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BobOtis-HeadhunterBlog

Headhunter Blog Post by Bob Otis, ART Managing Director
  1. Date Posted: July 22, 2023






The Hiring Process

Understanding the dynamics of the hiring process makes your career search less stressful and permits you to gain a strategic advantage when you need it. The way that one company goes about its hiring process can be vastly different from the way that another firm conducts its hiring process, so let's discuss this in only very general terms here. If you experience some of the phenomena listed below, relax. Things like unexpected delays, surprise silences and miscommunications with and among company bureaucracies are all common. The following, generally speaking, are the steps in an average hiring process:


1. The hiring manager requests a position be opened up or the hiring manager unilaterally creates the opening in order to fill a need, often urgently.

  • The details of this position may be very specifically defined or loosely defined. Tightly specced jobs tend to cause "acceptable enough" candidates to not apply, while loosely specced jobs tend to produce a "shotgun approach" to recruitment, needlessly causing many people to apply for a job that they might never be seriously considered for by the employer.
  • The firm may require a very detailed description of the position to comply with human resources policy, but at this early stage, the hiring manager might only have a very general idea of what might find perfectly acceptable. Time interviewing real people and seeing the scarcity of "perfect fits" is what ultimately will shape the employer's idea of what they absolutely need for the position, versus what is merely a "nice to have" aspect.
  • The salary range stated may be based on the previous position holder's compensation package or by pay grades of similar employees at the firm, or it may be a rough guess of what such an employee might expect to be paid.


2. The requisition is approved, possibly after two or more signatures have been obtained. There now is officially a job opening.


3. The opening is made known to the world.

  • Internal candidates within the department or corporation may apply for consideration, and even if they are not notably well qualified for that specific role, they may nevertheless be interviewed. The internal candidate might in fact be the best available candidate in the market at that moment, or the person might be someone championed by one or more departmental or corporate stakeholders and have some chance at the job. In some cases, the internal candidate is seen as the "default" choice against whom all external candidates would be judged and compared. Alternatively, the internal candidate might be seen as a fallback candidate in the event of no suitable external candidates being found. When there is such a hiring dynamic in action, often neither the internal candidate nor any external candidates would be clued in by the employer about the status of the internal candidate. So it might be possible for an internal candidate to believe that they are likely to get the job, when external candidates might be preferred. And external candidates might find that their process is taking much longer than expected, due to perhaps a pending offer being negotiated with the internal candidate.
  • Advertisements might be placed, ether mentioning the name of the firm or anonymously. Some of these advertisements might be placed by recruitment firms whose staff are not trained as headhunters but more like initial filters of ad-response candidates. Advertisement focused recruitment firms typically send several dozens or hundreds of resumes to the employer, for further consideration.
  • Executive search firms, which are recruitment firms that specifically recruit via the direct approach method (ie., headhunting), might be hired to seek out candidates who fill the exacting qualifications described not just in the job description, but also according to consultations with the hiring manager and HR manager. Typically the employer uses an executive search firm whose experienced recruiters contact and evaluate potentially suitable candidates at the client's competitors or near-competitors. The objective of an executive search headhunter is normally to produce between 3-10 highly targeted candidates, all of whom are believed to be strongly qualified for the vacancy, as well as being compatible with the business model and business mission of the client company.
  • Salary ranges may be stated clearly, loosely or not at all. Numbers may need to be adjusted as the search advances.
  • Company employees may contact industry friends and by "word of mouth," this opening may become well known within an industry. New candidates might pop up "out of nowhere," even at the last stage of a strong candidate's interview process. An unusually strong surprise candidate could stop the process for a person whom everyone expected was the #1 candidate for the job.


4.  Many candidates, qualified or not, send resumes, and a decision on each candidate is made, sometimes by a human, often by resume screening software.

  • Usually, for any job posting, the vast majority of resumes received by an employer are from candidates whose backgrounds do not appear to fit the original job description. This is because some candidates apply for jobs in the hope of getting an interview at the firm for any good job, even if they do not believe that their qualifications fit the job specifications of that vacancy well. One party wants to be interviewed, while the other party is empowered to authorize only a minimum of interviews. Left alone, both sides can end up feeling frustrated, one feeling "Why don't you see how good I could be for your company?" while the other asks, "Why are you bothering me when you clearly have no experience with our posted vacancy?"
  • The Human Resources Manager or Talent Acquisition Manager, typically a very overworked individual who may or may not be very familiar with each and every technical intricacy of the particular job posting, is usually the first person to see the incoming resumes. That person is expected to send forward only "appropriate" resumes to the hiring manager, who also has a scarcity of available time.
  • The use of various resume screening HR software tools might be employed, especially in the case of sorting volumes of advertisement response candidates. Resume screening HR software frequently utilizes keyword searching. That technology might uncover an otherwise unnoticed and applicable candidate, or, just as easily, it might fail to notice a strong candidate simply due to the way that the person's resume might have been written. In general, such software is not "trained" to know every job or to understand the potential applicability of a particular person who has worked at different firms. It simply assigns a score to a resume based on a checklist of aspects that the employer might have stated as important. Because the software is normally not trained in the subtler aspects of every single vacancy for every single industry, company or market, it is possible that some good candidates might be scored lower than if they were scored by a knowledgeable human reader.


5.  The hiring manager, or a group of hiring authorities, have to settle on perhaps five to ten possible candidates, with probably two or three being contacted for an interview.

  • Before this takes place, a phone or video interview may be requested. But the hiring manager may not call the candidate on the day that the candidate is told. This sometimes happens because when a hiring manager comes home, that person simply might feel too tired to conduct an important interview. Or the manager’s child came down with a cold. Or a customer suddenly called and kept the manager in a meeting until it was too late to call the candidate. And then the manager disappears, off overseas on business travel for a week. Sometimes scheduling phone or video interviews can be a maddeningly frustrating experience for candidates. These are real-world scenarios that can and do happen, but from a candidate's point of view, these events could produce negative feelings about the job, the hiring manager, or the company, or about one's realistic chances with that job opening.
  • If a scheduled call does not take place as expected, do not panic or assume anything. A rescheduling or delay of an interview  is not meant as a personal offense or a snub. Sometimes these things just happen. Normally, when a company tells you they want to speak with you, it probably means that they actually do want to speak to you as soon as they can. Companies normally do not frivolously tell a candidate that they are interested in interviewing with them. However, how a company behaves during the interview process should be noted. Polite and considerate employers normally would want to keep candidates informed about sudden scheduling changes. A surprise change with no notice or explanation afterwards might make a candidate think twice about that treatment, justifiably.



6.  The interview takes place.

  • Your Human Resources contact might be very well prepared to answer many or most of your questions, or, in this time when many companies outsource their Talent Acquisition function, your initial contact might not have been sufficiently prepped by management to answer all of your questions initially. In either case, be polite and let them take the lead.
  • In general, the HR person is best used to answer specific questions regarding company policies, benefits, etc. The hiring manager should be the principal person to ask about the specific job, the department, the project, etc.
  • At the very end of your first interview, companies may tell you that they would like to bring you back immediately for a second interview, or they may appear disinterested but call you in for a second interview later on in the week or a month later. Neither interview policy is any proof that you will be given a good offer or any offer at all. They may schedule all interviews for all candidates on one day and consequently appear hurried, abrupt or confused. In any case, don't worry.  Keep in mind that they actually may be more nervous than you.
  • All that matters is that you try to do your best. Ask a lot of questions. Most caring hiring managers like to hear questions from candidates, because it suggests an active mind that is engaged in the company's needs. Silence usually just leaves question marks in the mind of the interviewer.
  • If you are working with an executive recruiter (headhunter), the recruiter should be giving you timely feedback before, during and after your interview(s). If you have any questions that you do not want to ask the company directly, the headhunter should be able to provide that assistance.



7.  The decision on whom to hire.

  • The hiring manager might what to hire you immediately, but one person in the decision-making process, who may include parallel managers, the hiring manager's boss, a department staff member, or an HR manager, may prefer another candidate. All these parties have different levels of political and budgetary weight, responsibility and authority, and it might take several weeks or even months for them to make up their minds. Moreover, they also have their own jobs to do, besides interviewing, and a pressing project or customer might cause the hiring manager to have to delay your decision.
  • Additionally, during the course of the interviews it might become apparent that the original requisition might need to be changed.  In some cases, this event is no more complex than changing a single sentence or signature, while in other cases, it could require a hiring manager to lobby for more money or a even a staff restructuring – events that might trigger another round of internal or outside candidates to be interviewed or sought out.



8.  The offer.

  • It may be just what you hoped for or better.
  • Or it may be much lower than you expected. Sometimes unacceptably low offers are the result of miscommunication between a candidate and a company. Sometimes low offers represent the amount that a good alternative candidate would happily accept. Sometime low offers represent the highest range that the job is slated to pay, and sometimes, sadly, they represent a clumsy attempt by a company at negotiating.


9.  The follow-up to the offer. There may or may not be a renegotiation of compensation or titles. There may be several more interviews or none at all. Negotiations may be directly between a candidate and the hiring manager, or discussions may be done through intermediaries, such as recruiters or human resources personnel or a combination of these.


10.  The candidate starts at the new job.











































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