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  • Writer's pictureGigi Fergus, MBA, BSN, RN

12 Practices That Top HR Departments Avoid

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

Unemployment is at historic lows. It is said that finding skilled and talented employees is difficult in the current market. But is that really the case? Qualified candidates are being screened out at an alarming rate – how do we know this? 100 people apply to the job but only 4 are “qualified?" The numbers just don’t add up.

The norm for several large companies has become online application processes, favoring the ease of sorting and retrieving candidate information over creating interpersonal relationships with candidates as a means of determining cultural fit. In the ever-pressing determination to streamline and expedite applications, the counter-intuitive result has happened: hiring takes longer and the viability of the candidate is speculative at best.

I’m frequently in positions that must address hiring practices in order to fill mission-critical roles. While my focus is hospital based, I have found in discussions with non-healthcare colleagues that the following experiences are common regardless of industry.

1) Relying on a software bot to screen applicants since it’s easy; the AI is only screening for the specific words, etc., instead of accomplishments. It takes time to review each applicant and their resume. Unfortunately, some are never even considered since they didn’t have the right combination of search words in their resume. And this doesn’t even address issues of spelling, recognizable words, or syntax.

2) Not contacting every viable candidate – regardless if they are a good fit or not for the positions. They may be a fit for other positions, but you won’t know if they’d consider something else without talking to them. Oh, but this takes valuable time! Yes, and it also demonstrates how much you value your employees by how much time you are willing to invest in them from the get-go.

3) Using time requirements as a hard stop (Needs 2 years’ experience but only has 1 year 8 months so is rejected) – they might be better qualified than an applicant who has had 3 years of experience but poor outcomes. Hard stops on required qualifications should be limited to the basics (licensure if needed, etc.). Again, this level of discrimination relies on a personal conversation with the applicant to determine the strength of the candidacy.

4) Rejecting people with large gaps or interim on their resume – should they be penalized for swings in the job market? Family issues? Illness or disability? What was the condition and nature of the interim work? Were they brought in emergently to address issues because of expertise? Have they worked for the same company in different capacities? The gig economy has changed traditional rules of consideration. Also, in healthcare, there is a difference in tenure seen between for-profit and non-profit facilities (for-profit tenures tend to be shorter, often less than 3 years; this can look like the candidate is a job-hopper when in fact, this is very normal tenure in a for-profit facility).

5) Not being accessible – no ability to speak to a human when you call the HR department; maybe I have questions that are not listed in the posting that would determine whether I would apply for the position in the first place! Best practice is to list an email and phone number of the hiring manager or the HR person handling the search for further questions. All the information you need to apply for the job is listed in the job posting, right? Read the next practice…

6) Posting job descriptions that do not answer basic questions about the facility or the job – they took the lazy way out and posted the company job description instead of selling the position: Union, non-union, for profit, non-profit, size of company, growth or repair? What is the size of the facility, the number of employees that report to the position, who does this position report to, etc. – these are the types of questions that facilitate solid candidates in making the decision to apply.

7) Not following up in a timely manner with viable candidates – Even though it takes time to do background and reference checks, a simple email or phone call would keep the doors of two way communication open and indicate that the company is truly interested in bringing the candidate on-board. Not a canned email but a personalized one. Indoctrination into the culture of the company begins during this on-boarding process. Research has shown that the intent to stay is directly related to the hiring and on-boarding process.

8) Not treating every placement with urgency and immediacy – if you lollygag around, the candidate will start looking elsewhere – A bird in the hand goes the old adage… if three companies are interested in hiring me, but one is actively engaged with me, guess which one I will give preference to? Many a good candidate has been lost to “the process” – this is an excuse and should not be tolerated in your company. Remove barriers and determine what the normal process should look like – then tell your applicants what to expect and how to get feedback.

9) Not closing the loop – and not giving feedback. I was interviewing an applicant for a C-suite position. The candidate had worked in a staff position for 30 years but had recently received an advanced degree. It was a difficult conversation in that I had to explain to her that she was not qualified for the position since she had no operational experience over a department to include hiring, firing, and financial oversight. She was somewhat indignant at first, and it was my obligation to give her honest feedback and present her with a path that would lead her towards her goal in the future. Just as bad as no feedback is no follow up – no email, no phone calls, no updates, no nothing. It’s as if your application dropped into the HR void or landed in File 86.

10) Relying on titles instead of accomplishments. Some managers are working in complex roles that really are director level, and some director titles are simply trumped up manager roles. What were they responsible for and what did they accomplish in the roles they were in? What were their outcomes?

11) Insisting that people fill out the 498-page application before you will talk to them instead of an abbreviated application with a resume. These online application software products take several hours to complete and the minute you hit submit you almost immediately get a rejection notice. This is particularly unbearable when you are applying to VP or higher positions. There’s plenty of time to have the applicant fill out the long-form application if they make it through the first round – why would I want to spend two hours filling out one online application just to get a form letter back? All this demonstrates is that I am being considered by a software bot. Why would I want to work there?

12) Not appreciating that some skills are translatable to other departments or positions. A colleague of mine tells the story of how a dozen applicants had been turned away for one reason or another by the HR department within a few months of her arrival at the facility. She asked to see the applications and called every one of those applicants who had been turned away. She hired every one of them. They were grateful for the callback and became very loyal employees. How does this happen? Several of the applicants had applied to one department and had been rejected but were a perfectly good fit for another department. Their applications had been screened out by HR and had never even been seen by the hiring manager. Moral of the story: make sure the person screening the applications has industry insight, deep business/company knowledge, and reviews all screen outs with the hiring manager prior to sending the rejection letter.

What are the practices in your company? Do you have means to streamline applications? In today’s world of hyper-connectivity, not getting a simple call or email can be the determining factor for an applicant as to whether they want to work with your company. Finding great candidates takes time and commitment on your company’s part. Remember, you get what you pay for – make the time investment to consider all candidates and look for ways to utilize them regardless of the position. The best candidates will be worth the extra attention and time.

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