in Musings

8 Takeaways From Hiring People

I recently posted a job on looking to hire someone for a portfolio company of our firm’s. I was responsible for going through the applications, whittling them down, and conducting the initial interviews.

I learned quite a bit from this experience. All of a sudden, many aspects of the traditional hiring process made sense to me. Here are some of my takeaways.

It’s true, employers are flooded with resumes.
For this job, I received over 200 applications in less than a week – and I posted the job around Christmas. There was no way I could have sifted through each resume carefully, trying to find golden nuggets. I had to create a system to filter through them quickly. For this position, I quickly looked at the applicant’s current and previous job titles – if it matched, good. I then narrowed down candidates by determining if they had any experience in the particular industry we were hiring for. Finally, I looked to see if the candidate showed any creativity in their cover letter or resume (important for this position, not always true).

This is why you want your resume to be free of typos, formatted correctly, and look presentable. You want to give yourself the best chance possible, and all else equal, a poorly formatted resume with typos will be rejected over a more pristine one. I’ve heard that the average employer only looks at a resume for 7 seconds, and I found this to be relatively true. It’s crucially important for applicants to make it clear why they’re perfect for the position and how their experience backs that up as quickly as possible.

Most applicants did not meet the requirements stated on the job description.
When I was in undergrad, someone told me not to fear the competition, and it turned out he was correct back then and correct now. Many applicants did not bother to fully read the job description and were simply blasting off their resumes to any opening they could find. Job requirements are sometimes flexible, but only to an extent. If you’re applying to a position and know you’re qualified, don’t overestimate the competition. It can be relatively easy to stand out.

The best applicants stated exactly HOW they were solving the problem.
When it comes down to it, companies hire people because they want them to solve some kind of problem. If you can explicitly show them how you can solve that problem and prove it with your experience/education, and are likable, you will get the job. Out of hundreds of applications, less than a handful of people did this. Most people talked about themselves too much and why they’d love to work at the company; they didn’t express how they would help, however. Keep in mind all companies care about is how you’re going to generate more revenue/profit for them.

Overqualification bias is real.
I received applications from people with MBA degrees for this relatively entry-level position. Unfortunately I couldn’t proceed with any of them. Why? Because it’s very likely the salary/duties of this position wouldn’t meet an MBA’s criteria for a fulfilling job. It may be a bit judgmental to assume so, but I understand where hiring managers are coming from now. MBAs have greater student loans they want to pay down, are generally older with families, and have higher expectations. It’s very likely upon finding a new position, he/she will leave and we as the employer will be forced to go through the hiring process again, a time-consuming and expensive process.

Employers do not inform rejected candidates because they hate doing it, too.
This is likely one of the biggest bet peeves for candidates applying for jobs. They’ll send in their resume, wait to hear back, then realize the company didn’t bother letting them know they were rejected. For this job, I went ahead and let those who didn’t advance know that they had been turned down. However, it left me with an unpleasant feeling after, as if I had just crushed hundreds of peoples’ hopes. It’s simply easier to not say anything at all, so I can also understand why employers often don’t inform rejected applicants about their decision.

Applicants’ social media presence said more about them than their resumes.
After the initial whittling down, I then checked potential candidates’ social media pages. Most were neutral, in that they neither hurt nor helped their chances, but some were obviously negative. My suggestion is to privatize your profiles if you think there’s any chance it might negatively affect your chances. A resume is a polished and exaggerated highlight reel, but a Twitter page is unabashedly the real you.

Reputation goes a long way to hurt or help your chances. 
One of the applicants went to the same university as a friend did, so I asked her if she knew him. Turns out she did, but he had left a negative impression on her from the way he behaved in extracurricular activities and how he operated in teams. He’ll likely never know that that incident would negatively impact his future prospects. This was a big eye-opener for me, too. A reminder that you never know who may  be watching and how your reputation is always at stake.

I particularly enjoyed cover letters written personally.
Not the four or five paragraph essay your career counselor told you about, but something that was really you. Every template cover letter I read was terrible. If the cover letter was short and succinct with no fluff, I immediately thought of the applicant more positively.