In my “Strategies” column in the July 2021 issue of Knox.biz magazine, we mentioned that when it comes to reigniting growth, talent is a key driver. The demand and competition for talent these days continues to be extreme, and companies are working harder than ever on talent acquisition and retention, yet not seeing much improvement.
Candidates are ghosting you for interviews they scheduled, for their first day of employment, or a week after they started. On top of that, the greater Knoxville area has seen (and will continue to see, from what I’m hearing) some big-name employers set up big shops in town, which is disrupting the talent market in our area.
The conventional “recruitment and selection” process that most of us were trained on is bureaucratic, formulaic, and passive. I’ll argue that it’s been only marginally effective for many years, and today’s circumstances are simply highlighting all its flaws. So today we’re going to go deep on some of the reasons why your recruiting efforts may not be delivering results for you and what you can do about it.
Definition of Insanity
Doing more of the same old things for recruiting is what I see most companies doing, with results that confirm the familiar trope above. There are two fundamental mindset shifts required in order to fix this. The first one is that we have to stop regarding talent acquisition as a support function. If finding talent is a bottleneck to business results then we have to treat recruiting as a core, primary business function, not as a support/HR function. Every manager who has unfilled openings should be responsible for hiring results and be measured on them. Human Resources (or your outside talent acq partner) is still the process expert, but managers should be primarily and personally accountable for the outcomes.
The second key mindset change required is around the recruiting process itself. The traditional approach is archaic, inflexible, and ultimately ineffective. I liken the old traditional approach to fishing: We put out our fishing poles (detailed job specs) with what we think are attractive baits and lures (why our company is so great) with the hopes that the right fish will impale themselves on the hook so we can reel them in. And when the going gets tough, we put more poles into more ponds, hoping for the best.
This approach is mindless. The companies that are succeeding at hiring have ditched the old-school methods and adopted a sales and marketing approach to talent acquisition. They have re-jiggered everything—from ads to interviews to on-boarding—in a way that makes the candidate experience better and different. So what does that look like? Good news: these ideas cost exactly nothing and require no new technology.
Sales 101 for Recruiting
Good salespeople don’t extoll the features, benefits, and awards of their product, service, or company. They focus instead on understanding what problems their prospects are having (their “pain”) and then showing how they might (or might not) be able to help solve them with that pain. To re-do your job specs and postings to be less about you and more about the candidate, here are some questions that your job ads ought to be answering:
- What challenge or problem is this job going to help solve for the company? For the candidate?
- Why is your job a possible solution for the candidate’s probable pain?
- What is the likely outcome or result that a candidate will experience if she or he becomes an employee at your company?
Also, good salespeople don’t qualify a prospect to their face. They do their homework in advance and sometimes even have a good handle on the pain points before they meet the prospect. So stop listing the 17 bullet points of essential job qualifications and requirements in job ads. It’s a huge turn-off. These might be important things to assess at some point, but the reality is that these kinds of job ads are written to weed people out of your process. Effective job ads—especially in today’s environment—are all about bringing people in, not weeding them out.
The Cure for Ghosting
I see two primary causes of ghosting: Options and communication. Where might employers find their own fingerprints on the ghosting trend?
Candidates today simply have lots of employment options, so it’s easy for them to walk away from the slow and uninteresting (i.e., undifferentiated) ones. And if early communication with interested candidates during the recruiting process is slow, impersonal, or too complicated, they tune out. When McDonald’s announced last year the option to apply for a job using Alexa, it should’ve been a wake-up call for all of us that the traditional recruiting approach is too sluggish and laborious for today’s candidates.
Generational expert and Vistage speaker Katherine Jeffery, PhD notes that candidates from the younger generations who have grown up with screens and Amazon and Wikipedia are accustomed to having quick access to answers and wants. Research shows that marketers have roughly eight seconds to capture and keep their attention. And since they are highly visual, the more you can communicate by video, the better.
To fix this, you’ll want to differentiate your company via your recruiting process itself. One simple but highly effective way to that is in how you respond to a candidate’s initial interest: A simple, non-bureaucratic, non-generic message with a human touch.
When a qualified candidate’s inquiry hits your recruiter’s inbox, instead of sending them to your website to complete all your required steps (you know, the ones you need but mean nothing to candidates?), try this type of email instead:
Hi Jason, thank you for your interest in our opening. I’m Dana Scully in the staffing department at Lone Gunmen Company. Your message was great, and I’m curious if you have any questions for us about the job, right off the bat. Call, text, or FaceTime me anytime at 865-867-5309.
Why does this work? Because candidates always have questions—how much travel is really required? What are the work-from-home options? Getting married soon and have a honeymoon already scheduled, can I get the time off? This works because it’s candidate focused and cuts to the chase to see if there’s anything that might be a hiring showstopper, before putting the candidate into the full process. This is the kind of efficiency and human touch that begins to differentiate your company from everyone else.
Here I’ve only covered job ads and candidate communication. Truth is, almost every recruiting process I’ve seen in the last five years could do with some improvement. The only thing it will cost you is time—the time it takes to analyze and re-design your entire recruiting process to be more candidate-centric and efficient. Everything should be put under the microscope: Emails, phone screens, interviews (process and questions), scheduling, testing, offers, pre-boarding, and on-boarding. Shoot for each step in your process to take 24 to 48 hours. If something in your process takes longer than that, I suggest you look at (a) moving it to the pre-boarding or on-boarding part of your process, (b) figuring out a faster way to do it, or (c) eliminating it altogether. The re-design work may come with costs (outsourcing something or switching to a new, better vendor, for example), but the ROI on that will be significant compared to having unfilled openings.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that there are still compliance requirements to be met. Yes, you’ll still need an application. Yes, you can still do your pre-employment testing. I suggest you move these to be later in the process, so that your early interactions with candidates are as focused on them as possible, and not on your company. If you want to win the talent war, you can’t be doing all the same things in the same way that everyone else is doing them. It’s that simple.