Automate your HR Process Part 1 — Application Scoring
As a medium-sized enterprise (SME) or startup, there’s little doubt that you have a lot to offer to attract top talents. You most probably have a great culture, flat hierarchies and maybe even a product or service people can identify with, but still large corporates simply lure the best candidates away from you with higher salaries and persuasive employee benefits.
So you might ask yourself, how can I compete for talent against these large corporates?
Workflow automation is the key technology that can help you to maximise the quality, speed and efficiency of your hiring efforts to beat corporates’ massively bureaucratic and inefficiencies hiring processes.
In this first part of a series on automating a hiring process, I set up an efficient, fully scalable and customisable application scoring workflow to pre-screen applicants cultural fit.
The entire series will cover a complete hiring workflow. From the initial application scoring over automated interview scheduling to sending a personalised offer.
The workflow is based on a medium article by Hearken — a fast growing social engagement consultancy — describing their approach to hiring. It covers their battle-tested process — which is efficient but unfortunately is not scalable as it is implemented in a very manual fashion.
To unlock the full automation potential, the as-is process needs to be efficient.
In fact, that is a great starting point for an automation project, as they already know in detail what they do. I have seen many companies that run into automation before even being able to do the job at all.
1. Design your Workflow!
When you design your workflow it is always the first step to understand the business needs and then translate them into an expressive format. Therefore, I leverage a well-established graphical process modelling language called BPMN. The resulting workflow diagram can be easily understood and discussed by non-technical as well as technical people.
So, let’s start! In the case of Hearken is it quite clear what their main business needs are:
“We didn’t want to start by reviewing resumes because what mattered to us most was the applicants’ understanding of our mission and their passion for engagement work”
This strong culture focus requires the assessment of a set of soft skills to evaluate the applicants fit. Hearken already tackles this challenge in a systematic manner.
Before even looking at the CV, the applicants are asked to state their opinion about some company culture related questions. The answers are filled into an online form to make them easily to evaluate. Therefore, Hearken uses a scoring system, only if answers are rated above a threshold the applicant reaches the next stage. This step saves massive amount of time otherwise spent on reading CVs of applicants which probably wouldn’t be a good cultural fit.
As soon as there is such a structured approach as shown by Hearken, it is only a small step into automation. Before get there, I want to save you from stepping into a typical automation trap.
Don’t automate the steps humans do best!
The applicant scoring is the core value that this workflow creates! That’s why the actual scoring of answers should remain a human responsibility. However, I want to automate as much bureaucracy as possible around this core task, to free up time for HR professionals that they can spend on assessing the applicants fit.
Which impact can automating these tasks have? Believe me it’s a lot! Research shows, that the average knowledge worker still spends 25% of their time searching for information and most employees waste up to 40% of the workday on operational emails and administrational tasks. However, people simply make better decisions when they can focus on one thing without being slowed down by bureaucratic processes and paperwork.
So, let’s get to the workflow design and analyse how many manual steps there are and which can be automated! Following the description of Hearken, I draw an initial diagram to visualise the core activities — for this I use Cawemo a free and lightweight modelling tool.
Always focus on the best-case scenario first
When drawing diagrams, it is considered best practice to always focus on the best-case scenario first: “This is the ideal way I’d like this to happen.”
This provides a good understanding of the business needs. However, the above diagram isn’t complete yet. For example, it doesn’t show what happens after a candidate is rejected. The diagram also doesn’t specify how much time applicants have to fill out the online form . Moreover, it’s not clear which steps we actually want to automate. Hence, I reworked the diagram.
Now it also shows that a rejection email is sent when a participant hasn’t answered the questions within 2 days or when she hasn’t reached a certain overall score. Beside, I wrapped the whole process in a so-called ‘pool’ to show in which department the process is executed. In addition, I added the chain wheel icons to specify which tasks should be executed automatically.
A diagram is a great foundation to discuss, what and how things are supposed to be done. It makes it also easy to spot conceptional weaknesses — like the missing task of sending rejection emails. Now, after completing this asset I can go ahead to the implementation phase.
If you want to learn how to create meaningful diagrams check out this free lesson of my online course!
2. Implement your workflow!
Once I have a meaningful diagram I start thinking about which technologies I can use to make the workflow reality. I have decided to go along with only free technologies which are already used initially by Hearken. As a platform to host the job ad, I have chosen craigslist out of simplicity.
The question remains, how to actually automate the process and connect the single software tools. For this, I decided to use an open source workflow engine by Camunda. Their software basically does the same as Zapier or automate.io but is powerful enough for automating complex processes. I can also directly upload the diagram to Camunda and monitor the state of each candidate.
Next, some coding skills come in handy to plug everything together. If this isn’t your thing — no worries! The described type of automation is a common practice since years in certain areas of the IT world. There is probably already a software automation expert in your midst. She’s probably part of the server administration team, or a quality assurance group. Right now, she works on code deployment or writes software tests. Go find her, and see if you can identify and automate three annoying activities.
If there is no one like her around, a similar workflow can be set-up based on Zapier or any other no-code integration software.
In order to validate the workflow, I have tested it under real-world conditions. Basically, a Job ad was created and published on craigslist. Then I waited for applicants to apply. When an applicant clicked the final “apply” button on craigslist the workflow was triggered.
Let’s have a look at the impact this workflow has on the organisation and also on the applicant.
For the organisation, the focus of the analysis lie on scalability, transparency and the resulting efficiency gains.
Thanks to the workflow engine, the stage of each application can be tracked based on the diagram I created to specify the workflow.
Also, the manual task of rating the applicant’s answers can directly be assigned to someone through a neat task list which comes with the workflow engine. The workflow makes it also unnecessary to manually checking Google Sheets, Forms, Gmail and Craigslist. Also sending rejection email becomes redundant.
To analyse the resulting efficiency gains, let’s do a quick approximation. Based on the described changes above, it seems realistic to save one hour of repetitive work per applicant over the whole application process. As it massively streamlines the communicational overhead, especially when you have multiple employees being involved in the scoring process.
The time savings of 1 hour multiplied by an average wage of 50$ per hour and the amount of 100 applications Hearken has received, results in a total cost savings of 5000$ only in this very first step of the application process. If you assume to receive 100 applications a month this workflow probably saves 60,000 $ a year — former spend only on repetitive administrational tasks. If you want to calculate more conservatively, assume to save less time per applicant. Even when just 50% off the initially assumed time can be saved that still results in 30k of cost savings a year! So obviously, automating your hiring efforts come with the pleasant side effects of cost savings.
Now let’s assess the effect of automation on the applicant’s experience. Remember, this is one of the factors that make you win the competition for top-talent! Therefore, I leverage pre-filled forms and automatically personalised emails, like typically used in the sphere of online marketing. I believe it’s crucial to basically design a customer journey for applicants.
So how does the applicant’s experience look like in detail? As soon as she has send her application, the workflow starts and automatically replies with an email explaining the application procedure. It also contains the link to the online questionnaire.
Such straightforward announcements of what is expected and what happens next keeps the applicant informed and hooked on the idea to pass all stages.
In case an applicant is rejected an individualised email is sent to the applicant, including her name and the reason why she did not make it to the next stage. You know what’s the best about it? Making the experience seamless doesn’t cost anything once set up — only some initial conceptual thought.
4. Improve it!
As this is a first approach, there is plenty of things which can be done in order to enhance the efficiency. It also could make sense to integrate Trello as a tasklist because a wide range of people is already very familiar with it. One of the best reasons to set up a workflow and not buy a software solution of the shelf is, that you can customise a workflow to 100% to your needs.
This automated workflow shows how SMEs and startups can leverage freely available technologies to magnify their strength and outperform corporates in the competition for talent.
That means in detail, that a workflow helps you create a seamless faster and especially scalable experience for applicant that allows you to make an offer before the applicant has even reached the second stage of an corporate application procedure.
Moreover, I showed that time savings worth about 60k Dollar a year can probably be realised through reducing the slow and manual tasks within the hiring process.
To achieve this result, the methodology of process modelling has been vital -transforming vague written instructions into an expressive blueprint of the workflow.
In the next part of the series — I will look into how to efficiently extract and evaluate information buried in unstructured CV documents.
you want to Start your own automation journey now? Check out the first free lesson of my online course on Process Design !
if you are keen on business automation, and want to discuss — join our community on slack!
Contact me directly if you are interested in stealing this workflow and modifying it for your own purpose.
Email me at email@example.com
All illustrations used are designed by Dooder / Freepik