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Candidate screening, Up in the Air

I have always been a fan of watching a movie when it comes out on video, even when it stars George Clooney. I finally watched "Up in the Air" last week. I found it to be brilliantly written and painfully close to home. True of any good movie or book, it left me short on tissues (even when reality was painted with comedic satire), a pound or two heavier from chocolate, and lying awake at night deep in thought.

Corporate layoffs. Bottom line driven. So much so that the communication of the layoffs is outsourced. The need to maintain a personal touch and connection to people in a world where technology often replaces people. This movie directly relates to so many of the issues today and most importantly, to the jobless who have dedicated a lifetime to any given company.

I read a post last week on The New York Times's Economix blog that correlated nicely with the movie. The Labor Department reports that the unemployment rate holds steady at 9.7 percent, and amazingly, we sigh in relief at that statistic. However, it also reports that the average length of time the unemployed are jobless is at 31.2 weeks, the longest ever on record.

When I look at the graphs included in this post, one thing seems certain: The market will recover. Companies will hire again.

These are unprecedented times. When our economy does rebound (please reference tissues, chocolate, and lying awake in the interim), we need to consult our best practices when it comes to hiring or we'll overlook good talent.

A resume to the job seeker is what a credit score is to the home buyer. It is a summary, preferably limited to two pages, that determines an individual's worth and ability to meet certain expectations. That two-page summary does not detail extenuating circumstances.

When you have a large candidate pool, parameters are set to short-list qualified resources: quick target criteria, such as education, length of employment with previous employers, and length of time unemployed.

Will that be effective for your organization in a recovery period for the Great Recession? Are we going to leave strong and qualified resources jobless because of something as subjective as "length of time unemployed?" Do we need to change screening processes to effectively recover from these unprecedented times?

"The war on talent" is a phrase you might have heard used when referring to a time when talent, a corporation's greatest resources, was in short supply. Well, as the saying goes, lose the battle, win the war.

The battle was lost when companies had to lay off good talent due to an economic recession. To win the war, a strategic approach to talent acquisition will need to be developed.

A more creative screening process will need to be adopted in order to avoid overlooking strong and qualified candidates. After all, these resources will improve your bottom line through strong performance. Ultimately, these resources will position you to better weather the next economic storm.

So, true of any good book or movie, I hope to leave you deep in thought before you are ready to hire the resources you've had to relinquish over the last few years. As you prepare your organization to rebuild your staff, consider these five questions:

  • Are you using a tool to screen candidates with an automatic parameter set for lapse in employment? Does that need to be reevaluated and set to a different number or removed altogether?

  • Are you prepared to change the paradigm in your hiring practices to open the doors for those who have had an extensive lapse in employment?

  • Does your organization value and prioritize skills that are not teachable (soft skills) enough to invest in some level of training to those resources on new technology?

  • Is your Human Resources department scalable and staffed to properly and effectively screen candidates in a market with these conditions? Do you partner with agencies and firms that can help you with that screening process?

  • Have you considered a structure that lets you utilize a right to hire scenario for those candidates with a long lapse in employment? This mitigates your risks and gives you flexibility in taking on those types of resources before you extend a full-time offer.

Hopefully, with these plot lines to guide you, you can avoid the tissue shortage, chocolate weight, and sleep loss, and have one true Hollywood happy ending.


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