcuts when it comes to pruning the mountain of applications to a manageable number for interview; however, good recruiters know that the effort put in at the front end contributes to selecting the best candidate in the long run.
Mary Hanson is an HR consultant and joint author with Brian McIvor of the recently published guide: 'The Interviewer's Book – Hiring the Right Person'