March 6, 2013

Let’s Stop Putting Our Job Candidates on Ice

icebergWorking within recruiting and staffing for most of my career, I’ve acquired a lot of respect for those who have mastered the profession. It’s a unique combination of skills: sales, perseverance, communication, coaching, intense follow-up, all wrapped up within a winning personality that draws people in.

The best recruiters can chase the targeted candidate to spark interest and pursue the hiring manager for input and feedback without making anyone feel pestered. That’s an incredible skill. The role has a notoriously high turnovercontingency recruiters have a 90 percent turnover in year oneso handling rejection well is also on that must-have skill list to survive. I wonder sometimes if recruiters fully appreciate the power they hold. I imagine that for some, the heady feeling of power is a perk that keeps them going. For others, it’s the source of such frustration that they walk.

Speaking of Power

We can cite all the stats around the talent mismatch and the skilled workforce shortage, but in a lot of hiring scenarios, the power lies with the recruiter who is gatekeeper, bouncer, and ruler of the go/no-go decision – at least initially. As a recruiter, you work with only a portion of the total applicants who expressed interest in the opening. I’m sure the ratio varies greatly by role, but, in many cases, only a small handful of the total interested candidates get to interact with you, and fewer still get to interact with the company. It’s just a lucky few who get to talk with you, sell their skill profile to you, and hear about the company’s many redeeming qualities. They are really the tip of the iceberg.

Taking Care of the Few

The best part of a recruiter’s process begins with the winning fewthe ones who have broken through. Then the fun beginsthe finessing, the wooing, the selling, and finally the negotiating. Those lucky few get the best from you even if the end result is a rejection. With your warmth and personal touch, they walk away with respect for the hiring company.

But What About the Many?

When we speak about the candidate experience and its importance, there’s more to it than how we treat those who come in for final interviews. It’s not the “wine and dine” stage that causes trouble. It’s what happens with the rest of the job seeker population, the ones that didn’t stand out but instead sit waiting to be called, or hunting for a connected person to make a more personal introduction. I’ve spent a lot of time with those job seekers too, the ones under the radarthe much larger part of the iceberg. Their stories of lengthy, convoluted hiring processes are not flattering to today’s hiring professionals. I just wrote a blog, Candidates in Tears? We Should be Ashamed of Ourselves, sharing one woman’s story about spending more than two hours completing an online process only to receive an email requesting that she revisit the site to finish. With no email address or phone number to make contact and no desire to start all over again, she’s crying in frustration and bad-mouthing the company.

There is a Better Way

As a recruiting professional, wouldn’t it be great to leave all job candidates with a positive feeling about the company and the company’s process? Creating a high quality candidate experience can carry through the entire depth of that iceberg, not just the lucky few at the top. Technology isn’t always the right answer, but when done well, it can certainly contribute to a great step forward.

I’m not saying that a simple automated message is wonderful or nearly enough. It’s not. For those candidates who advance into pre-screening, video interviewing is one kind of technology that offers a lot of options for bi-directional communication. For example, inviting a group of candidates to respond to some job-specific pre-screening questions via video can be prefaced by the company sharing videos of its own. Imagine a group of candidates hearing from the people already working in the department or from the hiring manager talking very simply about the responsibilities this new hire will enjoy. This doesn’t have to be a corporately-polished commercial video. I’m referring to something a bit warmer and more authentic. At the very least, when candidates are pulled into the video interviewing process, they see they’ve been given some insight and respect. And unlike so many highly automated processes where you have to dig and search for a way to contact the company, we make it easy for candidates to call us, chat with us or email with us if they have a question or need technical support.

Sure, only a few tip-of-the-iceberg candidates will be the right fit for a particular job. But someone in that larger group will be perfect for the position that comes open next week, and many more may be our customers and clients. Let’s use the technology at handlike video interviewingto make those connections. We have so much to give to each job candidate to make them feel important.

Read more in Hiring Process

Michele Ellner has focused her career on talent acquisition technology, contingent staffing, HR services, recruitment marketing, and employer brand for over 20 years. Reach Michele at [email protected] or @ellnerellner on Twitter.