A couple of people have asked about this recently, so I've put together a description of how the hiring process works on my side. Keep in mind that this is just how I do it -- other hiring managers do it differently, and larger companies often automate the early stages of this.
1. A job is posted and applications start coming in. The number of applications we get varies depending on the position, but it's unusual to get fewer than 100 for any job. For some types of jobs, we'll often get 200 to 400. (That's most often the case with jobs that don't require a specific type of experience, but just require being generally smart and competent. And once when I advertised for a writer, I got close to 500; apparently everyone wants to get paid to write.)
2. The applications get printed out and come to me in hard copy, thanks to someone fabulous who helps me with hiring, because I like to be able to write notes on them. I may be alone in doing that; a lot of people do it electronically at this stage.
3. I do an initial screen, which means I scan the cover letter and scan the resume. Often this initial scan is as short as 45 seconds, because on many, many applications it's immediately clear that the person doesn't have the experience or skill set I'm looking for. Partly this is because of people who are applying to every job they see, and partly it's because of people either not believing or not paying attention to the job requirements. I use some flexibility here; I'm definitely not 100% rigid about sticking to the listed qualifications, but I'm only willing to deviate so far, since I listed them for a reason.
4. Then I'm left with the group who didn't get immediately discarded in the initial scan. Now I look at each of these more closely. I read every word of the cover letter this time and really scrutinize the resume. As a result, some more people get cut.
5. The group remaining is the candidate pool who I'm going to interact with. This group generally gets asked to submit a writing sample, do a written exercise, or provide some other sort of supplemental material relevant to the position. (Many places don't do this at all, and many places that do do it after the interview. I do it at this stage because I've found it's hugely helpful in identifying the strongest matches early on.)
6. Now it's on to phone interviews, for the best candidates who made it through after the last step. I usually do anywhere from 8 to 15 phone interviews for a position. These are pretty short -- 15-20 minutes (or shorter if I realize while we're talking that the candidate isn't right), and they're just to gather more information about the candidate, including whether or not she's crazy. A lot of people get cut at this stage, because once you get on the phone with someone, you often quickly discover it's not a good match -- either because (a) once they start talking about the details of their experience, you discover it isn't quite what you need, or (b) they take themselves out of the running through their behavior, as described here.
I make lots of notes at this stage, some of them weirdly enthusiastic. When I like a candidate, I've been known to excitedly write "yes! yes!" on her resume. If there were a hiring manager version of writing "Mrs. Brad Pitt" like a schoolgirl, with a heart over the "i," this would be it.
7. Now that I'm done with phone interviews, I figure out who the finalist candidates are, and those are the ones I bring in for in-person interviews. I generally want to bring in four or five people.
And you know the rest. There are interviews, reference-checks, a job offer is made, rejections are sent, blah blah blah. But that's what it looks like on the inside, at least for me.
What about you guys, those of you who hire? How different are we?