Sourcing Job Candidates Isn’t Today’s Problem; It’s Qualifying Them

December 11, 2012

1:00 pm

Google receives well over 1 million job applications a year. People are not only overjoyed by the opportunity to sit next to Sergey Brin and Larry Page, or work for one of the world’s top employers, but are also motivated by the chance to have free catered lunches, weekly activities, and access to some pretty cool amenities.

But of the vast number of applicants who apply on a daily basis, only one-half of one percent of them actually get hired. Google hires only the top performers. But how do they get through over 3,000 resumes a day? They qualify.

Qualifying for proper applicants cuts down on the time needed to find the right people for your team by about 80 percent, but many startups don’t do it right. If you follow the right qualifying measures from day one, you will have less quantity but more quality, as well as a streamlined process to qualify applications. Here is how to do it:

1. Don’t scare people with your job ad

Your job advertisement should be detailed and very specific. The top of the ad should provide a brief description of the job itself. But be mindful of the fact that too many specifics can isolate the job applicant pool. Since jobs change so quickly, and they are vastly different now than what they were a few years ago, the necessity of experience is harder to gauge. While it is important to list whether something is make-or-break (e.g., you can’t be a brain surgeon without the training), you don’t want to scare away people who could learn to do the job. Foregoing entry-level candidates, or people switching careers, because you said you needed someone with experience could mean you miss out on diamonds in the rough. Remember that the ability to learn/problem-solve is far better than experience.

When asking for applicants’ experience, make sure that they provide actionable results. You shouldn’t care about how many years someone did something for; that doesn’t matter. What matters is what they accomplished in those years. A 15-year design creative with a lackluster portfolio is a much worse candidate than a 6-month design creative with two amazing jobs under his belt.

2. Emphasize Culture

Explain why your culture is important, and dictate what a day in the life of working with your company looks like. Don’t just say “we are all hard workers”; you must bring out the life that is your organization, too.

Do you take vacation days? Can people work from home? If yes, why do you allow them to? Is there a gym on the premises? Are dogs allowed? All the details of what makes up the culture of your organization will help you source and qualify the right candidates. Be proud of what you have cultivated, and really make it shine everywhere a candidate makes a touchpoint with your company. You will quickly discover who wants to add to your culture before even having them set foot in your door.

3. Include a brief yes/no questionnaire

This will allow you to dig deeper into the applicants’ capabilities, but – at this point – it will also weed out the not-so-interested applicants. Asking 5-7 straightforward yes-or-no questions – like: I work well with others, I am a morning person, I can work remotely, and so on – will help you understand the type of person applying.

4. Caution: Watch out for charmers

You have already explicitly stated what requirements and experience are necessary for the job, but watch out for charmers. These are the people who look good on paper and sell you in the interview process, but are not the right people for the job. However, before you know it, you are creating a position for this person, whether needed or not.

To avoid these agreeable and extroverted types, make sure you ask job-related questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. You need to be able to see through the feigned passion and people-pleasing ability. Ask the poignant questions, like: Tell me about a time you faced a problem in your previous position that you had to deal with immediately. What did you do to correct it, and what were the results? In your previous job, where did you excel the most, and how did this help the company?

5. Show no forgiveness

Okay, maybe only a little. It’s a cut-throat world, but in all honestly, your time is valuable. Show no forgiveness to those people who show up late, reschedule last minute, or have lousy excuses as to why they can’t make the interview time. The candidates who really want the job are the ones who will run through fire for you. They will have done the necessary research to know how long it takes to get from Yonge Street to King Street, or from Broadway to Grand Central Station. They will also know what floor you are on, which entrance to go to, and where there is parking around your building.

6. Job tryouts

Once the candidate has been pre-screened and you have selected the best people for the job, ask them to complete a little homework. Have them write a blog post, write a few lines of code, or design a banner ad. Whatever it is you are hiring for, have them do a 45-minute exercise to see how they really work. It won’t take much to know whether or not this is the right person for the job.

7. Psychometric testing

Not to scare you with a psychology term, but pre-employment psychometric testing is a growing trend. It not only works to find the absolutely best candidates (only 10 percent of your workforce does most of the work), but is also affordable and easy to use. Psychometric testing allows you to hire that 10 percent from the very beginning. Do you want to hire all top performers? Do you want to be the epitome of productivity? Do you want to create value in every corner? Then this is necessary in addition to the above steps.

You may not be Google with an incredibly thorough HR department, but you are now equipped with some easy tips to qualify the best candidates. Remember: Hire slow, fire fast. Take the time to qualify your candidates. Who knows, maybe the world’s next brilliant designer is applying for the job.

Guest author Caitlin MacGregor is the cofounder of, a psychometric pre-employment assessment tool. Having worked in two other early-stage startups, she became quite experienced in hiring (and firing). Seeing how broken the process was, she decided to start working on a platform that would ultimately make the hiring process more efficient and valuable.

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