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Bruzzese: Hiring managers feel strain of job hunt, too

If you’re anxious or nervous when being interviewed for a job, you ought to feel it from the other side of the desk: Many hiring managers are currently overwhelmed wading through hundreds of resumes for even the most entry-level positions and are under more pressure than ever to make the perfect hire for every opening.

Add to that some of the candidates who are willing to pull out all the stops to get a job, and it’s clear hiring managers are feeling the stress.

“Right now, there is a level of desperation among candidates and that means they’re exaggerating their qualifications when they apply for a job. The fear for hiring managers is that when the economy turns around, these people who are overqualified for the jobs they accepted are going to jump ship,” says Scott Erker, senior vice president of Development Dimensions International (DDI).

Q VanBenschoten, director for human resources for Intertek, agrees, saying that while her company is being presented with a lot of great talent, the dilemma is whether hiring them may be a mistake in the long run. “The question always is: Are we going to be able to keep them or are they going to get bored and leave?”

Van Benschoten says that there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of job applicants for positions at her company. She says she’s getting resumes from those now unemployed – and those who obviously are concerned they may be in the future.

“It’s tough. You’ve got to look at resumes quickly and start making decisions about who isn’t qualified, who doesn’t meet the minimum requirements of the job,” VanBenschoten says. “A year ago, we may have looked at people who didn’t have the exact requirements, and we may still look at them. But they’re harder to catch because we’re going through so many resumes.”

Recently, DDI did a survey of hiring managers and found that two out of three hiring managers fear they’re missing “red flags” about candidates, and two-thirds of them believe it will come back to haunt them.

“Interviewers have to be prepared to see through the line of B.S. job candidates will give them,” Erker says. “But to be honest, a lot of companies are relying on making million-dollar (hiring) decisions based on practices that are appalling.”

Specifically, Erker says the survey found 44 percent of managers rely on their “gut” to make a hiring decision. Nearly half of interviewers reported they spent just 30 minutes or less making a decision about a candidate after the interview.

“That’s a big mistake,” he says. “Managers – especially senior managers – are overconfident regarding their judgment. Interviewing is a skill. It takes practice. You’ve got to be able to ask questions – and follow-up questions – that really help you understand why the person chose a certain path. You’ve got to go deep.”

VanBenschoten says that five years ago she was making hiring decisions based on her “gut,” but has learned her lesson even if other hiring managers have not.

“I discovered that when I went with my gut, the person I chose ended up not being the right fit,” she says. “Now I use behavior-based interviewing. I’m looking for how a person handled a problem or an issue, and if their response would fit what is required in a position here.”

Further, VanBenschoten says she often will run a job candidate’s answers by other managers as a way to check her “assumptions” to make sure she’s selecting the best person for a job.

“It’s like falling in love and everything seems so perfect. But sometimes you need to get someone else’s take on it, see how they would approach the situation,” she says.

In the DDI survey, Erker says too many managers don’t have a real process in place, and don’t understand their legal obligations when interviewing. For example, 30 percent to 40 percent of managers did not recognize illegal questions, such as asking candidates whether they were married.

“I don’t think interviewers are intentionally asking illegal questions. I’m sure many of them are using those questions as ice breakers, but there are questions you can and cannot ask,” Erker says. “Companies should be worried. There are desperate interviewees out there, and they may just get clued in that they can make some money (from suing companies) who ask illegal questions.”

The bottom line, Erker says, is that even though they’re being swamped with candidates and the pressure grows to fill positions quickly with great employees, hiring managers can’t take shortcuts when it comes to making hires these days.

“Some of these hiring managers are looking for a silver bullet. They’ve got so many people to interview it makes their head spin,” he says. “But some of these practices they’re using are a recipe for disaster.”

Anita Bruzzese is author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy…and How to Avoid Them” (www.45things.com). Write to her c/o: Gannett ContentOne, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.

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