CEO Sundays: Is Challenge-Based Recruiting Right For Your Startup?

By April 7, 2013

 Image courtesy of Flickr

The Internet has made it easier than ever to apply for jobs, but this isn’t exactly a good thing. Recruiters, hiring managers, and job seekers themselves aren’t benefiting from a system that allows even the most unqualified and uninterested applicants to send out their materials with the click of a button. That’s why top companies–like AppleGEAT&T, and IBM–are increasingly turning to new, challenge-based recruiting methods to make the perfect hire for their open positions.

Challenge-based recruiting is a term that refers to assessing each job seeker by means of their behavior and ideas, not keywords on a resume. In the U.S. alone, 3.6 billion resumes are being sent to five million companies with countless hiring managers. While it’s easier than ever for a job seeker to shoot off resumes and cover letters to employers, it’s even more difficult for companies to sift through them all. Many have turned to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) for help. These platforms aggregate job seeker information and scan their applications and resumes for keywords, eliminating any that don’t match predetermined requirements.

Effective? Not quite. More and more employers are reporting these cut-and-dry applicant tracking systems are weeding out candidates that don’t fit cookie-cutter job applicant molds, but still exhibit creativity, flexible thinking, and problem-solving skills employers need.

So what’s the solution? Plenty of companies are turning their backs on these ATS technologies in favor of challenge-based hiring solutions that allow job seekers’ unique skills and personality to shine through. My company helps job seekers send employers a 1-page job proposal, spelling out how they’re uniquely positioned to accomplish the goals of the job. Other companies are using unique interview questions, video resumes, and social media recruiting as other ways to hire without relying on ATS or other outdated hiring methods.

How are companies doing this? 

Behavioral interview questions. Many of these can get pretty wacky, such as:

  • At Google, job seekers are asked “How many cows are in Canada?”
  • Recruiters at Dell ask, “Which song best describes your work ethic?”
  • At JetBlue, hiring managers want to know, “How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building?”

These questions aren’t necessarily scouring for correct answers, but they afford the applicant an opportunity to show their creative thinking skills.

Proposing actual challenges. Instead of simply posting a job opening, some organizations are instead presenting a scenario to job candidates to get a sense of the impact they’d provide if hired. This gives top talent the opportunity to prove their skills and show off creativity in a way a resume doesn’t provide.

Video resumes or video interviews. Other employers are asking applicants to send in video resumes or participate in video interviews to help them stand out. Short video resumes or interviews can quicken the amount of time it takes for hiring managers to sort through applicants, while also giving them a feel for personality and cultural fit–without enforcing travel costs or additional time elements.

More hiring managers need to take a cue from companies choosing challenge-based recruiting methods. In a job market saturated with qualified applicants, it’s important to get to the core of job seeker abilities–something keyword filtering will never be able to do.

About the Author:
Joanna Riley Weidenmiller is the CEO and co-founder of The One-Page Company. She earned her B.A. in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and lives between Beijing, China, and San Francisco. Connect with Joanna and 1-Page on Twitter @1pagebiz, Facebook, and 1-page’s blog.