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How do employers select the best candidates?

The Hiring Process Ask the Employer

When your company has a job opening, how do you go about identifying the best possible candidate for the position, among all those who apply? Are there ways that job seekers can position themselves differently in the recruitment process so that they are more likely to get an interview?

From Lisa Heflin, PHR, Human Resources Manager, Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc.:

Here are the steps we follow in our company and how a candidate can increase the likelihood of getting an interview and ultimately being selected for the position.

1. As a government contractor, we are required to hire only individuals who meet the minimum stated requirements on our job posting. Therefore, if a candidate doesn’t have the required education, skills, or number of years’ experience, they will be quickly disqualified.

2. Recruiters may review hundreds of resumes each day. The resume and cover letter must quickly grab their attention. It should be easy to read, have education and work history clearly defined. Resume formatting DOES matter. Selective, appropriate use of bullets and even shading are good. Too much lengthy text that runs together is bad.

3. A cover letter can help a candidate get an interview, but only if it is customized and provides details not easily uncovered from reading the resume. A generic cover letter sent to all employers is easily identified by a recruiter and not given much attention.

4. Increasingly, employers are looking for “soft skills” in addition to job specific technical skills. These include flexibility to do varying tasks, ability to collaborate with others in a team environment, critical thinking skills, and professional level verbal and written communication skills. It is helpful to mention (and demonstrate) these abilities on the resume.

5. Employers are also looking for a good fit for their culture and work team. Pay attention to clues on the website and company materials to determine what their values are. If given the opportunity to interview either via phone or in person, be prepared to show how you are a good fit for that organization’s environment.

From Rose Davis, Human Resources Manager, CANAM Steel:

For me, it is highlighting the key skills outlined in the advertisement. When we have several positions that we are advertising for at one time, we could have hundreds of resumes come across our desk. We review each resume and compile a list of those individuals that have the necessary requirements for the position as well as some that may be a possibility. But when an individual has taken the time to read in detail the advertisement and provide a cover letter that highlights those skills which can be verified on the resume, it makes our job so much easier and in most cases it is that individual that we will call first.

From Lisa Morrissey, Human Resources Manager, Common Market:

Our organization still looks at each application that comes in manually. We start by reading answers to a couple of questions on our application that allow us to determine "why" the applicants are attracted to our company. We have found that those who have an innate passion for learning what we do and wanting to be a part of us are our best
candidates because obviously, they have a sincere interest in the organization. We then look at past jobs to see if their job trail is similar in nature rather than a variety of different occupations because sometimes that assures that their interest is definitely in the position for which they are applying and not just in another job. The time applicants have spent at past employers is also important to rule out job hoppers. We then do telephone screenings to determine if there is further interest.

My best advice to job seekers, since most hiring processes are electronic, is to stress the "why" in their cover letter/email as to the reason they want to work at the company and to identify the strength/bottom line impact that they will bring to the applied for position and the organization. While it's human nature to want to tell the employers everything wonderful about you, sometimes it's overkill so I would suggest limiting how much you talk about yourself and instead share more about why you want to work at the company and what you can do for the organization, but without too much fluff.