Understanding the Job Application Process
When job candidates think about the job application process, they usually think about what they have to do, such as uploading resumes and doing phone interviews. However, it’s good to look at it from the employers’ perspective, too.
The job application process looks different within each company. But all companies, large and small, typically follow a tried-and-true method to recruit, interview, and select new employees.
Three key phases of the hiring process include planning, recruitment, and employee selection. Especially since the pandemic, many companies today are doing the entire hiring process virtually. That means you may never have to do an in-person interview before getting the job.
We’ll detail the critical steps of the job application process, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at how companies recruit and hire new employees.
Identifying Need and Planning Recruitment
The first step in the hiring process for any company is determining whether or not they need a new hire for the position in the first place. HR managers and senior leaders look at the workload for their teams, sales numbers, and other data and figure out if a new hire is warranted.
If a new hire is needed, the company will ensure the new position aligns well with its business goals. This is a primary reason why it’s always good to ask questions about the open position in an interview, such as if it’s a new position in the company or what happened to the previous employee.
Companies will then plan recruitment. This planning will cover writing the job description and determining who will be responsible for the ultimate hiring decision. Recruitment planning also covers how the job will be publicized.
Getting the Word Out About the Job
After identifying a need and planning recruitment, companies will publicize the open position. Nowadays, companies can do this in various ways, including on career websites like Indeed and on LinkedIn.
Most companies seek to cast a wide net, and they’ll post the job ad and description on several sites at once. HR Managers and hiring managers may also reach out to their networks online and offline and let them know about the open position and the type of worker they’re looking for.
Because companies cast such a wide net when advertising new job openings, it’s smart for job candidates to keep an eye on several career sites, LinkedIn, and even social media sites for notifications.
Receiving and Reviewing Applications
Companies will start collecting resumes and cover letters from job candidates once the job ads are posted. The HR Manager usually takes the lead in this process, and they will screen the resumes, pick out a handful of suitable candidates, and then conduct initial phone interviews.
With Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), the process can be trickier for job candidates. A stunning 9% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS today, according to LinkedIn, and many smaller and mid-sized firms are beginning to use the software, too.
ATS software manages the hiring process for HR managers and companies. Among other things, a key feature is the software’s ability to scan and sort through thousands of resumes.
HR Managers can also search for resumes by keywords. And when using an ATS, HR Managers may not actually even look at your resume. That’s because some ATS take the data from a resume and put it into a digital profile.
For all these reasons, it’s essential to know about ATS and how to position your resume in the best way to get past them.
HR Determines the Top Candidates
Whether or not the company uses an ATS, the next step after receiving applications will be for the HR manager to select the top candidates to move on to an initial phone screening.
During a phone screening, HR Managers or recruiters will make a shortlist of candidates they believe are the best and then ask questions to gauge their actual interest in the job and whether they meet the minimum requirements.
If you pass the phone screening, great! The next step may be a skills assessment, which will look different depending on the company and industry. Not all companies do skills assessments, but many of them do as an effective way to narrow down the field of candidates.
After a skills assessment, the hiring manager usually gets involved. The HR Manager will send copies of the top candidates’ resumes to the hiring manager, who will start scheduling more in-depth interviews.
Interviewing with the Hiring Manager
Many companies – especially the good ones – will require several interviews before you land the job. After making it past the initial steps, you may now meet with the hiring manager, other potential co-workers, and, in some cases, even senior leadership.
Companies will ask a wide range of questions, including behavioral interview questions, ask about your skills and experience, determine if you’re a good culture fit, and ask about your career goals.
At this point in the job application stage, only a handful of candidates remain. So, be grateful you’ve made it this far!
Companies will look for potential red flags in the interview, but don’t be over-worried. Most hiring managers are also thinking about how they’ll look to the job candidates. Obviously, not every candidate will be hired, so they want to ensure they’re making a good impression for their company.
Running Background and Reference Checks
While the interviews are happening, companies typically run checks on your background and references. Both of these checks ensure you’re not a risk to the company and you’re as reliable as you say you are.
Background checks differ for each company and industry, and they could be much more involved if applying for a job in a security or safety-sensitive environment. Employers usually check criminal records, credit reports, driving records, and verification reports of your education and job history. Depending on the company and industry, you may also have to take a drug test.
During reference checks, employers will ask your references a few specific questions to verify your dates of employment and look for any red flags. HR Managers typically try to see if there are any discrepancies between what you claimed in the interviews and what your references say about you.
If you’ve made it this far in the process, great job! Reference and background checks are usually the last steps before a hiring decision is made.
Final Hiring Decision and Job Offer
If your background and references check out, it may be time to celebrate. The company will select a candidate out of a small pool of only two or three at this time, and if you’re picked, congratulations!
The company feels you’re the perfect fit for the job and, hopefully, you feel the same way. But before you jump at the offer, hold your horses. The company will discuss employment terms and make an informal verbal offer. This is your chance to negotiate for more money and terms of employment.
Negotiating for more money or better benefits can feel stressful and uncomfortable, and trust us, you’re not the only one who feels that way. But remember that HR Managers and hiring managers expect you to negotiate, and negotiating offers is an excellent habit to get into.
Let the employer know you’re excited about the offer, but you’d like some time to review it. Ask for a timeframe – usually 48 hours – to get back to them. And then have a conversation with the manager on the phone where you make a counteroffer, if you feel that’s necessary.
Know What the Job Application Process is Like
As a job candidate, you surely know what the job application process is like from your end. That’s why it’s wise to research and get to know what the hiring process is like from the company’s perspective.
As you mature in your career, you’ll gain more insights into the job application process from the employer’s end while talking to your HR Manager and department heads. At some point, you may even be involved in hiring or making hiring decisions.
These insights are invaluable as you progress in your career. The more you know about the job application process, the better you’re positioned to impress hiring managers, write a professional resume, beat ATS software, and land the jobs you want.
Stay tuned to our blog for more great career insights, such as articles like How to Give and Receive Recommendations on LinkedIn, How to Write a Killer Cover Letter, and What to Expect on Your First Day at Work.
Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.