With the Warming Heart of People Pools

“And I don’t care, go on and tear me apart
And I don’t care if you do
‘Cause in a sky, ‘cause in a sky full of stars
I think I see you…”
—Coldplay, “Sky Full of Stars

The statement’s context bummed me out. Not because my father-in-law and his wife didn’t know what I did for a living, people from outside the HR technology space always think I work literally in HR. No, it was because once they realized I worked for an HR software company that provided applicant tracking software, they immediately referenced the ATS black hole from whence no job applicant is supposedly ever seen again once he or she applies online.

We ended up discussing all the other ways applicants can gain visibility with a prospective employer – their online presence and their networking acumen. But no matter how good the recruiting software is (and PeopleFluent’s is pretty damn good), managing the candidate experience along the way hasn’t been easy for companies.

In fact, for the past few years, companies on the average receive an excessive number of resumes per every open full-time permanent position. This according to Talent Board’s 2014 Candidate Award Experience Awards Report released earlier this year (the 2015 data collection is in process). The CandE data from the past two years alone that shows open requisitions for all levels of positions are tracking over 200 resumes each.

While at the same time, more than half of job applicants are applying for up to four jobs per week, while nearly a third applying to up to nine jobs per week. Though applicant tracking systems and automation has helped companies funnel these resumes into their respective job “buckets” to be reviewed by overtaxed recruiters and hiring managers, the application process has not changed much for job seekers and employers.

But one of the biggest problem with the post-and-pray reactive recruiting approach and online application process is that it’s req-based – every time a new job is posted recruiters have to review a huge volume all new applicants on the average (most of whom aren’t qualified and many they may already have in their database) instead of leveraging their existing database where potential matches lie.

What if a company’s applicant database could be used to generate proactive sourcing pipelines? With better access to their own data, knowing how to set up the applicant pipelines, and how to communicate with the candidates can make the marketing investments pay off with great return and less near-term churn.

I recommend that companies get outside their own reqs and generate their own qualified candidates by creating and maintaining people pools based on skills and competencies needed for the work at hand. Being proactive with sourcing and screening doesn’t have to be aspirational – companies can do it with their own applicant databases and they way they capture new applicants via their career sites.

Because if it takes 45 minutes to complete an online application, then it’s 40 minutes too long. Attract applicants based on skills and experience needed, not just the literal requisition (especially for non-technical repetitive hiring), and collect just enough information to screen and create qualified talent pools for your recruiters and hiring managers. This allows companies to create proactive people pools based on skills need and not the job itself, which can and will maximize their recruitment dollar.

Given the time and resources it takes to find the right people why should companies start the process from scratch each and every time? By building these people pools (again, who cares what we call it as long as we’re hiring), employers can develop them around job types, skills and competencies to which they can turn to fill key roles without having to restart the processes from the beginning.

Creating repositories and automatically updated saved searches of qualified candidates in your talent acquisition system, such as those who were qualified but ultimately not selected for the position for which they applied, provides employers with a short list of individuals already engaged and interested in working for the company. This saves time and money and can help improve the relationships with hiring managers.

Along these lines, people pools can help improve the candidate experience and employer brand. For instance, informing candidates who weren’t selected that they will be kept in a pool and considered for future positions will not only let them avoid having to reapply, but also create a more positive impression of the company. It also keeps those individuals warm and engaged and interested in future openings. As a result, when a new positions becomes available, the company can fill it much more quickly by turning to those who have previously expressed interest.

A people pool strategy also can enhance talent mobility. Understanding the talent already in the organization and identifying who can be called upon to fill key gaps is another key advantage. Using employee data stored in the HR system can illuminate the talent already in place and their unique skills and strengths. As a result, the company can further streamline the process of filling positions with internal talent, while helping to retain their best employers by giving them the opportunity to advance through the ranks.

Of course, the “black hole” application experience hasn’t completely gone away and nearly 50 percent of the CandE winners still only received 3 out of 5 stars of less on their application process. The conundrum is that because of the great recruiting technology equalization happening in the world it just will not be enough to be an employer of choice long-term.

Remember, every person is a perpetual candidate no matter how happily employed or engaged they become over time, something we discussed more than once with Talent Board co-founders Elaine Orler and Gerry Crispin on the TalentCulture #TChat Show.

They agreed that at any given time they may find another role more appealing inside organization, or elsewhere. All of these candidate and employee phases combined with empowering technologies and continuous “customer” service from those who employ and woo candidates are what will give organizations the unfair advantage in the 21st century.

This doesn’t mean the effectual stretch and learning new skills will guarantee jobs for everyone, but these will be the benchmarks for many CandEs to come, with the warming heart of people pools ultimately eclipsing the black hole.

These Are The Moving Recruiting Money Shots

I played Patrick the recruiter in our customer conference general session skit. It was less than 15 lines and shouldn’t have been a problem.

But it was, mostly because I’m a ham at heart and like to improvise whenever possible. Forget the fact that there would be a floor monitor and a laptop showing the players the script.

So there I was on stage with some of my esteemed colleagues in front of hundreds of customers – heads of HR and talent acquisition – plus partners and peers – delivering my lines like a seasoned actor.

And then Megan, our VP of strategic accounts, queued me up for my big finale:

“What if you could pin your most frequent searches on your dashboard, and have the results refresh automatically as new candidates show interest, eliminating barriers between you and the next great member of your team?”

“That would be fantastic!” I exclaimed.

Wait for it…then nothing. Odd, I thought, what’s she waiting for? 

Seconds go by. “Um…Patrick…um…would you like me to set up a job search for you?”

Wow. I missed the money shot line. How did I do that?

“Um…yes! Can you set up one for our Store Manager position we’re always looking to fill?”

“Absolutely. We’ve set the Store Manager search to include the important parameters you define and that are unique to the job, including keywords, tags and location…”

Megan wrapped up the Patrick segment, and that’s when I added:

“Megan, sorry, but I’m managing over 60 reqs right now and it’s hard for me to remember which one is which.”

Smiles. Laughter. Some claps. I had my money shot after all.

Okay, maybe not 60 reqs, but I know many talent acquisition teams are carrying heavy job loads because finding and hiring the best people. Tech talent is especially tough today, to find those with the necessary skill sets that are critical for today’s companies – primarily, software programmers and developers, as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) positions.

According to Computerworld’s 2015 Forecast survey, job growth in IT remains very healthy – nearly one-quarter of respondents said that they plan to add more IT employees this year.  At the same time, unemployment for IT professionals is extremely low – just 2.5% according to figures from one of the latest Dice Tech Trends report – making it even harder to find top people with technology skills in high demand.

Conversely, the non-technical positions companies need to fill continuously takes a candidate pooling and constant “warming” approach, as well as engaging candidates with relevant content in various mediums, especially video.

Competing for the best people, regardless of role or classification, has again become priority number one with an emphasis on the speed and quality of the hiring process. But it’s really much more complicated out there: the hiring economy today is like an original screenplay we keep rewriting and reordering, with a lot of sweat and tears, through every economic boom and bust story.

Yes, it’s complicated. According to the U.S. Department of Labor:

  • Job Openings have increased 28% in 2014, more than any other year since 1999.
  • For the last 12 months we’ve added on the average 200K per month.
  • At the same time, wages aren’t keeping pace, which is causing increased turnover.

And yet, a study last year from Carl Frey and Michael Osborne at Oxford University found that 47% of jobs are at risk of computerization over the next two decades.

And for the past few years, companies on the average receive an excessive number of resumes per every open full-time permanent position. This according to the Candidate Experience Award (CandE) data (you can now download the 2014 report here and then participate in the 2015 CandEs here) from the past two years alone that shows open requisitions for all levels of positions are tracking over 200 resumes each. At the same time, more than half of job applicants are applying for up to four jobs per week, while nearly a third applying to up to nine jobs per week.

Although the competition for top talent is fierce, employers must still find creative ways to entice people with in-demand STEM skills to join their company – getting to know whom they’re targeting is critical prior to and especially during outreach. Thankfully, research and relationship building are alive and well in recruiting today for whatever the roles being hired. We’ve covered this topic detail on the TalentCulture #TChat Show more than once recently.

But what are some specific examples of delivering better talent acquisition regardless of the complicated backstories and plot twists? We keep pitching the “better experiences” for candidates, recruiters and hiring managers, but what productions have made it to the big screen?

The CandEs have them in the spotlight and since founding them in 2010, the Talent Board has created a global benchmark process for companies to gain needed insight into their recruiting processes and more specifically, how their candidates feel about the process and how they were treated.

The CandE benchmark is the foundation for how companies are recognized for the awards, by their candidates. This award process is truly the first and largest “People’s Choice” award in the recruiting industry, and remains the largest single source of candidate experience and recruiting performance benchmark data in the world. (For those keeping score at home, about one-third of the 2014 winners are PeopleFluent customers.)

Here are give great examples of from the CandE winners with distinction, those companies who by far have exceeded the first-tier winning benchmark:

  1. MetLife has built a validated simulation that not only helps assess a candidate’s qualifications, but that candidates also find informative and educational about job requirements. They also distribute surveys to get detailed input from new hires at from day one, after three months and again at one year.
  2. Capital One launched their CandE effort two years ago to build “consistency” of treatment from call center employees to executives. Every person who applies is asked a series of CandE-related questions and their response rates are north of 50 percent (10,000 asks per month) and their Net Promoter Scores are then segmented by location, level, function and recruiter.
  3. NBCUniversal holds Tech Talk Tuesdays and Ask the Experts every Wednesday, every single week. By measuring and acting on their source of hire and other hiring data, their speed to hire has improved from 75 days to 29 days.
  4. Hyatt has begun aligning their well known and well developed “guest experience” to the CandEs. One thing they’ve done as a result is to introduce applicants to employees during the interview process, and much earlier in the process than most companies usually do.
  5. RMS, a three-time CandE winner with distinction conducts weekly and sometimes daily online chats that focus on providing “honest answers” to “honest questions.” They measure hiring like dating and equate the recruiting process to first-date impressions and beyond.

These are the moving recruiting money shots if there ever were. Thankfully there are more killer premiers and sequels like this every year.

Step right on up for your screen test. My people will call your people and we’ll do lunch.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

photo credit: DSCN3961 via photopin (license)

What Do Job Seekers Want From Hiring Managers?

Written by Val Matta

Hiring managers — are you scaring off quality job seekers by failing to do your job effectively?

Although the life of a hiring manager is far from easy, you could be making some critical mistakes that not only dampen the results of your recruiting efforts, but also make your organization look bad.

Weak Links: Case In Point

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 75% of job seekers never received any communication from prospective employers after applying for a position. How about you? Do you respond to all applicants? Even if a job posting attracts far more candidates than you can seriously consider, choosing not to acknowledge inquiries can hurt your company’s reputation.

In today’s social media environment, bad business practices are easily exposed and amplified. Therefore, it’s wise to handle applicants with more TLC. If you don’t, the best candidates may decide to look elsewhere, and publicly encourage others to do so. However, you can neutralize negativity by rethinking outdated hiring practices and making an extra effort. Even small changes can win over great talent, and build goodwill along the way.

So, with that in mind, what do today’s job seekers really want, and how can hiring managers help?

4 Ways To Improve The Hiring Process

1) Solid Job Descriptions

A poorly written job description runs the risk of attracting candidates who aren’t qualified for the position. Even worse, weak messaging may turn off the best and brightest talent. Still, less-than-stellar job descriptions are all too common: 43% of survey respondents say they found out during an interview that a job didn’t match what was promised in an ad. But who’s really responsible if a candidate advances to the interview stage before discovering that the job isn’t a fit?

Quick tip:  Feature as many details as possible in your job descriptions, including required duties, qualifications, and salary information. You may also want to link to your company website, which can house testimonials or videos that help tell your organization’s story and give potential candidates a feel for company culture.

2) Acknowledgement

Here’s food for thought: 82% of workers expect to hear back from a company when they apply for a job — regardless of whether the employer is interested. Yet, a very small proportion of applicants actually receive confirmation. Job seekers clearly consider acknowledgement a basic courtesy. It’s in your best interest to reach out and maintain goodwill with applicants — who may also be loyal customers.

Quick tip: If you don’t have time to connect directly with every job seeker, then automate the process. Email applications and applicant tracking systems offer personalized message capabilities. It may not be true 1-to-1 communication, but it certainly is better than keeping applicants in the dark, and it demonstrates your appreciation for their interest in the company.

3) Ongoing Feedback

The previous point speaks to the importance of acknowledging contact — letting applicant know you received and reviewed their resumes, or that they’ve been turned down. But it’s just as important to communicate with active candidates throughout the hiring process. Letting prospects know what they should expect, what they’re doing right, and how you’d like to move forward helps them stay connected and engaged. Don’t keep them guessing, or you may be lose some of your best options.

Quick tip: Keep your applicants posted through each step of the hiring process. For example, if step one requires a video interview, let them know how they should prepare. If step two is an in-person interview, provide some advance notice about the structure of the session, the people they’ll meet and the topics you expect to discuss. If you want to review portfolio pieces, indicate what types of work samples matter most to you. If they need to shadow someone in your organization as a test run, be sure you share logistical details. Communicating early and often keeps potential employees informed and engaged. It ensures an optimal impression — regardless of the hiring outcome.

4) Enthusiasm and Knowledge

Although it’s not your job to be a role model to job seekers, if you don’t seem enthused about the position, how can you possibly expect it from potential employees? Surprisingly, about 30% of workers who sought jobs last year found that company representatives weren’t knowledgeable about their own organizations. Another 34% say representatives didn’t present a positive work experience. You may be a candidate’s only impression of your company. Make sure it’s a good one.

Quick tip: Look at the job search process as a reverse interview. Make sure you’re enthusiastic about your organization and keep information about the company, the job and the hiring process at the ready. If you’re not sure of an answer, find someone who can help, and follow up. This reflects well on your employer brand, creates a great experience for the candidate, and streamlines the employment process for all.

The hiring process is about more than pinpointing great talent. It’s an opportunity to reinforce brand positioning with the community at-large, and foster stronger relationships with applicants who may be some of your strongest customer advocates. If you take time to create strong job descriptions, acknowledge applicants, provide ongoing feedback, and offer enthusiasm along the way, you’ll not only find great employees, but you’ll also win the hearts and minds of everyone who participates in the process.

What do you think? What else are job hunters seeking from hiring managers? How can employers respond? And why is this important? Share your ideas and opinions in the comments area below.

Val Matta(About The Author: Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for HR professionals and career seekers that gives job seekers complete control over their search. Val is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, and has had her writing featured at, CareerBuilderMashable, USA Today College Series and in other outlets. Connect with Val and CareerShift on LinkedIn.)

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Or visit the #TChat stream on Twitter anytime. Everyone is welcome! Learn more...)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Employment Triad Equates to Acknowledgement & Closure. #TChat Recap

The job transaction is a triad. There is applicant, candidate and employer.

During last night’s #TChat Employer Black Holes and the Candidate Experience, it was question #4 that differentiated and clarified things for me:

Q4: Should the candidate experience apply to applicants?  When does an applicant become a ‘candidate?’

The answer to that is when you’re qualified and you make the “short list.”  Because until that point you’re not qualified, and in today’s market, there’s a lot more of you out there looking for work who aren’t.

Even with the volume of career applicants today, there’s a lot that be done to “humanize” the process and at the very least auto-acknowledge folks thanking them for applying to your job openings.

So I’ll repeat some of what I shared in my post the other day – The Employer/Applicant Transaction: Acknowledgement and Closure.

There’s only one job per multiple applicants/candidates, so what has their experience been with American corporations and SMB and startups alike?

Overall, pretty poorly. I mean, it’s not news to know how poor the applicant/candidate experience is and has been for a long, long time.

Businesses do owe applicants and candidates at least two things regardless of the position level being applied for. That’s it. Two things that I’ve done as an employer over the years:

  1. Acknowledgement – simply that you’ve applied and we acknowledge that. Thank you.

  2. Closure – simply that you are or are not qualified for the position, that you are or are not getting the job, there are or are not other opportunities with us, and we acknowledge all these things in a consistent and timely manner. Thank you.

There were a lot of other nicer sentiments for how employers should treat their applicants/candidates, but it’s still simply these two things.  And you sure better do it with your short list of candidates regardless of industry or position. It’s best practice for your workplace culture brand.

You can read the transcript from last night here, and these were the questions posed to everyone:

  • Q1: Is the applicant ‘black hole’ experience real when applying for a job?  If so, why does it exist?
  • Q2: How does candidate/applicant experience impact employment brand or company culture?
  • Q3: At a minimum, what should job seekers expect from employers to which they apply?
  • Q4: Should the candidate experience apply to applicants?  When does an applicant become a ‘candidate?’
  • Q5: What are some creative ways job seekers can get through the black hole or recruiters can handle the applicant tsunami?
  • Q6: Job seekers: What has your candidate experience been like during your most recent job hunt?
  • Q7: Employers: what are you doing to improve candidate experience?
Thank you everyone for joining us last night!  A special thanks to Matt Charney for helping me steer the ship.
We’ll see you next week where our topic will be:
Managing virtual teams and dispersed global organizations while maintaining workplace culture.  Is it possible?