HRExaminer v3.27 July 6, 2012
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by Heather Bussing
When you apply for a job, especially when you really, really, need a job, you’re scared and vulnerable. You are opening yourself to judgment about whether you’re good enough. You might be rejected.
There’s also this glimmer of hope. You start to imagine being there, the excitement of starting something new. You dream of money and security. Maybe you can pay down the credit card. Or buy meat again.
It’s like the moment right after you get a lottery ticket when you fantasize what your life will be like if you win. Often, the odds are about the same.
You fill out the fields in the online application and upload your resume. You try to say why you would be great for the job, searching for words to show you are special. You don’t want to look desperate. But you are.
Even if you have a job, applying for a new one with strangers is disconcerting. It feels like you’re walking naked into a party where everyone knows each other, but no one knows you.
The reality is that you can be naked with a hot pink boa, but the ATS won’t really notice what you’re wearing, or even whether you seem nice. The chance of anyone even looking at your information is low.
It’s more like pouring a glass of water into a lake.
But you have no way of knowing that because pretty soon you get a friendly email thanking you for your interest in the company and telling you how glad they are that you applied. They say they will consider you. And even if you’re not right for the position you applied for, they’ll keep your information on file. They might even contact you if another position opens that would be good for you. Wow, you think. This could work out.
They give you hope.
Most of the time though, there is no hope. Only a few people of hundreds or thousands get a call or an interview. Everyone but the person who gets the position is rejected. It’s a process of No.
There are many smart and compassionate people working on how to make this reality better, kinder, more respectful. They call it Candidate Experience. They are looking hard at what it’s like from the moment the job is written, how it is described, where you find it and what that’s like. They are looking at the application process and how companies respond.
They are trying to make a kinder, gentler No.
I don’t think people want a kinder, gentler no. They want a yes. If they can’t have that, they want to be able to easily find out where they are in the process. And if they can’t have that, they would rather have a quick no.
No sucks. No dashes your fantasies. But No also lets you move on. No is what gets you to the company that says Yes.
No sets you free.
If companies really want to improve candidate experience, they will end the stress and angst of false hope. They will give the gift of No.
Thank you to DICE and Sarah White for putting together a panel on the Candidate Experience Awards in the DICE Blogger’s Lounge at SHRM12 in Atlanta. Thank you Gerry Crispin and John Sumser for taking the time during their hectic conference schedules to talk to me about this issue and to begin my education in how ATS’s and hiring processes that use them work.
At the heart of good recruiting, retention based on personal desire, great customer relationships, solid team work, clear delivery of results and, increasingly, any business success, is the mastery of relationship management. Relationships are hard to develop in volume and many people take statistical shortcuts in processes that develop relationships based on the luck of the draw. The reason that Direct Marketing techniques generally have a bad name is that they tend to treat people like objects as a precursor to a deeper form of relationship. The message in this approach is “if I can figure out what value you bring to me, I will invest in a deeper relationship.”
No good relationship begins with the proposition that it will depend on my understanding of the value I’ll get. They begin with the question “What value can I give?” They start with the notion that the “objects of our desire” are people first. When they are “objects” first, the very beginning of the relationship is sowed with the seeds of its ultimate failure.
In situations that require people to sift through volumes of potential relationships, the tendency to objectify feels like a quick shortcut to successful completion of the task. Reviewing hundreds of resumes to arrive at a “shortlist” of ten which will then be sifted to an interview pool of three or four is a task that demands sensitivity to data and the nuances of personal PR. Remembering that each resume represents the desires, hopes and aspirations (and sometimes desperation) of a person is a nearly superhuman task that requires the constant availability of forgiveness, a sense of humor and a willingness to see beyond the data. It is tremendously hard to keep this perspective fresh and foremost, particularly in a reactive environment.
Rather than focusing on being “x-kind of Relationship Manager” most ATS systems (or CRM systems for that matter) might be better called Potential Relationship Databases. Like the personals section of the local newspaper, they give a lonely recruiter or salesperson the opportunity to initiate a relationship. It is the process of evolving and maturing relationships, however, that characterizes real sales or recruiting effectiveness. It’s a process that can be supported but never automated because it involves the feelings of the person doing the recruiting or selling.
While there are tons of sales training programs that do it, we’ve looked and looked for either a managerial training program or a recruiter’s training program that focuses on a simple truth: Your effectiveness depends on how you feel about yourself and others. All of the sourcing and record keeping programs in the world won’t begin to compensate for a recruiting process that treats potential candidates as objects. To the extent that current systems perpetuate the myth that data constitutes a relationship, they are major contributors to the problem.
On one level, the definition of a Job Board is simple. It is an operation that converts web traffic into potential candidates. Whether it’s a corporate entity trolling for workers from its website, the USArmy building its recruitment ranks or a commercial organization looking for a foot hold in the hiring business, job boards all convert traffic into potential candidates.
From a candidate’s perspective, a job board is a place to look for a job. From an employer’s perspective, it’s an advertising and publicity vehicle. Since the core conversion process involves matching traffic with hiring requirements, the underlying business is an information age version of the oil industry. The traffic acquisition experts identify potential “oil fields” and experiment with methods and techniques for extraction. The “refinery” produces “product” at a level that, hopefully, is a match with market needs. The tremendous business opportunity involves the fact that the “gasoline” can be put in a number of tanks.
Not surprisingly, the bulk of the markets for potential candidates are local. As the workforce ages, it is decreasingly likely to move. Although some 20% of the population will consider a move for a job (the number varies by profession), most folks want the comfort and security of their roots. This, in effect, makes local refining operations the ultimate norm in our little version of the oil business.
Even though professions are more malleable than ever before (the average worker changes careers several times in a work life), most of us look for work in our chosen profession for a long time before considering the switch as a possibility. This results in a further segmentation of local markets; they tend to clump along professional lines. Both Monster and HotJobs have focused their offerings so that the “local-professional intersection” is an increasingly important component of site functionality.
With this grounding, it’s possible to define some basic functions of a job board:
- Traffic Acquisition (From Branding to Individual Purchasing on Google)
- Traffic Retention (Keeping the Traffic/Candidate Relationships)
- Traffic Refining (Data Collection and Sorting)
- Product Design and Packaging (For Recruiters or other traffic purchasers)
- Customer Acquisition (Marketing To HR/Staffing Firms)
- Sales (Often Combined w/ Customer acquisition in Direct Marketing)