If you’ve been on the hunt for a job at any point during the last few years, then you probably know that the hiring process has changed a lot in the past decade. We’re now changing jobs more than ever, but the recruiting and interviewing components of hiring have gotten more exhaustive, time-consuming, and challenging, in many cases. Why? Because companies can’t afford a bad hire.

Though there’s no exact formula that can tell us exactly what a bad hire costs, one high-profile recruiter believes that it costs $240,000 to onboard an employee, while the US Department of Labor estimates that poor hiring decisions cost companies 30% or more of that employee’s first year’s salary. On top of these shocking numbers, the number of people competing for most open positions can be enormous. For corporate job openings, approximately 250 resumes are submitted for every opening. Some hard-to-fill positions, such as in the data science field make life easier for job-seekers (78% of recruiters had trouble with filling data analysis roles in 2016), but these are exceptions to the rule. So what are employers doing to choose the best candidates these days?

The New Normal for Hiring

In the past, applicants knew what to expect from the hiring process to some extent. Similar questions would be asked, references would be called, and all the boxes would be checked before the offer was extended. The new normal in hiring is much more fluid, complex, and far less straightforward. Each company has its own policies and tactics for finding the right fit. Here are just some of the factors that often go into the modern hiring process:

Three Rounds

After submitting a resume and cover letters, job-seekers play the waiting game. If they’re lucky and their resume is interesting to the employer, they might be invited to a phone interview. After that, there might be one or two in-person interviews, and maybe a skill test. This multi-step process can take weeks, and candidates will often have no idea how they’re doing until they receive the official word.

Networking & Relationships

Many companies offer their employees referral bonuses for a simple reason: candidates from these referrals are already vetted to some extent. Networking and relationships matter more than ever in the job search, which is why sites like LinkedIn have become so essential to both candidates and recruiters.

Unconventional Interviews

Interviews are less formal than they once were. Most employers have done away with tired, standard interview questions, and have begun to use the interview as a way to test out “soft skills” like communication and to build rapport with candidates. Companies want a culture fit, and they’ll ask custom questions designed to see if the candidate will thrive in their offices.

Tests and Projects

Savvy employers know that you can’t learn a lot from a candidate’s resume—you need to see those skills in action. Some organizations assign candidates knowledge tests or creative test projects to compare candidates and see how their skills stack up.

The Employer Wish List

When many job seekers scan websites for interesting openings, they’re usually met with laundry lists of requirements—requirements that often seem impossible. That’s because they are, in a way. Those lists represent the employer’s ideal candidate—the dream candidate who in many cases, does not actually exist. While these requirements can make job-seekers feel disheartened, it’s important to remember that there’s more to the hiring process than just the employer’s wish list for a position.

Exceptions to Every Rule

Of course, there are exceptions to the modern recruiting process. Some industries stick to the traditional hiring practices, which is logical for certain positions. Jobs in the medical field, for example, require advanced degrees, certifications, and adherence to regulations. They need to put an emphasis on experience and training for positions in this field (which is why, for instance, under 1% of nursing managers have less than one year of experience) because there are lives at stake. Having soft skills is a nice bonus, but employers really need to know that the skills that count the most are solid and dependable.

A Challenge on Both Sides

As a candidate, it’s very easy to feel like getting hired is an uphill battle, and that companies want to make it as difficult as possible to navigate their custom hiring process. The truth, of course, is more complicated than that. Companies want to find the right candidates—and they want to be invested enough in the process to show that they’ll be a dedicated member of the team. They also have to simultaneously ensure they’re abiding by relevant laws, review hundreds of applications, and make decisions about who seems most promising. They want candidates to do well—but they first and foremost want to avoid a bad hire—a challenging, time-consuming task indeed.


Additional References:

University of Maryland Online MBA


Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.