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If you have or can get access to any ATS (applicant tracking system), use it! Even if it’s the clunkiest piece of software, as long as it can recognize candidates that have applied before, let you keep notes related to their application, and have some way to change its status, it will save you time and confusion and help prevent applicants falling through the cracks.
If you cannot afford access to any ATS, Trello has worked amazingly well for me on a few occasions as a make-shift, poor man’s solution. I set up all incoming email to forward to a column called "New". Then I had series of other columns reflecting the status of the application, each card moving from left to right based on the status:
In addition to notes, I would put any correspondence to the applicant as a comment in the card.
With the job description, get input on it from several non-designers (assuming an in-house context here). People the hire will work most closely with are great for that. Sweat the job description. Examine and re-examine every line. I personally like the intro/mission/vision section to be aspirational and idealistic and the requirements section to be written with a clinical dryness and accuracy of an attorney. "Significant design experience" is a bad requirement because what significant means can be so subjective. "3 or more years of experience designing digital products" is better. "3 or more years of full-time experience designing consumer web or mobile applications" is even better. If you are ever in the position to sponsor an applicant for a work visa, you will discover that the first example will be a non-starter. Even if you are not, objectively written requirements help everyone! Unambiguous requirements make it easier to involve other teammates in initial screening of applications. Leads me to a related point: If you know for sure that you are not in the position to seek work authorization on behalf of someone who needs it, You might want to note that in the description and save everyone a bit of time. Be aggressive about reducing the amount of requirements to make them more meaningful. IMHO, most JDs have too many items that aren't real requirements. Do you really need to require a certain degree for example? Would you hire an designer with an amazing portfolio and substantial amount of professional experience despite them leaving college in their senior year? Make the requirements reflect that. Are you open to partnering with recruiters to fill the role? If you are not, put a footnote at the end. You will hear from them anyways, but it might help reduce the volume.
Treat applications like milk inventory in a grocery store.
Regarding correspondence with applicants, be as generous, respectful, and helpful as you can. You may have discovered that the bar is kind of low out there. I have personally experienced all kinds of interactions that left me sad. E.g. black-hole treatment after up to 4 rounds of interviews, being told "We have gone with a different candidate" when in fact their search continues, not getting any confirmations from multiple channels despite the same job being actively posted to additional channels at that same time, etc. For example, for people whom we’ve interviewed and those referred to me by someone I know, I’ve always let them know why the role is not a god fit over the phone. Without exception, they met me with appreciation and it left a positive impression. My stretch goal as a hiring manager is to give every legitimate applicant personalized feedback (I have succeeded int hat goal about 60+% of the time so far). Something that can help them in their search going forward. I tried to add one sentence to a rejection letter template that states what their portfolio should have if they were interested in roles similar to one they applied to. Or pointed to kinds of roles they might be a better fit for if the issue is not quality. Many applicants are starved for feedback. This can be incredibly time consuming but the more you do it, the better you’ll get at being super efficient at it and related tricks like creating templated snippets of text for applicants that share similar portfolios and gaps. (see https://www.lever.co/blog/how-to-write-human-rejection-letters). Applicants really, really appreciate this.
When making post-interview decisions with the team, be clear that you are getting their feedback because you want to know how they feel but ultimately you’re the one making a hiring decision. Look up fist of five polling - it can be a helpful technique. Prefer getting the feedback individually from teammates (Google Forms are great) before you meet as a group because group think and influence is hard to control in a group setting. Collect feedback as close as possible to the interviews. People forget things.
Best of luck!
UPDATE: Forgot to mention this: http://gender-decoder.katmatfield.com (Other tools like Textio can also help identify gender bias in writing)
Lots of really good stuff here. Thanks for taking the time to put it all out there.
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