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Basic etiquette in hiring external candidates

We are a small food manufacturer. I was tasked by our human resources (HR) manager to research the best practices for hiring candidates for executive posts, including how to handle unsuccessful candidates. Could you walk me through the basics? — Little Sunshine.

The Golden Rule broadly applies here — treat others as you expect to be treated. You have to respect all applicants, regardless of their qualifications, age, gender, race or the nature of the job they’re applying for.

Don’t discriminate or give special attention to certain individuals. Don’t be markedly nicer to executive applicants. Of course, I understand there are limits when dealing with hundreds of applicants. If that’s the case, you would do well to insert a disclaimer in your job ads.

It can read something like this: “Due to the numerous applications we receive every day, we regret we can’t reply individually beyond the automated e-mail reply acknowledging your application. Likewise, we are unable to handle all e-mail and telephone inquiries due to the same reason.”

To bypass the problem, it’s always a good idea to rely on internal candidates to fill vacant positions. If preferring to hire internally is something you can get behind, you must create formal policies outlining your succession procedures, which should include career development.

This approach is usually cheaper in terms of starting pay. Vacancies are easily filled and might be motivational for workers, especially those who have no intention of leaving the organization. That will save you much of the trouble of dealing with external candidates, where you run the risk of clashes with the company’s culture.

BASIC ETIQUETTEGoing back to your question, aside from the disclaimer that I mentioned above, here are some basic tips on how you should manage handling all job applicants, regardless of the nature of the jobs they’re applying for:

Step One: Do a paper screening of all job applicants. Review the applicants’ curriculum vitae. At this point, there’s no need to ask for additional documents like transcript of records, diploma, birth certificate or other documents that are required only from shortlisted candidates.

If you’re convinced of the potential of some applicants, arrange an online interview with them. Schedule it via e-mail for record purposes. Allow the applicants to choose the best date and time from among two to three suggested schedules. This saves you the trouble of a back-and-forth e-mail exchange where you offer only one firm schedule to the applicants.

Step Two: Invite selected applicants to an in-person interview. Choose the best applicants based on the results of the online interview. Arrange for a second round of interviews with the next-ranking officer in HR or the requesting department. Send the e-mail invitation with flexible interview schedules as in Step One.

This time, include the names and job titles of officers who are scheduled to do the interview, plus the approximate time to be spent during the process. Also, indicate if it’s a one-on-one or panel interview. It’s also important to note that all interviewers must be punctual in the schedule.

Step Three: Arrange for at least three job interviews. Much depends on the nature of the vacancy. If it’s for a supervisorial or managerial post, it’s important to include the HR department head and the requesting department head. This time, the interviews must include only challenging questions pertinent to the job.

There’s no need to repeat the interview questions raised during the first and second stages of the screening process. If a stress interview is needed, do it but without antagonizing or ruining the emotional state of job applicants.

Step Four: Shortlist three candidates. This time, request all three applicants to submit additional documents. This includes the soft copy of their transcript of records, diploma, employment certificate, trade certificate, proof of foreign training, result of government licensure exam and other pertinent certifications.

No need for birth certificates, marriage contracts, even the birth certificates of the applicant’s children at this stage. At this point, ask all three candidates to sign an authorization to conduct a background check.

Step Five: Arrange for a fast-track background investigation. There are companies doing this for a reasonable fee with results given to you in less than three days. Do this for the top two shortlisted candidates. Courtesy dictates that the candidates should be informed on the company’s intentions.

If you’re not shy, cold call the former employer, identify yourself and state your objective. Make it short and simple. Ask the former boss one question: “Would you rehire this applicant?” You’ll be surprised how the answer can make or unmake job candidates. Just the same, give the candidate with questions about his record a chance to clear himself.

Step Six: Confirm a job offer and other terms in writing. This step should help you avoid misunderstandings. If the candidate accepts, well and good. But understand that the candidate must render 30 days’ notice to his current employer. If the candidate turns you down, don’t take it personally. Explore other details. If not, decide if your number two on the shortlist can take the job.

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Neil Banzuelo

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