Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | April 30, 2011

Selection: A Collaborative Process

By Mike Deblieux, SPHR-CA

Recruitment and selection have been on the back burner for the last few years. But things may be changing. There seems to be hopeful wisp of increased hiring in the air. HR professionals need to prepare for the time when the wisp turns into a breeze, or even more optimistically, a wind.

As an HR professional, you face two key challenges if the demand for hiring picks up. First, basic recruitment and selection tools have been sitting dormant. Job descriptions, for example, may be out of date. An out-of-date job description can be disastrous. It often leads to a poorly written job posting and an ineffective selection process. Second, many managers are out of practice. It has been some time since they screened resumes, much less interviewed or selected candidates. Many newer managers have had absolutely no training in selection policies, practices, and procedures. Let’s look at two pieces of this complex puzzle – the job description and screening resumes.

Updating Job Descriptions

A job description provides the foundation for a recruitment. It provides information to help an HR professional write a job posting. It provides criteria for HR and a manager to screen resumes, plan interview questions, and make a final selection. Unfortunately, job descriptions are frequently out of date.

Typically, a recruitment begins with HR asking a manager to review and update a job description. The manager sees the request as a necessary evil; even a bureaucratic requirement. He or she gives the job description a cursory review and sends it back to HR. The cursory review is a missed opportunity to partner with HR to clearly define the job and guide the selection process. It recycles old, out-of-date information that fails to support current and future needs. An effective HR professional takes advantage of an open position to work with a hiring manager to redefine the job from two perspectives.

First, HR helps the hiring manager analyze the position to identify better or different ways to do the work. It asks questions to identify obvious, subtle, and potential changes to the way the work is done. It helps the hiring manager design a job for both current and future needs – not past habits and practices.

Second, HR works with the manager to define expected end-results for the position. Most job descriptions describe a job with a list of tasks. The practice is a holdover from the industrial revolution when foremen stood over workers and told them step-by-step what to do and when to do it. Managers no longer manage work that way. They assign projects with an expected end-result. They expect employees to use their knowledge, skills, and abilities to figure out the tasks needed to produce an end-result.

Let’s look at a simple example. A typical job description lists “answers the phone” as a job duty. A new employee is hired. The phone rings. The employee picks it up and says, “Howdy dude. What’s up?” The task was accomplished. The phone was answered. The expected end-result, however, was not achieved.

More than likely, the expected end-result the manager had in mind was “creates a positive first impression for callers.” In other words, the manager wants more than “answer the phone.” The manager wants someone to provide a “wow” experience for callers – many of whom are customers. He or she wants someone who will use their energy, personality and warmth to connect with callers. The job description must reflect those competencies.

A job description that describes a task results in a selection process focused on finding candidates who do what they have to do to get by. A job description that describes expected end-results generates candidates with the ability to add value to the organization.

In anticipation of a recruitment and selection upturn, HR professionals should work with managers to rewrite job descriptions to describe expected end-results. Postings should be written around end-results, and even more importantly, interview questions should be based on them.

Screening Resumes

At best, screening resumes is an imperfect science. Typically, HR looks through the initial submittals, narrows them down, and sends a stack to a hiring manager. The manager scans the resumes to select final candidates for interview. The process sounds reasonable. Unfortunately, it makes a huge assumption that the screening process is systematic, objective, and consistent manner. It is too often a poor assumption.

Screening a stack of resumes is a research project. It should follow a planned, logical sequence to consider the qualifications of each applicant. It should not be done with tired eyes randomly roaming from one section of a resume to another.

HR can provide a manager with a simple tool to significantly improve the chances of finding the best candidates in a stack of resumes. The tool is a checklist. It guides the manager through a step-by-step evaluation of each resume. Think for example of a pilot preparing for a flight. The pilot checks a series of instruments and settings one at a time to confirm that each one is ready for take-off. The pilot follows this procedure for each take-off even though he or she has guided a plane into the air countless times before. The same concept applies to screening a resume. The challenge is to develop the checklist. It must be customized for each open position.

HR should meet with each hiring manager to develop a list of critical performance indicators. The list should include the criteria that HR and the manager will use to decide if a candidate should be invited for an interview. The list is not necessarily a form to fill out. It is a visual checklist that guides a methodical review of each resume. It provides a plan and a structure for the screening process. It tells the manager to follow a specific sequence to find information on each resume and confirm the qualifications for each applicant. The list might start by requiring the reviewer to confirm an educational requirement. It might include confirming actual years of experience in job-related positions. It might include verifying specific competencies such as teamwork, customer service, and writing skills. Just like the pilot, the reviewer must check off each item before moving on to the next one. Only the resumes that satisfy the defined requirements make it to the next step in the process.


Like many HR projects, restarting a dormant recruitment and selection program can be daunting. In a busy world, the best approach is an incremental one. If it has been a while since you have been in a recruitment mode, take advantage of the opportunity to evaluate your process from a new perspective. Writing job descriptions around expected end-results is one place to start. Developing a resume screening checklist is another.

Mike Deblieux, SPHR-CA, designs and presents on-site seminars and workshops for front-line workplace leaders. He provides coaching support for supervisors and supports HR professionals through special projects to help their organizations achieve strategic goals. Mike writes HR Concepts to help HR professionals better understand and use fundamental HR principles. Share your feedback on this article by writing to



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