Don’t Sweat the Technique: 7 Suggestions to Help Employers Stress Less During Their Candidate Search

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    Christopher Barnes
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The job search can be as equally stressful for employers as it is for candidates. According to CareerBuilder, most employers (73%) would rather leave a position unfilled than hire an unfit applicant for the job. This highlights the pressure placed on companies to recruit top candidates. It also emphasizes the importance of having a structured and timely search process. Failing to take these factors into account can lead to recruiter burnout and a poor candidate experience. As a part of a larger effort to assist with the candidate search process, the TPE Onsite Employer Services committee offers seven suggestions to help you stress less in order to identify and hire the most qualified job-seekers.

Suggestion #1: Develop a Game Plan for Your Search Committee

Drafting a game plan can help you communicate the needs of the department, to your team, and identify a time frame for the overall process. Prior to arriving at the TPE Onsite event, we encourage you to sit down with your recruitment team and plan the logistics of your search. A few areas to focus on when creating your game plan include:

  • Departmental goals and values (What are we looking for in a candidate? How can we diversify or add to the diversity of our team?)
  • Number of candidates we need vs. the number of candidates we want to interview
  • Timeline of events to occur (i.e., resume screening, pre- and post-TPE Onsite interviewing, HR review of candidates, etc.)
  • Checklist of materials needed at TPE Onsite (i.e., interview tables, marketing materials, candidate folders, pens, business cards, etc.)

Once you develop this game plan, save it as a Word document within your departmental online share drive. In addition, you should save other documents that you create for the search process (see suggestion #7 for more details).

Suggestion #2: Start Reviewing Candidate Profiles Now!

In addition to creating a game plan, now is the perfect time to begin reviewing candidate profiles. Logging in to your TPE employer account and reviewing the Candidate Search Tool as a team can help committee members learn how to navigate the TPE system. In addition, it provides you with an opportunity to contact job-seekers before other employers do. As of January 1, 488 candidates are registered for TPE Onsite 2016. The earlier your team identifies a group of qualified candidates, the more prepared you’ll be to extend TPE Onsite interview offers. The more prepared you are to extend TPE Onsite interview offers, the better chance you’ll have at scheduling interviews with your top candidates (before their schedules fill up). Check your TPE employer dashboard for a guide on how to fully leverage the TPE Candidate Search Tool.

Suggestion #3: First Impressions are Paramount – Distinguish Your School from Others

Identifying a way to distinguish your university/department from others can leave a lasting impression on candidates. According to Meghan Biro with, “…most job seekers are looking for more than salary when they decide to apply to work at your company”.  Ask your current employees/colleagues what attracted them to your institution/department. Find a way to market this to candidates before, during, and after TPE Onsite. While some schools express their school pride via specially-designed promotional items, others may carry flags or stuffed animals around TPE Onsite to provoke curiosity and excitement. One cost effective way to distinguish yourself from others—especially for smaller universities—is by personalizing your email messages to candidates. Highlight a commonality between yourself and the candidate or take interest in something they shared in their cover letter. This strategy could set you apart from competitors who send more general, standard email messages.

Suggestion #4: Avoid Asking Red Flag Questions during Interviews

One way to make an interviewee very uncomfortable, and possibly encourage them to seek legal action, is by asking questions that can reveal personal details of their life. Law firms often suggest employers avoid sensitive subjects that could possibly lead to the discrimination of applicants. Areas can include: religious affiliation, marital status, race/ethnicity, ability, age, and sexuality. Although most of these areas are obvious red flags (with the exception of obscure areas related to religiously-affiliated institutions), it is still common for employers to ask questions involving these topics. According to a recent study by CareerBuilder, 20 percent of hiring agents have admitted to asking questions during an interview that they didn’t know were inappropriate until after the interview was over. To avoid legal issues, we encourage you to talk with your office of Human Resources and identify a list of questions considered suitable to ask candidates.

Suggestion #5: Utilize Employer Services to Maximize Your Time Onsite

Whatever you need, the TPE Onsite Employer Services committee is here to help. We’ll be onsite, in Indianapolis, to assist employers in the day-to-day operations of the search process. There will be an Employer Workroom, containing various stations designed with you in mind. Within this space; we’ll have computers, Wi-Fi connection, coffee service, supplies (i.e., staples, paperclips, tape, pens/pencils, etc.), a helpdesk, and a mailroom (to deliver/receive candidate messages). Additionally, we’ll have solution stations in the interview hall that are stocked with more basic supplies. In addition, we have the Employer Consultant program to help newer employers navigate TPE Onsite by matching them with a seasoned employer.

On January 20, we hope you’ll join us for a webinar designed to help employers learn more about the resources available prior to and during TPE Onsite 2016.

Suggestion #6: Transparency is Important – Keep Candidates in the Loop

Establishing and maintaining transparency during the search process can be one of the most challenging yet vital functions of a hiring committee. While at TPE Onsite, being transparent with candidates is fairly easy. However, once everyone goes home, remaining transparent can become difficult. The lack of—or slow—communication can have a significant impact on candidate satisfaction and one’s decision to accept another job offer. According to an article by Raj Sheth, more than 57 percent of applicants identified not receiving regular feedback on the status of their application as a reason for sharing their negative candidate experience. Slow or no communication can leave candidates feeling undervalued and angry. In addition, it can encourage them to lash out, anonymously, against the organization to other candidates via social media or word of mouth. Employers can avoid these issues providing regular updates on the committee’s search process. For institutions who have the resources, it might be helpful to invest in online databases that automatically update applicants of their status through a log-in account. Furthermore, it might be a good idea to provide candidates the opportunity to complete an evaluation of your process.

Suggestion #7: Evaluate Your Search Process and Make Recommendations Accordingly

When all is said and done with the search process, we encourage you to thoroughly review the entire experience (i.e., interview questions, email correspondence with candidates, the number of candidates interviewed vs. the number of positions available, marketing materials, etc.). If you want to learn about your process from a candidate’s perspective, think about sending them a survey to complete regarding their experiences. Discussing these items with your search committee, can help identify positive factors as well as areas of improvement. The share folder you created earlier in the process, can be used to store notes on recommendations for the next candidate search. Just as important, it can serve as an essential starting point and important source of information for newer members who join the departmental search committee next year.

  • These seven suggestions can help generate various positive results, including:
  • A decrease in stress related to attracting candidates
  • Establishing and maintaining validity with candidates
  • Avoidance of legal issues
  • A healthy evaluation of your overall search process.

Do you have a suggestion that should be on this list, but isn’t? If so, please contribute at the bottom by leaving a comment.


Christopher Barnes is currently a College Advisor for the PEOPLE Program at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. In addition to academic advising, he has experience in Career Advising, Student Leadership, and Residence Life. For more information on Chris, find him on LinkedIn (Christopher Michael Robert Barnes)

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