Improving Candidate Engagement
Simplify & Streamline the Candidate/Machine Interface
Recruiting, like so many other services, is undergoing massive disruption. The expectations of hiring managers, job seekers, candidates, and employees have shifted from passive to active and from acceptance to demand.
Candidates used to wait to hear from a recruiter. Now they text or email to get frequent updates on their status or expect an app to keep them updated. Speed, transparency, and independence are more important than ever.
Candidates are looking for fair, unbiased assessments and fast feedback. many of them want a more do-it-myself experience. But our processes and tools still provide limited information, require lots of data input, and give almost no feedback to candidates. The hiring manager relies on a recruiter or an HR generalist to create and post a job description partly because we have not implemented the tools available to guide them.
Sophisticated artificial intelligence continues to augment everything a recruiter does. Automated recruiting ‘stacks,’ made up of complementary and linked apps, can relieve recruiters from most routine, administrative, and assessment duties and provide candidates with a quick and easy path to a decision on their fit and qualifications. There are tools to help managers write job descriptions and compare salaries to requirements and experience to see if their expectations and salary limits are competitive. These tools can free a recruiter from hand-holding and give them time to do more value-added tasks, such as engaging with candidates and learning more about the hiring manager's needs.
Recruiters As Interface Designers
A good recruiting leader should be a designer of the interface between this technology, hiring managers, and candidates. How well they design, that interface will be the measure of their success.
Many recruiters believe they are already doing this by focusing on improving the candidate experience. They have added chatbots, created interactive career sites, added videos, and provided candidates with more tools that provide information. These seem to be improvements, and candidate satisfaction has increased in some cases. However, candidates remain unhappy and report decreased satisfaction with the overall recruiting processes at most firms.
Over the past few years, we have added technology and steps that have complicated the recruiting process without measurable increases in productivity or effectiveness. A few years ago, a candidate had to upload a resume to an ATS. Now they are often asked to complete a long-form online, answer knockout questions, and still upload a resume without explanation about why and no feedback. In many cases, none of these have made the recruiting process better for the candidate or recruiter.
A Lesson from the Auto Industry
Adding features and technology is not always the best strategy. Take this lesson from the automotive industry.
The 1960 car was a simple machine. It had only a handful of controls – lights, a horn, wipers, and a basic AM/FM radio. Everyone understood the controls and could operate everything with little to no training. Then we added improvements and features such as eight-track and cassette tape players. Then we added electric everything, plus GPS and satellite radios, and advanced self-driving systems. The number and variety of controls have grown in parallel with driver frustration. Most drivers do not use or understand many of the newly added features and controls. For example, many people simply use their mobile phones rather than figure out the car's internal navigation system. Adding complexity without designing for human needs and desires leads to confusion and inefficiency.
The Way Forward
We have used recruiting technology poorly. It has not made applying easier or faster for candidates, nor helped hiring managers to analyze what skills they need or create better job descriptions.
For the most part, our technology has evolved with a focus on efficiency and has not put the candidate or manager at the center. We must deliberately redesign them with candidates and hiring managers foremost in our thinking.
When I talk about processes, I mean the various steps in the recruitment cycle – from sourcing to workforce planning. The model I use (Figure 1 below) has ten steps, but other models may have more or fewer steps. What is important is that we identify the key steps and then redesign the process to ensure that each step is effective, easy to use, and relevant. Technology can augment most of these steps and make the candidate experience faster, provide more accurate assessments of skills, and give feedback to both the candidate and the recruiter or hiring manager.
Steps to Redesign Our Use of Technology
There are at least four steps in the redesign process. Many of these steps take time and involve research, experimentation, and prototyping. But the payoff is much faster and leads to hiring higher quality candidates with less recruiter involvement. It also means that candidates and hiring managers are happier and better served.
Step 1: Personas
We need to develop deep knowledge of what and where the technology we are using is not working. We need to observe and gather data on how active candidates find and approach the job search, how passive candidates are best reached and engaged, and how candidates react to a phone call or inquiry from a recruiter. We need to know what branding appeals to them and what messages resonate. We need to understand what they think and feel when they get an unsolicited email from a recruiter and what stories they tell each other about their job search. We need to get inside their heads and learn what they find useful and what confuses or annoys them. We need to gather feedback from candidates on how they felt about the tools they encountered and what would have improved their experience.
We also need to understand the hiring managers’ motivations, actual needs, and what leads them to make an offer. We need to find out what tools might help a hiring manager decide what skills she needs to hire to solve whatever problems she is facing.
Step 2: Analytics
To do this, we must use data analytics and acknowledge that people often act differently than they say they do. We need to track their actual behavior. Recruiters will need to gather data from career site searches, learn where candidates clicked and where they were frustrated or delighted. Google Analytics can help recruiters collect data from career site searches, learn where candidates clicked, how long they looked at a piece of information or a job description, and where they seemed frustrated or delighted.
Secondary data gathered from surveys and focus groups can help as well.
Historical data can add depth by telling us how many candidates a manager considered, to whom he made offers, what characteristics his candidates shared, and how long each hire remained employed in the company.
Step 3: Simplify
Make it easy for the right people to apply. We can use technology to make the hiring process user-friendly by explaining to a candidate that we will ask them to take an assessment or answer questions that will lead to feedback and a decision as to whether or not they are a viable candidate. We can use screening and assessment tools to eliminate screening calls and even reduce interviews to a minimum. The actual application can come after this screening but even then, we need a process that does not require filling in large amounts of data. The rule should require the minimum amount of data to advance the candidate to the next stage.
Step 4: Feedback
Quick and meaningful feedback is part of any reasonable process. If we reject a candidate, we owe it to them to provide feedback on their skills and explain why we rejected them. It has always been easier not to provide feedback for fear of pushback or legal consequences.
AI and other tools may help identify why a person was rejected, but it will still require a human-to-human conversation to explain why. This means we need to design the conversation, provide guidelines and training on how to give feedback, and how to deal with the inevitable pushbacks. Rather than avoid feedback, we need to learn how to do it well.
These steps are just the beginning. Design is, by definition, deliberate and requires experimentation. Recruiting leaders are not used to thinking like designers and lack the skills to lead design teams. This is why partnering with an outside expert or university can be useful.
Candidate Engagement can be significantly improved with simple improvements in how we use technology.
It is worth setting aside time and budget to redesign a recruitment function for the 21st century.
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