do you prevent great talent from applying?

road closedThere is so much being said about the “war for talent” right now. So much new technology. So many vendors out there ready to help. Plenty of snazzy tech solutions to automate much of the hiring process. Unfortunately, we often forget that even the best technology is a tool, not a solution. And like all tools, it can be used poorly.

The other day I spoke to a human resources professional who was “in transition” and looking for work without much luck. It wasn’t the difficulty getting a job that had her most frustrated; she was surprised and appalled at how badly candidates were treated by companies. She’s not alone.

I’m amazed there are so many companies that simply don’t comprehend: 1) there is a huge advantage from a great candidate experience; and 2) you build a great candidate experience the same way you create a great customer experience – by thinking about it from their point of view and making it as simple and painless as possible. It’s as though they have a 21 Century mindset for competing for customers and a 1930s belief that employees are completely interchangeable cogs and should be grateful the company would consider hiring them.

Great talent has more options. They generally don’t have to put up with a poor candidate experience. AND that candidate experience is their first look at what it’s like to work for the company. Difficult, arcane, indifferent, condescending, black holes? Cyabye!

I am a big fan of rigorous selection systems. I believe companies should hire as though their future success or failure depends on the people in the organization and their decisions and actions (hint: it does). Technology (theoretically) enables us to automate much of the drudgery and makes it easier to connect with candidates, simplify the application and selection process, and make communication a breeze.

Or, technology can be used indifferently to automate the wrong parts of the process, make applying complicated and difficult, and turn communication into a meaningless checkbox activity. Some examples:

  • The careers section of the company website is difficult to find, confusing, or has contradictory information about how to apply.
  • The position description is vague, confusing, or doesn’t provide enough information. This isn’t a fault of the technology, but can lead to other problems when the technology makes it difficult/impossible to learn more.
  • Expressing interest in a position and trying to find out more requires setting up an online account (because we all need another password to remember) and going through the entire application process. Which requires providing sensitive personal information. The potential applicant has to reveal birth date and social security number just to find out if the job is actually something they are interested in. No. Major fail. Great talent will simply move on and continue looking elsewhere.
  • If a computer glitch happens, there is no way to contact a human to get it sorted out. Locked out of your application? Too bad.
  • Otherwise qualified candidates are automatically screened out by the system because they don’t meet a rather arbitrary set of qualifications. Too often, the nice-to-have qualifications are turned into must-haves that reject otherwise outstanding candidates.
  • Otherwise qualified candidates are automatically screened out because their resume doesn’t have enough of the specific key words the system is looking for.
  • Generic communication is sent out in batches. This is a time saver. It’s also a great way to send rejection letters to candidates with an offer in hand or reject someone who bowed out of the hiring process a full month ago.

What else? What other candidate experience failures are out there? Failures that would be soooo easy to correct if someone thought about the process from the candidates’ point of view?

It’s easy to think this doesn’t matter because there are plenty of applicants. But, are they the right applicants? Is technology making it easier for great people to apply or is it driving them away? Fortunately, if you have a lousy hiring process and a miserable candidate experience, you’re not alone. So many companies fail at this that many just consider it normal. That’s a low bar and an easy one to hurdle.

The nice thing about so many companies being so bad is that it’s really easy to stand out.

[Photo Credit: Sarah Korf via Compfight]

the shop is no longer around the corner

I recently re-watched You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks (to be clear: I didn’t watch it with them, they were in the movie). It came out in 1997 at the cusp of three pivotal shifts and is an interesting look at people dealing with FutureNow and trying to find their way forward without a map.

Email was new and quaint and exciting, big box retailers were driving the small independent shops out of business, and – although the movie doesn’t address it – people and businesses were trying to figure out the whole internet thing by applying old business models to a new medium.

In one scene, Meg Ryan’s character wishes she could ask her deceased mom for advice on how her small bookstore can compete with the mega-store going in just down the street. A friend makes a show out of asking her mom’s picture what to do, holding it to her ear for the answer. The friend puts the photo down and says, “She doesn’t know what to do either.” There was no map, no established answer, no tried and true success model.

Fifteen years later and the big box stores are in the same position Meg Ryan’s cute little shop was in. The internet has evolved into a reliable commerce channel, creating enormous economies of scale AND a level of service that physical stores wouldn’t / couldn’t provide. No store can have enough staff to be familiar with every book, yet the online stores have ratings and comments available from people who have read the book. Online, there is no snobbery from the clerk at the CD store looking upon your musical taste with distain. Prices are low and the option to buy used pushes them even lower.

The bad guy of a decade and a half ago is now the victim. The world changed and no one told them. There is no map, no established answer, no tried and true success model for them to follow.

For better or worse, the world is changing and evolving and moving in faster and faster cycles. We’ve got email figured out and now we’re wrestling with social media. Higher education and banking are likely to take the same sort of leap the music and publishing industries did and others will follow. It doesn’t take much of a futurist to predict that there is another big shift about to happen just a few years down the road.

Here’s the HR / world of work spin: technology is driving massive changes at a societal level, allowing us to do so much more with so much less, eliminating old jobs and creating new opportunities. That’s not going away. It’s scaryexcitingterrifyingthrilling. It requires perpetual learning and thinking and changing and an ability to adapt at an ongoing level that’s never been asked of us before.

Hope, fear, uncertainty, confidence, desire for success, terror of failure are all very real and very human issues. I wonder how Human Resources and Learning & Development will best help individuals and organizations cope-survive-thrive.

Your thoughts?


flashback friday: technology has changed, humanity hasn’t, part 3

[This was originally posted on July 3, 2012]

“Everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal. Anything created between birth and the age of 30 is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it. But whatever is invented after you’re turned 30 is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it – until it’s been around for about 10 years, when it gradually turns out to be all right really.”

~ Douglas Adams


“Every revolutionary idea seems to evoke three stages of reaction. They may be summed up by the phrases: 1) It’s completely impossible. 2) It’s possible, but not worth doing. 3) I said it was a good idea all along.

~ Arthur C. Clarke