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Open hiring: Reimagining the hiring process…without resumes

Written by Kate Lopaze

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed so many things about the workplace—how we work, where we work, the workforce itself. While getting back to “normal,” many companies are also facing the challenge of filling low-skill or entry-level jobs as the economy stabilizes. Traditional hiring practices often exclude entire groups of workers, which is an additional hurdle for companies that want to be more inclusive and diverse in their hiring. These changes just might mean abandoning a cornerstone of the hiring process: the resume.

The Harvard Business Review recently found that companies often spend upward of $4,100 per employee on processing resumes, interviewing, running background checks, and conducting pre-employment screenings. As businesses look for ways to make hiring more cost-effective as well as reaching a broader applicant pool, “open hiring” is a potential option.

What is open hiring?

So what is open hiring? It’s the idea that traditional hiring paperwork and steps (like resumes, interviews, and background checks) may be too limiting and too resource-consuming. In it, a company would try hiring applicants for entry-level jobs who meet a minimal set of requirements (for example, citizenship, ability to perform physical labor, and a motivation to do the work). It doesn’t mean getting rid of all standards. It does mean being willing to offer a job opportunity to people on a first-come, first-served basis. Employees would still need to meet professional standards like food handling, safety, and performance expectations once hired.

Open hiring isn’t for all industries—many, like healthcare, finance, or education, require significant background checks or vetting. However, industries with front-line workers like retail, manufacturing, or food service, and other jobs that don’t require specific skills to get started, can be a good fit. These kinds of roles often provide on-the-job training, and can benefit from a wider applicant pool.

Open hiring gives a chance to people who might struggle to get past traditional gatekeeping but would be productive employees. This can include people in recovery for addiction issues, differently abled people, the homeless, or people looking for a second chance after being incarcerated—groups that often face high rates of discrimination and joblessness. It also limits bias (unconscious or not), which can sneak into any hiring process.

What are the benefits of open hiring?

When you remove barriers from the hiring process, it speeds things up. Companies looking to fill high-turnover positions or seasonal jobs typically need to staff up quickly. Jobs that don’t require specialized skill sets can be filled faster, using fewer resources. Open hiring carries  essentially no hiring costs. 

Open hiring also cuts down on bias, which is a significant problem in hiring. If hiring is done on based on the next name on the list, a hiring manager is less likely to insert prejudices or discrimination into the hiring process (whether they realize they’re doing it or not). This is a relatively straightforward way to increase inclusivity.

How do you move to an open hiring system?

Dropping resumes and background checks in favor of a simplified application is just the first step. If you want your system to be successful in the long term, that means creating an environment where people are set up to succeed. Low-skill or entry-level jobs can be difficult for people facing challenges in their personal lives. Empathy for excluded groups is a good start but it’s also important to have clear accountability in place, and open communication with employees about what’s expected of them on the job.

Companies that use open hiring often work with social service agencies that can offer counseling, housing, educational, or other support resources that can help workers keep their job and grow into more skilled roles. Agencies can help maintain employee confidentiality, while taking the onus off of the company itself to support vulnerable employees directly.

You can also start small—dropping the resume requirement for a job opening or two and seeing how that works for your company before making it a business-wide policy.

Open hiring can bring great rewards, with talent you might otherwise never have found. All hiring comes down to one thing: does this person have the potential to do the job, and do it well? Whether you’re looking at a resume and a detailed background check or reviewing an application that just came in from someone who seems able and willing to give the job a shot, your hiring decision is largely a leap of faith. If you bring thoughtfulness and optimism to the open hiring process, you will likely find it a worthwhile option.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.