How Green Companies Can Clean Up Their Hiring Processes

How Green Companies Can Clean Up Their Hiring Processes

As companies emerge from recession-induced hibernation, shake off hiring freezes, and start to cautiously advertise job openings again, they're finding an entirely different landscape than when they did their last round of recruiting.

The holy grail for jobseekers? A meaningful, green job.

Many factors have swirled together to create this phenomenon: unemployment rates around 9.5 percent; buzz about green jobs has caused everyone to see opportunity and want to get in; venture funding is moving increasingly towards green tech, cleantech, and other enviro-initiatives; and stimulus money being promised for green companies and green jobs training.

With all the hope tacked on to green companies and jobs, the stakes are high for green companies that blunder. The green world is still relatively small and vigilant, and word travels fast if companies are struggling, laying off, not living up to environmental goals and promises, or faltering in any other way. What's more, people equate "environmental" with "ethical," "responsible," "triple-bottom line" and lots of other warm and fuzzy adjectives, so they expect these companies to be extra nice and thorough in the hiring process.

We speak with hundreds of candidates each week who've been on the other side of this stunted hiring process -- most have sent in a resume and never heard back, and a few have made it through up to eight rounds of interviews before the company decides they're not ready to hire.

Here are a few symptoms and solutions for making the hiring process run more smoothly in this economy, and for ensuring that bridges aren't burned between high-quality candidates who might still be interested in a company when the economy picks up.

1. The Mountain of Resumes

The problem: Jobseekers who've been haunting job boards for months have started to dive on any vacancy that they come across. Companies are seeing floods of barely-if-at-all qualified resumes come through and have found themselves trying to tackle the hiring process when they're still hesitant about hiring, understaffed in their HR and other departments, and with vastly reduced recruiting budgets.

The outcome:
Increased time spent on reading through resumes, decreased percentage of quality applicants, and a strain on those in charge of the hiring process (HR and recruiters). Those who are high-quality, relevant candidates are wondering why they're never contacted and start to form negative perceptions of the company. More people call up demanding to know what's happened to their resume. Lots of time and energy is wasted.

•    Write a tighter job description that gets into the nitty-gritty specifics of what a candidate has to have done (not "could do") in order to qualify for an interview. Some applicant tracking systems allow you to create these applications online and will sort the responses according to whether the job seeker fits your description -- this will automatically sort the "best fits" to the top where you can read them and get back to them promptly.
•    Require more documents for your application -- such as a cover letter, two writing samples and a resume, or a couple mini-essay questions built into your website application. Creating a slightly higher bar will make jobseekers reconsider as they "spam out" their resume -- and as people are asked to communicate why they're a good fit for the specific job, they'll make your determination easier as you read through their application.
•    Encourage employees to use their networks to get referrals. A lot of companies are hiring quietly right now without posting a public job description simply due to lack of time and money to put toward a full-blown process.
•    Hire a third-party recruiter to read through all the resumes and present you with the strongest fits.

2. The Lack of Communication

The problem:
We often joke with our candidates that applying for jobs online seems like dropping a resume into a black hole -- unfortunately, this joke has lost some humor in recent months as the majority of our candidates say they have 10+ applications out that they've never heard any indication on.

The outcome:
Again, bitterness. Candidates pin the unresponsive company as lacking humanity or basic etiquette and spread that impression. They won't apply for positions in the future because they feel like their application is falling on deaf ears.


•    Reject people, early and often. After meeting lots of folks who've told us they applied online for one of our positions and never heard back, we've started a strict policy of rejection when we don't see a fit for a role. We go through every few weeks or month and shoot a batch note to the candidates we've reviewed and deemed not a fit to let them know that their qualifications aren't quite right. You wouldn't believe how appreciative people are to just know what their status is -- they often thank us for rejecting them. If they're talented and just not right for this role, they're more likely to keep applying for other positions because they know it's a dialogue and not a black hole.
•    If you don't want to send a note every few weeks, at least send a blast to all applicants when the position has been filled to close the loop.
•    For less personalized updates, have your CEO or someone in the company write the occasional blog post on the state of the hiring process, whatever it may be -- still looking, reviewing applications, rethinking the role.

3. Dragging Out the Hiring Process

The problem: Candidates are telling us that they've been through five, six, seven rounds of interviews with an organization before being told they're not the right fit -- or worse, a couple have simply just never heard back from the company after such extended dialogue.

The outcome:
We know that companies are unsure of budgets and anxious to actually take a step towards growing out their teams, but the risks of these messy processes are serious. Candidates get very emotionally tied up in the prospect of potentially getting an offer, and the more they get to know everyone in the office, they more angry and hurt they are when after several months of interviewing, they're turned down or told the company has decided not to fill the position. Your champions -- people so passionate about your company that they wanted to work for you -- may now perceive your company as disorganized and unclear on goals. Word from the disenchanted interviewee spreads, and the negative effects on brand can be serious. You may also inadvertently lose great candidates because you can't get your act together -- and it will take time and resources to woo them back after they have a bad experience.

The solution:
•    Figure out if you are in a place to hire. Then check twice. Do you have the money for salary? Is it a priority for the company, or do you just want to see who's out there?
•    Sit down with your team ahead of time and carefully design the metrics against which you'll measure candidates.
•    Clearly define the hiring process c- who candidates will talk to, for how long, in what context, and in what order. Set deadlines, and do your best to meet them.

Carolyn Mansfield is the community engagement associate at Bright Green Talent, which helps connect people with green jobs around the world.

Image CC licensed by flickr user redjar.