It’s a tough economy and a lot of people are looking for work. For the past few years, employers have been playing the card, “There are so many of you job seekers, and so few jobs; we get to call the shots.” Some of them are realizing that their advantage won’t last forever, and that eventually they’ll have to start treating job seekers like human beings in order to get anyone to work for them.Smart employers will overhaul their creaky, off-putting recruiting-and-selection processes now before the economic uptick puts them at a hiring disadvantage. They’ve realized that the most marketable candidates won’t stand for bureaucratic, unfriendly treatment during a job search. As a service to those forward-looking employers who want to get a jump on the action, here’s our guide to building your own Gold Standard Recruiting System. Employers who can claim these 12 top-drawer, talent-aware Gold Standard recruiting practices will gain a huge advantage in the war for talent, by removing obstacles that deter great candidates from pursuing jobs in their organizations.We’ve listed the 12 elements of the Gold Standard Recruiting System in the form of an announcement from one (imaginary) Gold Standard employer, explaining each item and its purpose. Take a look: How does your employer measure up?Gold Standard Recruiting PracticesDear Friends of Angry Chocolates, Inc.:I am thrilled that you’re considering employment with our company. Here’s a statement from me, our CEO, to let you know our commitments to the talented people who inquire about jobs with us. If your experience in our recruiting pipeline doesn’t meet these standards, I would like to hear from you at my email address right away. Thanks for taking a look at Angry Chocolates. We think it’s a great place to work. We know you could use your talents at a lot of different, great employers and we would love to sit near the top of your list.Yours,Declan McManusCEOAngry Chocolates, Inc.Practice 1: You Write, We ReadIf we post a job opening and you apply for it, we will read your resume — no ifs, ands or buts. We won’t use a keyword-searching algorithm to scan your resume for buzzwords. A living human being in our office will review your resume within three business days after we receive it. We don’t cast a huge, wide net for candidates and then ignore most of them. We cast a small net (starting with employee-, customer- and vendor-referrals) and grow the net as we need to. That way, we don’t get so many resumes that we can’t read ’em all.Practice 2: We Read, and Then We WriteIf you apply for a posted job in our company, we’ll write to you and let you know what we think about your resume. We won’t insult you by writing “Your background doesn’t meet our needs.” We’ll say “We need someone with more Direct Marketing experience for this job,” or “Your experience is great, but we don’t have anything in Purchasing available right now.” Our agreement with candidates is that after we share this feedback, we won’t have time to talk on the phone or begin an email correspondence about it; there are too many candidates for us to be able to do that. Still, we hope that the specific feedback is more helpful to you than a generic “No Thanks” or no communication at all.Practice 3: Are We Your Kind of Place?If you don’t see a great match for yourself among the jobs posted on our website, you can apply for employment with us anyway. In that case, we don’t commit to read your resume right away or respond to you quickly, because we can’t predict how many people will contact us. Still, we’ll let you know that we received your resume, and this group of candidates will be our first resource when new openings pop up. From time to time we’ll write to you to ask you whether you’re still interested in swimming in our talent pool.Practice 4: Busywork is for NinniesWe don’t ask our candidates to fill out long, tedious online applications to tell us where they’ve worked since high school and what they earned at those jobs and what their supervisors’ names were. Heck, we can barely remember what we had for breakfast. We let our candidates compose a free-form essay that tells us why they contacted us and how they might be able to help us. Then we let them upload a resume. No application form, no dates, no bureaucracy. We hate bureaucracy. Don’t you?Practice 5: No Arbitrary RulesWe’ve heard that some companies shun job seekers with resume gaps, career changes or outside-of-the-industry experience. We think this is goofy. We love people who’ve done adventurous things and spent time with their kids and stepped out of traditional career paths to take chances and learn amazing things. We don’t follow any arbitrary rules in our hiring processes, and we don’t believe that all the knowledge that can help us will come from people with chocolate-industry experience. (If we did, I’d never have started this company, myself!). Quirky candidates are welcome here.Practice 6: Horse First, Cart in the RearWe think your time and your privacy are important. We won’t ask you for the names and phone numbers of your references, or permission for us to do a credit check, or your social security number or your past W-2s before we’ve even met you. (As for the W-2s, we won’t ask for those at all.) We want you to feel comfortable with us before we start poking and prodding into your personal life. If we need to run a credit check (for instance, if you’re handling cash) we’ll do that in good time.Practice 7: We Trust OurselvesWe trust our managers and our HR team to decide whether a candidate is a good fit for our team and whether we’re a good match for him or her. We don’t ask job seekers to give us copies of old W-2s or other kinds of income verification. If we did, we’d be saying “Hey, we don’t trust ourselves to decide whether you’re worth the salary we’re contemplating!” That would be very embarrassing.Practice 8: Let’s Talk When It’s ConvenientWhen our recruiters call candidates to conduct phone-screens, they don’t disappear if the call can’t happen then and there. We know that you have a busy life. We try to use email to schedule phone interviews a couple of days in advance, but sometimes (especially if we love what you’ve sent us) we may call to see if we can grab you live. If the time isn’t good for you, just let us know. Once we commit to talk with you, we’re not going anywhere. As long as you’re available sometime during the next three business days, we’ll conduct the phone interview and we won’t knock you out of the running. We work hard to hire the best candidate, not the most-available or the most-compliant one.Practice 9: Ask Your Questions – It’s Your Interview Too We think that a job interview is a great place for you to learn about us and to decide whether it’s worth your time to continue the conversation. We try to do the same thing, so that we don’t waste your time if we don’t think a given job is a great match for you. Our telephone and face-to-face interviews are based on the notion that you get as much time to ask questions as we do. Please bring lots of questions with you to the interview. We love ’em!Practice 10: Everything But My Prom PicturesIf you’re interviewing with us, we’ll share any relevant information with you that we can. Employee handbook? Just ask for it. Sales comp plan? You’ve got it, if you’re interviewing for a Sales job with us. We figure that we’d rather get your reactions to our plans and practices before you join our team, rather than have surprises later.Practice 11: Pick Up the Red PhoneWhen we contact you for a telephone or face-to-face job interview, we’ll introduce you to the Talent Coordinator on our team who’ll be your point of contact during the recruitment and selection process. You’ve got a hotline to that person, and can expect an answer to any question you ask him or her within 48 hours (weekends not included). We don’t believe in shipping job candidates to Radio Silenceland. So we don’t.Practice 12: Decisions, DecisionsIf we make you a job offer, we’ll give you five business days to decide whether you’d like to join our gang, or not. If you need an extension because of an international trip or illness or some very big deal, we’ll grant it. We don’t like to make offers that aren’t accepted, but we really, really hate to make offers that are accepted because a candidate was pushed to make a fast decision. Accepting a new position is a huge life decision. We want you to have all the information you need and all (or nearly all) the time you need to sift through the facts and issues. By the way, we’d never ask you to make a yes-or-no decision without the full details of the written offer in front of you. (We’re horrified to think that any employer would.)Questions about our recruiting practices? Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know. Now that you know where we’re coming from, please tell us more about yourself!