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Job Search Process

Understanding how employers hire will help in planning a successful job search. Many job seekers express frustration with the hiring process. They feel a loss of control. The sense is that the employer holds all the cards and they aren't showing their hand. Knowledge is power and understanding the hiring process is empowering. It will help direct your efforts and will eliminate some frustration.

How Do Employers Hire?

Hiring practices vary from industry to industry, company to company, hiring manager to hiring manager. Managers at the same company may use a different approach. No two hiring processes are alike. However, there are a few common strategies and tools used in hiring. Recruitment, screening and selection are three basic components of a hiring process. Let's look at each.


Employers need an applicant pool from which they fill job openings. Employers who do extensive hiring may be continuously recruiting applicants, even when there is not an immediate need. They simply want to maintain the pool of applicants. Employers who hire occasionally, or for very specialized positions, will usually recruit as needed. Some employers will recruit simply to test the market. They may be planning some future expansion and want to know if they could fill their labor needs. Therefore, when an employer is actively recruiting they may not have an actual job opening. There are many strategies employers use to recruit applicants. Here are a few of the most common:

Advertising: Employers may advertise in newspapers or trade publications, on the radio or television, and on the Internet.

Internal Posting: Some employers will post their jobs internally first so interested employees may apply.

Referral: Referral from a trusted employee, colleague or peer is the source preferred by most employers. Many employers actively solicit these referrals as part of their recruitment efforts.

Placement Service Providers: Employers may use private and public placement agencies to recruit candidates.

Temporary and/or Contract Providers: Many employers are turning to temporary and contract agencies for employee recruitment.

Job Fairs: Job fairs are an excellent source for entry level employees. Employers who recruit at job fairs are usually building a pool of candidates and may not have an immediate opening.


Once the employer has an applicant pool, they need to narrow it down to the best qualified. This is no simple task. The employer is usually working with limited information. An application and/or a resume may be all they have. They may also have references and a record of past employment, but they usually will check these only after an initial screening. The reality is that for any one job, an employer may have hundreds of applicants. Therefore, their first task is to eliminate as many as possible, as fast as possible. During the initial screening, employers generally spend no more than a few seconds on each application.

Cindy is looking to fill a position in her department. Through a successful recruiting effort, she has 120 resumes. Cindy has one position and plans to interview no more than 10 candidates. There is no way she can thoroughly review all 120 resumes. In planning her strategy she decides to screen the resumes for basic requirements and appearance. She quickly pages through the resumes and eliminates those that do not meet the basic requirements and those that are poorly presented or have errors. In less than an hour Cindy has narrowed the pool of candidates down to the 10 she plans to interview.

Employers will spend more time reviewing the small number of candidates left after an initial screening. They will look more closely at qualifications and may contact references and/or past employers. Some may call the applicant to conduct a telephone screening interview, or they may schedule an in-person screening interview. Frequently employers are turning to technology to help manage the hiring process. Growing technologies include resume scanning systems, databases and the Internet. The goal of screening is to narrow the pool of qualified applicants to those they want to interview.


While every step in the process plays a part in the hiring decision, employers most often make the final selection based on the interview. At the interview, the employer is seeking to verify qualifications and to evaluate how the person will "fit" into the organization. When someone is called for an interview, they can be reasonably confident the employer believes they are qualified for the job. The employer is interested in the person or they would not be investing their time in an interview. The question is, "Are they the best qualified person for the job?"

"Best qualified" does not just mean skill, experience and education. Employers are looking for motivation, a passion for excellence and a dedication to continuous learning and quality. They are also looking at how much a new employee will cost them. Hiring is a major "purchase" that costs thousands of dollars per year. Employers want to make sure that they get the best value for their money. After all, most job seekers don't come with a money back guarantee.

The Hiring Structure

Usually larger employers and those that do extensive hiring will have a formal hiring structure. Smaller employers and those who hire less frequently will be less formal. Also, larger employers may have several people involved in the process, while smaller employers may have one person handle the hiring. There are also industry-specific hiring practices. Medicine, education, and government are examples of industries that have unique hiring processes. Union contracts will also influence the process.

Not everyone in the hiring process has the authority to hire. Usually one person makes the final decision. Most often it is the manager of the department where the person will work. If possible, it is worth finding out who will make the final decision. However, you should treat everyone as though they are the hiring authority. You never know who has influence on the hiring decision. At the very least you may be working with that person if you are hired.

The Human Resource Department is not usually the hiring authority. They manage the hiring process. Exceptions may be when hiring for an entry level position, when the company has many positions open, or when the position is in the Human Resources Department. Human Resources will usually recruit, screen and schedule interviews. Although Human Resources usually does not hire, they often have a lot of influence on the hiring decision.

Jack needs to fill an opening in his department. He submits a request, in writing, to Human Resources. He includes the basic criteria for the job, how soon he needs the person, and how many candidates he wants to see. Human Resources checks the current pool of applicants and if necessary, they recruit additional candidates. Then they screen the pool and select the best candidates who are referred to Jack for consideration. They schedule the interviews and process the necessary paperwork when the decision is made.

The 90's Job Market

The hiring process is more structured than it was in the past. Generally employers are more selective. Many factors have influenced the process. Large numbers of candidates, employment legislation, new technologies, employer liability, and organizational restructuring are a few of these influences. No longer do employers hire with the intent of lifetime employment. The assurance of retirement with a single employer is quickly becoming outdated. The average person will have many jobs and will change careers several times during her/his lifetime. Job search is no longer a single or rare event in life; it has become an ongoing career process. A successful job search campaign will consider these changes and will use all available resources.

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This page was last updated on April 17, 1997
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