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Screening Out George Costanza - Using Voice Mail and Automation to Thin the Recruiting Funnel...

We're talking about a Capitalist tradition today - Rating Candidate Voice Mails and the value of hearing energy and creditability in a candidate before you have to invest an hour in the process...

Here's how it works - I've been known to be hard on voice mail.  If I am calling a candidate off a resume and get voice mail, I treat it like a freebie.  Good energy and kind of dynamic sounding in your voice mail greeting?  Cool, I'm more interested than I was when I called.  Sound depressed and seem like the whole thing takes too much energy?  I'm out - you lost the opportunity.  I rate your voice mail (scale of 1 to 10) - if you are rated 5 or worse, you'll never hear from KD again..

Today's contestant - George Costanza from Seinfeld.... Take a listen and take notes... We're doing a quiz after the clip...

What's your call?   Do you 1) Leave a message and encourage George to call you back to set up a phone interview, 2) Leave a message and tell him you want him to set up a time for him to come in (meaning you've skipped the phone screen, so you're obviously impressed with GC's greeting), or 3) Hang up with no message - he's dead to you...

Here's the point.  Hearing creditability and energy from a candidate before you have to invest time in the process is an interesting area.  As luck would have it, a company called HarQen has announced the private beta launch of VoiceScreener, a human resources solution that has the potential to cut down on the number of live phone interviews you need to do. HR professionals can use their phone and a web-based dashboard to create and distribute custom recorded phone interviews.

Here’s how VoiceScreener works:

1. The manager or HR Pro simply records a greeting and a series of interview questions. VoiceScreener then allows the hiring manager to invite candidates to interview either through a link in a personalized email message or via an “Interview Now” button. 

2. Once a candidate has completed an interview on VoiceScreener, the hiring manager receives an alert and can then listen to the response at a convenient time. In addition, hiring managers can invite team members to review candidate responses and rank them. VoiceScreener then automatically generates a report that lists the candidates who have completed the interview in order of team preference.

Like other bloggers who have cool readers, I get hit with a lot of PR spin inviting me to write about new products.  I rarely do that, but this one's different.  No one needs to spend more time than they have to with the Costanzas of the world.  VoiceScreener might help you cut down your time.  The downsides are that it might seem impersonal to the candidate, and you'll need to effectively manage who you send the link to so you don't run up unnecessary fees to the masses (hint - don't use the "interview now" button offered up by HarQen, just email the link out to the folks you would normally phone screen after your first cut through the resumes).

Sadly, the skills that George Costanza has would probably do very well via a tool like VoiceScreener, so you'll still need your BS meter if you use the tool.  Still, the tool will save you cycle times if you use it the right way - no one will cut a live phone screen short after 2 minutes (if you would, you have bigger employment branding issues than whether you use automation), but this tool allows you to call it after 60 seconds if your instincts are that good.

Just make sure your have a probationary period for the Costanzas of the world...  


Chris - Manager's Sandbox

Kris, I don't think I agree with any of your points here.

I think the voice screening software is a horrible idea that cheapens the whole candidate experience. You've written before about how important it is to maintain a high-quality candidate experience - where is that concern now?

Additionally, I would severely question the validity of your voicemail screening method. It's certainly unpleasing to listen to a depresssing voicemail, but I doubt that screening tool is valid (reliable maybe).

I normally find your advice on the talent process invaluable, but I think you've done yourself and your candidates a disservice by promoting this.

- Chris

Chris - Manager's Sandbox

PS: Sorry if I sounded like a jerk in my comment above!

Kim Bailey

I agree somewhat with Kris, and somewhat with Chris. First, is this tool really so different from the written questions that we often place with job openings so that when we sift through resumes we can "grade" based on those answers? In that sense, this tool makes sense as it is simply another way to cull down the amount of people we put "into the funnel".

On the other hand, how well would any of us answer questions given to us by a machine?? It is not only impersonal, but might even be insulting to some. A real concern when you have trouble finding good candidates already.

So, perhaps a compromise. What if there were only one or two questions and they were something like, "Please describe why you are interested in this position and skills that you have that you believe would make this a good fit for you." That way, it is open ended...they can take time to describe themselves and you have enough info to "screen" them in or out. However, they aren't getting "drilled" by a cold machine.

I did have one concern not already mentioned. In a day when we are trying not to be able to identify (and therefore discriminate) people based on gender or ethnicity, could using a voice screener put us in a more risky position?

Just my 2 cents.


Kelly Fitzsimmons

I appreciate the kind post as well as the comments and concerns. As a hiring manager myself, I was plenty nervous about using VoiceScreener to help us hire our employees. Would they think we were a bunch of heartless jerks, finding the experience cold and impersonal? What we found was that nearly everyone was pretty darn comfortable with the process, as it was something they do day in and out, leave voicemail. Also, we recorded a pretty funny and revealing greeting which gave the candidates some insight into us as people and our corporate culture.

I am happy to talk offline with anyone -- please remember we are beta testing here. We are looking for smart folks to tell us what works and what doesn't. If you would like to try it out, just email me.

- Kelly (aka co-founder & CEO, harQen)

Kris Dunn

Chris - OK to disagree, even if you're being a little harsh... :) Here's the point - if I'm in a high volume environment, why wouldn't I consider automated tools that can allow me to consider more candidates than I would otherwise be able to? My desire is to use tools that allow me to work the funnel and get to the best candidates.

I'll side with Kelly here and say that properly crafted, and not going overboard in number (hat tip to Kim), you can craft questions that make sense to the candidate. Additionally, the best rationale I could provide to the canididate is that the techology allows me to share their thoughts and reactions with the hiring manager at a much earlier stage in the process, which candidates used to a gatekeeping HR department are sure to appreciate.

In terms of feeling guilty about making assessments on people based on their energy, attitude and voice presence, welcome to the world - it happens every day. You do it, I do it - both on the phone and face-to-face.

Kim - understand your point regarding liability. Sometimes I think we fail to change by being concerned with liability. Here's a good question for you - do you have more liability in a phone session or a face to face interview regarding protected classes? Not sure...

Remember folks - I'm talking about using the tool at an early and single point in the funnel, when it's still weed out time. I'll stand by my ability to create a quality experience for candidates with or without this tool in play.

Thanks - KD

Jessica Lee

i am struggling getting on board with this one. when i read about the product, my initial thought was... what happened to an interview being a conversation? i like asking follow up questions. i like probing. sometimes my questions don't make sense and i need to restate them. or maybe they interpreted my question wrong and took it in a different direction. it reminds me of video dating, and i need the chance to have an actual interaction - the give and take - rather than making assessments on something that's a bit more calculated (question, answer, question, answer).

and is it really a time saver? if i let this replace my phone interviews - i still have to sit and listen to the recorded interview. if i think they are bombing it, i can stop listening... but if someone is bombing a phone interview with me, i'll cut 'em off as well. maybe not after 2 minutes, but after 10 minutes? sure. and i'll multi-task while i'm letting them blab on from minute 2 to 10. i'll read some emails, reply to a few, do some overdue filing... yep, it's how i roll!

Joel Kimball

I have to admit I was at first a bit repulsed, then drawn in like a moth to the flame. I'm thinking of the mass (200-300 at a clip within two weeks) hiring I've done. This potentially would have been a very useful tool for those particular situations. I'm intrigued and will investigate further - thanks!
And I'm with Kris re: VM colors my initial view. I'm an imperfect human being. Worse, I also apply the same principles in reverse - the last headhunter who misspelled my name in her introductory email didn't get a call back, either :)
(now that I've done and confessed, lord, please don't let me fat finger my own name responding to this blog like I did a couple weeks ago...:)


JLee - replying to emails while interviewing as a alternative to letting automation work for you? I'm shocked...

Joel - you may be imperfect, but I don't think your approach to the quality of a VM factors into that. That's your hard-earned experience telling you what works and what doesn't in a job, department, divison, hiring manager, etc. Your instincts on that front are honed through all that experience you have in your career, so listen to them and make them work for you. I'm just shocked you've developed to this level at such a young age... :)


Joel Kimball

I resemble that remark. Thank you, Obi Wan!

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