Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gathering and Filtering Your Applications

The Continuation of creating a comprehensive application process to filter the potentials from the qualified

Over the past 11 years of being an employer in the cleaning service industry, my partner and I have read thousands (if not tens of thousands) of applications and resumes, have hired hundreds of people and have parted ways with most. Through this journey we have learned what type of people work well within our organization and what type do not.

Unfortunately, finding the right employee is like finding a needle in a haystack. There is a huge population of unemployed persons that are all applying for the same jobs. So how do we find the right people within this mountain of applications and resumes? My partner and I have developed a hiring system that includes a series of steps, which we will discuss in a series of blog posts, that give us an insight as to which applicants are worth knowing more about.

This blog post is a continuation of a series of posts on how to find the "perfect" employees for your cleaning service business. If you haven't already, read the previous posts which are linked below.

How to hire the RIGHT people for your cleaning service business
How to write a job description that works!
Creating a Comprehensive Application Process to Filter Potentials from Qualified
The Continuation of creating a comprehensive application process to filter the potentials from the qualified

In our last issue we discussed what type of application you will use and where to post your employment advertisement. This issue, we are going to focus on collecting and filtering those applications so you can identify the qualified from the rest.

As mentioned in previous posts, Clean Right uses a fully electronic system for hiring staff. We find this very useful in collecting and filtering the hundreds of applications we receive during recruitment. This post will focus on the use of technology but, if your are less tech-savy, you will find helpful information regardless. 

Here's where we're at: We've created a list of requirements of employment and a list of attributes that we've found in our successful team members, we've written a job description that is informative and clear as to what the position requires and has to offer, we've written a draft of our application making sure to use our lists from the first step, and we've planned where we will advertise our position to get the most potential applicants interested, as possible. 

Now we need to gather and filter the flood of applications. 


Technology is very useful in gathering your applications, especially when you have a home office or do not have a space people can come to get and fill out your application. We use our website and an electronic form to gather our applications. First, we have a link that potential applicants click to read the job description. At the end of the description, there is another link that takes them to the online application. We use a third party's web software (Constant Contact) to create this online survey form and to also save the responses for us to view, print or delete. It's very useful for filtering responses as well.

If you choose a paper method, you must decide how to hand out and gather those applications. You could have the potential applicant print the form from your website than email or mail it in, or you could hand them out and have them fill the application out on the spot. It all depends on what works best for you and your company.


Filtering your applications will dwindle the hundreds of potential applicants to your top 10-20 prospects. Your filters are the "required criteria" that you decided on in earlier steps. If an applicant does not have any one of these "required criteria", cut em! (Not literally mind you I just mean they're cut from the potential list.) Do Not Falter from this. Don't say "well maybe just this once" or "let's bend the rules this time". Trust me, I'm trying to save you some pain here! Every time you do, you'll have to learn all over again why you made that a "requirement" in the first place. 

Whether you filter your applicants using technology or by hand, the process will be the same. The point is to "cut" the unqualified applicants down to the potential candidates and finally leaving you with the top prospects.

Cut the unqualified

  1. Step one is to make sure the application is complete and legible. If they didn't answer each required question then don't look at it any further. If someone can't take the time to completely fill out your application, then they aren't going to take the time to help your business succeed. With paper applications, you will have hand writing that must be deciphered. This could be a great "filter". If you can't read it easily, then cut em! If they won't take the time to write clearly and legibly so they can get the job, then they won't put the time and effort into the job either. The legible problem can be avoided using the online form.
  2. Again, if they answer any of the required criteria wrong, cut em! These are requirements for a reason and you will be tempted to make exceptions now and again but please, please, please, DON'T!!! When you begin to think about making an exception I want you to take a deep breath kick yourself in the shin. This will be far less painful than learning not to make exceptions by being let down when you do. Again, these are requirements for very good reasons, stick to em!

Potential Candidates vs Top Prospects

  1. Now you left with a much smaller pile/list of applications. Each of them fulfill your company's requirements for employment but there are still a great many applicants that would not make a good fit for your team. This is where the questions relating to the attributes of your successful staff members come in. When reading the applicant's answers, your looking for:
    1. Similarities - to your successful staff is a good thing, to your past problem staff -not a good thing. If they have similarities to problem staff members, then it's best to learn from your mistakes the first time. Pass on these potential applicants. 
    2. Schedule conflicts -if they go to school during the hours you'd need them to work, then they obviously don't fit your needs so pass. We pass on anyone that can't conform to our scheduling needs. 
    3. Anything that doesn't look or sound right -if you just don't feel it, then move on. You need to find the candidates that will bring the most to your company.

Now what?

So we have our top 10-20 (or more depending on how large of a response you got) prospects. Now it's time to interview. Don't forget the old saying, "Quick to Fire, Slow to Hire". Sometimes it's difficult but you need to take your time so you make good choices in your hiring. Your team will work best when it is full of people that work well together. "One bad apple spoils the bunch" is another old saying that is very true in team environments. You must foster a fun, comfortable and rewarding work environment or you will never build a team that you can depend on to help your business succeed. 

"Wow, It's hard to believe that we've actually come to the end of this series. I truly hope it has helped you in your hiring process. It's taken many years and many, many sleepless nights to realize what we were doing wrong with our hiring and what to do to fix them. Though our system is not perfect, when we stick to it (yes even we sometimes "make exception" and yes, it has never paid off),  it works. Happy Hiring!" Erica Jensen -President, Clean Right Co.