August 18, 2019
Hiring 21 February 2018
How to Be Efficient at Recruiting: Stop Digging Through Hay Stacks
Wendy Dailey
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Since I've been in recruitment (which has been the majority of my HR career), we've written job ads to cast the widest net possible in order to attract the right candidate. This has led to:

  • Vaguely written ads
  • Legally written ads
  • Minimal salary information (if it's there at all)
  • Frustrated and confused applicants, especially when they receive the vague, legal approved rejection letter. (We've all gotten it: the "we went with a more qualified candidate" letter)

And why do we do this? Because we want to attract a LOT of candidates so we can find the proverbial "needle in the haystack." Rather than taking the time to learn to do a little marketing (or, *gasp!, work with marketing), we stick with the legalese writing, putting out exactly what's in the job description. Which doesn't actually talk about the type of person we are seeking, only the duties they will perform.

This is also a result, I believe, of the fact that, we as recruiters and hiring managers, don't actually know what kind of person we are seeking. We are unable to articulate how this role fits into our strategic plan. 


Clearing out the Haystack 

I touched on this when I wrote about job descriptions. We spend too much time on the legal side, ensuring we get the minimum qualifications in there, but that doesn't really tell anyone what type of person will best fit the role. It will only tell you what experience or skills are needed, but does it really answer whether or not you need someone to think strategically? Creatively? Independently? And how do you measure that when you are looking at a resume or application? 

I'm not suggesting that you need to invite everyone who applies in for an interview, especially not as we collect applications currently. The volume of applications would make that overwhelming. You need to let people self-select out of your candidate pool. Write job ads that tell people about you, the job and who you need. 

This will require a change in thinking. We've spent a long time simply writing ads for the legal department. But we do not need to completely change what we do. We need to use tools that are most likely already at our disposal - most companies have some sort of marketing department that can help market your job opening. (no marketing department? Check local colleges for a marketing student or someone willing to work on contract.) 

Work with them to create:


1. Standard language to describe your company or department

Make sure to include things like what makes you special? how do you stand apart from the crowd? Why should someone want to work for your company (and something more than your benefits)? This should be something you can include on any job posting, not just on your site, but others. 

I have utilized in-house marketing departments in the past and they are usually very happy to work with you. At a hospital I worked at, we struggled writing job ads on our own. A single call to the marketing manager to set up a meeting began a partnership that, I believe, continues to this day. Attractive online and newspaper ads continue to attract strong candidates to that hospital.

The meeting with marketing was successful merely because it happened. I scheduled a time to meet with the manager and we discussed what I wanted for recruitment: a standard paragraph on the organization and the city, some standard photos we could use in advertisements. We talked about what information already existed within the marketing department and how we could build an on-going relationship. We started out meeting regularly and then after the relationship became strong, we met as needed. 

I think, too often, we in HR think we need to go it alone, when many companies have other departments that are willing and able to assist, if only we reach out to ask. People don't know you need help until you ask for it! Chances are, they already have some standard information about your company, which you can work with them to expand to include information from individual departments. 


2. Stories from your staff 

Give candidates an idea of what to expect from working not only as your employee, but what to expect when working in the position in question. Get your current employees involved, use their language in your ads so you can speak directly to the people you are seeking. 

Continuing my previous example, what began with a simple “welcome” video to the hospital careers website has now evolved to ongoing shared video resources between the marketing and human resources department at that same hospital. These resources are not only a good resource for recruiting, but also publicity for the hospital as well.

Having these personal testimonials and stories will help candidates visualize your company culture and environment. With my current company, we are talking with our staff to find ways to share what we do, without making them get in front of a camera. There are many ways to help employees share your company's story, find the best fit for you.


3. Include salary information

Then you can work on the assumption that anyone who applies is good with your range. Salary ranges should be determined by looking at market data. As you build your job description, you can work with your state's department of labor to find good market data for your position. (And during the interview TALK ABOUT SALARY, it's not "rude" to talk about salary, let's just stop doing this.) 

In addition to knowing what you should pay, be clear about what your range is. Know how much wiggle room you have and put it in the job posting/advertisement. If you don't have much wiggle room in your range, you can use that as a tool to screen out candidates - if they apply, you can assume they have read your posting and know the range. If they still put a higher number in, I would be honest with them about why you are screening them out "We are sorry to let you know that your salary expectation is higher than we can pay for this role. We are therefore not moving forward with you as a candidate."

Ask candidates what their salary needs are in the application process. I would ask them about salary in either a phone screen or the initial interview. You can easily add this as one of the final questions, "Our salary range is $x-$y. Does this meet your expectations? Are you willing to accept a salary within this range? What salary are you willing to accept?" Any of those questions (together or alone) will confirm for you that you are all in the same ballpark.

I hire a lot of skilled tradespeople. As these positions are in high demand, you need to be able to have some flexibility in your salary. In the past, we were only sharing the bottom of our range and would not get a lot of interest. About 6 months ago, we began listing the full range and began seeing not just more candidates, but more experienced candidates. They now understood that they did fit into our range and decided to start applying for our position.


These 3 things will help people decide whether or not they want to work for you, which will, in turn, help you find the right person for your position. Without having to weed through that haystack.



Wendy Dailey is an HR Business Partner in South Dakota. With almost 20 years of experience in human resources, she has worked in a variety of industries including construction, airlines, banking, and healthcare. Wendy is active in her local SHRM group, DisruptHR and in the #HRTribe on Twitter. She is co-host of the #HRSocialHour podcast and twitter chat. Wendy was named to the 2018 SHRM blogging team and writes for Workology, Prosky and on her Personal Blog: My Dailey Journey

In her spare time, Wendy enjoys spending time with her family and leading her daughters’ Girl Scout troops Connect with Wendy on Twitter.