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Hiring looks different as economy improves


recruiting fairGood economic news means HR pros are spending more of their time recruiting, hiring and orienting new staff.

The process looks and feels a lot different than it used to, with digital applications replacing paper résumés, online job sites edging out want ads, and both applicants and employers trying out some unique and even quirky methods to make a match in the interview room.

These four trends seem to be re­­shaping the hiring landscape:

Character beats college

While solid skills are still important to any hiring manager, a potential employee’s behavior and ethics have moved front-and-center in the job interview.

Google, famous for a hiring process that included brain-teasers, tests of skill and attention to the candidate’s performance in school, has started focusing on “behavioral” interviews that give hiring managers more insight into how a candidate will fit into the culture and handle difficult situations.

Indeed, a survey by technology company Global Grad found that managers now believe a candidate’s willingness to take personal responsibility for successes and failures is 3.6 times more important than the college the applicant attended. They said setting priorities and effective time management were 3.1 times more important than a candidate’s grades.

Recruiters and hiring managers have come to consider volunteer work a viable proxy for job experience. A survey by Deloitte found that more than 80% of HR execs agree that new college graduates and returning military veterans often come by work-enhancing skills outside the workplace. Yet those applicants seldom mention them in their résumés or during interviews. Deloitte researchers note that, as more organizations prize the culture-enhancing value of their own employees’ volunteerism, they look more positively on applicants who volunteer.

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Intangibles set the best apart

“Soft skills” and positive personality traits are on managers’ radar screens as well.

In a CareerBuilder survey, 27% of 2,076 hiring managers said that when choosing between two equally qualified candidates for a new job or a promotion, they would offer the job to one with the better sense of humor.

They also indicated a preference for new hires who are involved in the community, dress nicely for interviews, have something in common with the interviewer, are up-to-date on current events and pop culture and participate in social media.

The flip of the coin: Jobs don’t go to an applicant who demonstrates a “that’s not my job” attitude. Other ways candidates can sink their job prospects, according to the Career­­Builder survey: lying, taking credit for others’ work, swearing, dressing unprofessionally and gossiping.

OK to stand firm on pay

Would-be employees are leaving money on the table during the interview. Another CareerBuilder survey revealed that 49% of job applicants don’t even try to negotiate a higher salary when offered a job. That’s even though most employers expect to have to negotiate up from their initial offers—and 54% are willing to.

The survey of 3,000 employees and 2,000 hiring managers found that job candidates older than 35 are more likely than inexperienced applicants to try to negotiate for more money. Men are more likely than women, and professionals are more likely than support staff.

Candidates are willing to consider compensation other than cash.

Work/life benefits top the list of perks that employers offer when they can’t budge on salary while making a job offer, the CareerBuilder survey notes. Most often, they offer flexible schedules. However, more vacation time, occasional telework and free mobile devices are proven deal-sweeteners.

Still, 38% of the hiring managers in the survey said they are not authorized to promise the perks.

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Daytime résumés

Don’t be surprised if you receive electronic responses to your online recruitment efforts during the business day.

According to an Accountemps survey, almost half of full-time workers age 18 to 34 said they are likely to conduct their job search while at work. That compares with 26% of professionals between 35 and 44, and 21% of employees between 45 and 54.

Would you hire that clown in the waiting room?

Hiring is serious business, but the recovering hiring environment seems to have brought some creativity to the process.

Job candidates are taking bold, sometimes risky steps to stand out from the pack. (One candidate recently showed up for a white-collar job interview dressed as a circus clown.)

Recent college grad Sergey Izbash has marketed himself on YouTube, Twitter and his social networks, promising to pay $200 each to the three people who share his video résumé the most times using a specific hashtag.

He also paid a public relations service to send a press release on his behalf. In it, he wrote, “In this economy it’s really hard to be noticed by a hiring manager unless you do something creative and out of the box.”

Izbash has indeed been noticed. However, at press time he had yet to land a paying job, according to his Facebook page.