Don’t Make a Mess of Mass Hiring

In 2011, fast-food giant McDonald’s Corp. went on a massive hiring spree. The goal was to hire 50,000 new employees in less than 24 hours.

So on April 19, 2011, Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald’s held its National Hiring Day, a campaign that aimed to increase the company’s U.S. workforce by 7.7 percent.

The company did that and then some. On April 28, 2011, McDonald’s announced it hired 62,000 people — 24 percent more than planned — in the U.S. after receiving more than 1 million applications.  

But for most companies, hiring workers in droves takes more than a catchy national campaign. According to HR experts, mass hiring means ensuring that a firm’s recruiting apparatus is prepared to inherit a large volume of applicants without compromising the process’ tactical nuances.

Here are some important things to consider when conducting a mass hiring initiative.

Weigh Time vs. Needs

Balancing business needs and time constraints is important in mass hiring, said Kim Cassady, senior director of talent at HR technology firm Cornerstone OnDemand. On the one hand, pressing business needs could make mass hiring a priority. On the other, making sure hires aren’t rushed through as a result is also important.

“The problem is that, in the long run, we may not have hired the right people that the company needs,” Cassady said.

The short-term fix of getting people hired quickly can in some instances present more challenges down the road, like extra time spent developing a candidate who may have been missing some key skills as well as a new employee whose values might not align organizationally.

“This rush to hire will set you up for a misalignment of a really important equation — best fit vs. first fit,” said Paul Rubenstein, a partner and leader of product strategy for talent at human resources consulting and research firm Aon Hewitt.

Going through thousands of résumés and meeting candidate after candidate can put up a mental block for even the most seasoned recruiter. This can form a blurred distinction between a “first fit” and “best fit” candidate.

“It’s important before starting the hiring process to have criteria in place to understand what good looks like,” Rubenstein said. “When we say ‘what good looks like,’ it means you’ve really thought about culture.”

Most companies would hire “first fit” candidates to gratify the company’s immediate need if turnover wasn’t an issue, Rubenstein said. But in a real business setting, high attrition can cost a company thousands per head — costs that can be magnified by mass hiring.

How can talent managers avoid this trap?

“My advice is, even in light of pressing business needs, hire slow,” Cassady said, “and to supplement that immediate business need with contract or temporary resources until you’re sure that you have the right committed employees that you actually want full time.”

Portray Culture Properly

Sometimes moving slow leaves recruiters open to miss out on top talent. “Hot candidates are in high demand,” said Jennifer Terry-Tharp, director of global talent attraction at telecommunications firm AT&T Inc. “Mass hiring isn’t the time for deep contemplation.”

The first step is often determining a tangible way to speak about an organization’s culture. One of the biggest risks is assuming that everyone in the process is able to recruit or knows the company as well as HR.

“It’s making sure they’ve had the proper interview training, that they know what types of questions to ask about skills, as well as behavior-based personality questions,” Cassady said. “Do your hiring managers know the company’s culture? And, most importantly, do they know how to speak to it?”

A cheat sheet with this information as part of interview training is sufficient, said Christine Mackey-Ross, managing partner for executive search firm Witt/Kieffer.

Mackey-Ross said failing to have key details about company perks when an anxious candidate is trying to evaluate the company as a potential employer can hurt the company. “They will be comparing with your values as stated on your Web page and evaluating if you are congruent throughout,” she said.

Use Social Tools

This means providing information about what it’s like to work at the company through online platforms. While social media and other professional networking websites continue to be an asset in individual hiring, companies are now turning toward such avenues as another way to send messages to groups of mass hiring candidates.

“A big part of what we’re seeing now is going to or hosting events related to the interest of the group that you’re trying to attract,” Cassady said. “If you are looking for software engineers, you should be at a software engineer software event or be hosting them yourself at your facility, or even inviting them to tech summits.”

Another concern for companies conducting mass hiring is casting a wide enough net. In-house recruiters can use LinkedIn and other job search databases like Monster and CareerBuilder to find potential candidates. But often recruitment firms or search firms will be brought in to find candidates.

Jeff Ullman owns Call Group A-Z and Center Group Staffing, two Arizona-based call center staffing firms that specialize in mass outreach. Ullman said his firms use “a secret formula” of mass reach posts on sites like CareerBuilder and Monster and his own personal database, built upon 10 to 11 years of experience in the field, to search “hundreds of thousands” of potential applicants.

One of the things Ullman said he does to find call center applicants is send short questionnaires. “It may sound a little silly,” Ullman said, “but it tells me that they can follow instructions [and] it lets me see what their grammar is like, that they can take notes and that they can follow instructions.”

Video interviews have also become standard practice for mass hiring, as the method saves time and adds flexibility.

“The thing about mass hires in urban centers — especially in recovering urban centers — is that you’re opening up a big plant where everybody knows everybody,” Rubenstein said. “Video interviews let everyone just tell their story.”