April 29, 2015

Our Careers Are No Longer Linear — and Our Hiring Processes Are Stuck in the Past

BoxGreg Moran, CEO of candidate screening company Chequed.com, says that he and many of the members of his age group — slightly older than the millennials — tended to view the application process the same way one might view buying a house.

“It was long, it was painful, and thankfully, you didn’t have to do it a lot,” Moran jokes. “When you were in that process, you knew it wasn’t going to be fun, and it wasn’t going to be efficient. You just kind of had to survive it and get to the other side.”

Nowadays, however, Moran says that, for a lot of people, the job search “never really begins or ends.”

“It’s not so much an event, as it once was,” he explains. “It’s more of an ongoing management process.”

Moran is referring to the fact that job-hopping is a much more viable career strategy in 2015. Many people — millennials especially — work as freelancers or on contractual and temporary bases. Employees don’t really spend their entire lives at one company anymore. We all know that: the days of the gold retirement watch are long gone.

So Why, Then, Does It Feel Like Our Hiring Processes are Stuck in the Past?

In our more flexible — and, some might say, precarious — economy, the hiring process still seems like a one-sided conversation, a linear march toward a definite end goal.

“I think, in a lot of ways, traditional HR technology has not really kept up with expectations surrounding the candidate experience,” Moran says. “It still has that finite feel: a candidate moves through a series of steps in an ATS and then something happens at the end, or doesn’t, and that’s that.”

Readers, consider the last time you applied for a job: it’s likely that you know exactly what Moran is talking about. You find a job you want to apply for. The prospective employers asks for certain bits of information, and you send that information along. The employer asks for more information, and you comply again. The employer asks for even more information, and so on, etc., ad nauseam.

And then, at the end: “Either I hire this person, or they sit in my database and nothing happens,” Moran says.

The fact that rejected candidates are often relegated to ATS Limbo says a lot about the limitations of HR technology, Moran says. For example, he’s seen situations in which a recruiter submits a candidate to a client, and the client refuses to pay for it — because the candidate was already in the client’s database! But the client didn’t know the candidate was there; that candidate was simply an abstract data point, discovered purely by accident.

Creating a Dynamic, ‘Circular’ Hiring Process

Our new economy needs new application and hiring processes, Moran says.

“You ought to make it very simple for someone to raise their hand and say, ‘You know what, I’m interested in the company. Let’s see what develops,'” he explains. “Then, that relationship between employer and candidate stops being so finite and linear and starts becoming a more evolving conversation that takes place.”

In a way, Moran is talking about building talent communities: collections of prospective candidates that build relationships with a given employer and from which that employer can choose talent when the right time arises.

The new application/hiring process needs to give candidates the opportunity to engage with employers without formally applying for jobs, and it needs to give employers ways to maintain productive relationships with these semi-candidates.

But creating such a process may not be a walk in the park, as Moran readily acknowledges: “If you’re a large company, you may have a million people a year raising their hands [to say they are interested] — so how do you maintain those conversations in a meaningful way?”

Creating a dynamic talent community may not always be terribly easy, but Moran believes it is always doable. His advice:

  1. Make Sure You Aren’t Forcing Prospects to Make Binary Decisions: Many employers give potential candidates two choices, and two choices only: either apply for a job, or do nothing.

    “Can you make that more of a multidimensional decision?” Moran asks. “[Give people] an option like, ‘I don’t want to apply, but I want to do something more than nothing, so let me opt into your database.’ Companies should ask themselves if they are providing some mechanism for that to occur.”

  2. Provide Prospects With Valuable, Meaningful Conversations: Once a prospect opts in to an employer’s database, the employer cannot rest on its laurels. The employer needs to meaningfully engage with prospects on a regular basis in order to stay top of mind.

    “I think a lot of companies get really wrapped around this, and they feel it has to be a personal phone call once a month or once a quarter,” Moran says. “That’s great for really high potential candidates, but it could be really simple tools, too. What about a newsletter about what’s happening in the company and the culture, about career opportunities, about general career management tips?”

    If employers “keep dripping valuable information out” to prospects, Moran says, the time will arrive when those prospects decide they’d like to take the step to formally apply to the company.

  3. Make the Hiring Process ‘Circular’: Don’t let rejected candidates hang out in the netherspace of the ATS. If a candidate isn’t the right fit for a certain job, feed them right back into the talent community.

    “Continue to maintain that relationship,” Moran says. “You never know where that’s going to go. A candidate can apply for a position one day, and maybe they aren’t right for it, but a year goes by, and maybe a better fitting job comes along. That’s what we mean when we say this is not a linear process, but an ongoing process.”

According to Moran, companies who understand that this is what it takes to compete in today’s talent market are the companies that will thrive in years to come.

Read more in Hiring Process

Matthew Kosinski is the managing editor of Recruiter.com.