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STRATEGIC HR
Jun 2, 2014

Can HR strategy fix online recruiting?

Easy as it seems, recruiting gets HR a lot of flak
    

By Dave Crisp

When working on strategy, it’s good to stop from time to time and assess whether our processes are actually helping at the front line. One of the most basic HR challenges day to day is still recruiting.

Putting it online, or at least the resumé gathering portion, seemed to offer a tremendous time-saving and benefits for both recruiters and applicants. But how much of that has really panned out? We constantly hear complaints from candidates about poor practices. When coaching jobseekers, it’s routine to caution them not to waste much time filling in online applications. Their experience is they never hear anything back, not even a confirmation of receipt.

The Zappos experience

On the company end, things aren’t working a whole lot better. This article about Zappos’ continuing innovations coincidentally tells the story succinctly. Even with basic online recruiting tools, sorting through 31,000 applications for 450 jobs is no picnic, maybe not even feasible. From the candidates’ side, we can hope those who took the time to fill out an online application at least got an electronic acknowledgment.

Experience shows most companies don’t even do that. In Zappos’ case we can see why thousands would want to be offered a job considering the company will give them several thousand dollars to quit in the first few weeks. What seemed like a good, innovative hiring move on Zappos’ part may have inadvertently helped torpedo its online recruiting.

Lack of courtesy?

You don’t have to look far to find people bemoaning the lack of courtesy and feedback the typical online application process provides candidates. Many online systems waste gobs of applicants’ time because they can’t properly read or interpret what’s pasted in or uploaded in resumé form. As noted in the article, corrections can take more time than simply typing everything in. Either way, it's a time consuming process.

Applying this way to more than a few jobs online takes so much time away from the job search process that most of us recommend against doing any more than the most applicable job postings. Still, that doesn’t stop thousands from gambling. For many it feels easier than networking, but their results are generally poor. Perhaps effective networkers should be grateful so many are kept from the networking scene by this time-wasting activity.

Confirmations, please

No matter how often I’ve recommended to recruiting departments they should at least implement confirmations so people will know their applications have been received, few have done that. You can see from the second link these aren’t the only complaints that turn off good candidates. One key element of ensuring strategy is effective is to actually participate in the application process oneself. You have to wonder how many recruiters have actually tried applying for positions at their own organizations. I found it generally takes only one such experience to turn me off, so I’m sure a lot of research isn’t required to properly test one’s own system.

Applicants put so much time into filling out forms it’s frustrating to see that not only do few get an automated acknowledgement their material was received, but there is nothing after that in virtually all cases. At the very least systems could report things like “the job is now filled with an outside (or inside, as many suspect) applicant chosen from among x-thousand applicants” and “your information will be compared against other job vacancies that may arise in the next six months.”

Presuming many companies see no value in even such general reports, they should consider how many people they are annoying by not providing them. With such bare bones information, applicants might understand better and not clutter future postings with highly irrelevant attempts. At least they’d be less tempted to think the posting was simply a phishing scam to begin with.

Test for user friendliness

Every HR process needs to be tested for user friendliness before and during its application. To do otherwise is to invite the criticism of HR we see so frequently. It’s true some of this was worsened by the recent great recession and cost cutting most companies did, but it’s foolish to blame that and assume great candidates will recognize that and forgive us. As recruiting once again becomes more and more competitive, it’s time to rethink.

A big part of effective strategy is getting the implementation correct. The greatest strategies in the world are useless (or worse) if people won’t participate or get turned off by them. Part of the growing trend to collaboration has to be to collaborate with potential new hires by providing them with the best experience during all parts of the hiring process.

This sounds like a small point in some respects. Perhaps Zappos doesn’t need to care about 30,000 of the 31,000 applicants. I’m not sure the alternative process they are suggesting will work better without knowing more details, but it also sounds like a lot of work for candidates with dubious results likely. Small point or not, it’s an area where many organizations still have a lot of important work required.

Dave Crisp is a Toronto-based writer and thought leader for Strategic Capability Network with a wealth of experience, including 14 years leading HR at Hudson Bay Co. where he took the 70,000-employee retailer to “best company to work for” status. For more information, visit www.balance-and-results.com.
    
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COMMENTS
Online recruitment is failing jobseekers
Wednesday, June 04, 2014 9:17:00 AM by Dana Shaw
It's my fervent belief that the current electronic methods of applying for work are a failing system for both recruiters and jobseekers.

Back when we all responded to newspaper job ads, the system was centralized, the number of applications was manageable because people mailed (or faxed) them in, and we easily knew the source of every applicant. Decentralization of job search means that jobseekers have to look all over the place for relevant job postings, many of which are duplicated on different sites, or have expired and are still appearing on job site aggregators (Indeed, etc.).

The budget/costs were more easily managed because we were paying to post, rather than paying when applicants apply or even just look at our postings.

It's my contention that the current system is very much broken. It needs a complete rethink and overhaul to make it work better for both applicants and recruiters. I don't know what the solution is, but my hope is that this issue will be addressed in the near future.
Applicant tracking systems work for recruiters, not candidates
Tuesday, June 03, 2014 5:15:00 PM by Dave Crisp
When doing job coaching I used to recommend a few ways to speed up applying online, like using a 'clipboard' manager on your computer to remember all your information - address, phone, etc. These can paste in the info with one click to avoid constantly retyping for every application, but even then it's slow filling in forms all the time. Definitely the easiest is being able to append or send a resume in one shot, but with so many applications being sent that aren't relevant, it's easy to see why recruiters prefer the other options. It's hard to design a perfect system from every point of view, but I still feel it's possible to do a great deal better than we have.
Applicant tracking systems work for recruiters, not candidates
Tuesday, June 03, 2014 4:15:00 PM by Brian Kreissl
Excellent blog. Speaking as a former recruiter, I must say applicant tracking systems can be a godsend - to recruiters. For job seekers...not so much.

Actually, in the end they may even be doing a disservice to employers as well, as companies continue to lament the supposed "skills shortage" while refusing to consider people with slightly non-traditional backgrounds. In many cases, recruiters don't even see the resumes from such candidates and don't get a chance to review the resumes because the ATS screened them out and the resumes ended up never even being seen by human eyes.

From an applicant's perspective, an ATS can destroy the nice formatting in the person's resume and cause the applicant to waste countless hours retyping information and correcting data that was parsed into the wrong fields. He or she often has to look for information in drop-down menus and type out a cover letter. I have seen it take almost two hours to complete one online application for a job.

In this day and age when people are so unlikely to get a call for a job application (let's face it, to some extent applying for a job IS a numbers game, no matter what the experts say) candidates are starting to question whether it is actually worth it to waste such tremendous time searching for and applying for jobs.

When I was in job search mode, I was frequently relieved to see job postings that asked me to simply e-mail my resume in Word format. That was far better than the dreaded ATS!

I am not saying such systems aren't useful, but there needs to be some human intervention when screening resumes and shortlisting candidates.