The 2 Things Brands Must Do to Edge Out the Competition

We all choose to trust someone: our recruiter, our employer, our friends and family and the loosely connected peer groups we have built online. Besides these closely held and trusted relationships, we also look to online influencers – everything from shopping sites and corporate websites to journalists and columnists to sites like Yelp, Angie’s List and – as credible and reliable sources.

But do we trust these new influencers or do they merely exist to replace the role of advertisers, recruiters and newspapers?

“Influencer” is a role, a responsibility and a form of advocacy — both from an individual’s and an employer’s perspective. And for companies looking to stand out and gain a competitive edge, influence, along with trust, is essential. These two capabilities allow employers and employees new tools for navigating the new world of loosely-connected friendships and relationships. If done correctly, this sort of influence can be a powerful way to connect to individuals and grow faith in a brand. But if executed poorly, people may take you as not an influencer but a scammer.

For instance, employer websites, meant to stand in for brochures, have been expanded to include job sites and blogs, intended to serve as a first point of contact for potential employees. This can provide a great opportunity to stand out as an influencer for the demographic you hope to target.

But get the corporate site wrong — like failing to include material that engages the viewer and creates interaction with your brand — and prospects are less likely to trust your job site.  This effect will be exacerbated if, in fact, your workplace is less than ideal and a disgruntled employee posts a less-than-glowing review on, a site of some influence in the recruiting community.

How to break down the barriers and establish trust

I’ve written before about the importance for employers of “brand humanization.” This is a mix of culture, community and corporation that leverages the power of social networks to attract a community of employees and prospects (brand advocates if you will) who believe in and trust the brand’s mission. “Humanized” brands encourage the creation of communities that engage in social interaction, which in turn creates greater engagement with employees and prospects and widens the net to attract new participants.

Brand humanization used to establish trust requires some investment on the part of brands, which must ensure their corporate persona engages at a human level. Sometimes corporate persona can derive from a leader. For instance, Virgin’s Richard Branson is the face and persona of the company.

Beyond persona, brands must create communities of interest in which employees, influencers, brand advocates and others who believe in (and trust) the brand can interact. Look at Red Hat’s for an example. It reflects the interests of the brand’s communities — developers, shareholders, open source communities, employees and even those interested in renewable resources.

Trust in a humanized brand also requires that interactions are relevant, timely and appropriate in frequency and duration. Too many brands blanket the social airwaves with self-serving messages on multiple channels. Be restrained, target each interaction to the right channel and make sure you and the community share expectations about frequency of contact and interaction.

Where influence begins

Once trust is in place, or at least a work in progress, it’s possible to begin to create influence.

Influence is a form of currency (See MindTool’s post on The Influence Model for more information). It requires reciprocity: I give you something of value, and you reciprocate. Of course this works best when both parties share a nation of value. In the social world, for example, influence can be acknowledgment in another’s blog post of an idea you had, a hat tip on Twitter, a link to one of your posts in an article and so on.

Finally, we must realize we live in a trust-based economy and adjust not only our behaviors but also our expectations. For instance, companies must be prepared to deal with employees and applicants who withhold trust, create initiatives to humanize their brands and connect with communities (such as being ever-vigilant for comments, attempts to engage and to participate in interactions where appropriate). Building trust creates a new value equation for your brand, and its employees, employee prospects and consumers.

Influence and trust in your brand — whether you’re a recruiter, an employer brand, or another category of influence — is an asset with incredible value. Guard it carefully.

A version of this post was first published on Entrepreneur on 5/29/14.

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Make The Hiring Manager Your Recruiting Partner

With all the focus on sourcing, the candidate experience, mobile access and employer branding, the hiring manager experience can be a low priority within organizations. Why is the hiring manager experience something that warrants attention and cultivating? Simply, the hiring manager plays a pivotal role in the talent acquisition process. The decision to hire usually rests with them, so ensuring they have all the needed information and technology-enabled tools at their disposal is a start in the right direction.

Is It Really Us vs. Them?

This question is a big part of the problem. Until everyone involved in the hiring process realizes all people are key players, there’s going to be an “us vs. them” attitude. Ensuring the hiring manager has access to necessary tools and information creates a consistently efficient process. Technology-enabled communication tools can create an atmosphere for valuable exchanges of dialogue and information that promote proactivity between recruiters and hiring managers, aligning both for greater efficiency.

Prepare On The Front-end

Being prepared ensures that both the hiring manager and candidate have a good experience during the hiring process. This is where good and timely listening skills come into play. Listen to the hiring manager, and step up to get the needed information to begin a strategy. It’s a waste of everyone’s time if information the hiring manager needs is provided after candidates are presented, or worse after candidates have interviewed. Fine tuning the strategy on the front-end is a sound recruiting practice.

Some of the basic questions recruiters should ask the hiring  manager upfront are:

  • Do I have all the information about the job duties and what are the priority skills?
  • Do you have specific qualifying questions you want me to ask?
  • Within what timeframe are you looking to hire?
  • Are there any knock-out questions you want me to ask the candidates?
  • What qualities have you noticed as being essential to the success of this position?
  • What traits did the last person in this role have that made him/her a good cultural fit for the position?
  • Are there any past interviewees you want contacted?
  • Are you open to paying relocation?
  • Do you want the team members to meet the finalists?

Recruiter Expertise

For the recruiter, being the subject-matter expert on the practice of recruiting enables the fundamentals to support his/her success to kick into action. Keep in mind, the hiring manager is an expert in his/her field of work, and understands the team’s culture, as well. A good hiring manager will rely on the knowledgeable advice of the recruiter to help steer the process and keep it running efficiently. Have a plan-of-action in place and make recommendations so you both know how the course of events will progress, and develop a flexible mind-set to revisit the plan-of-action. This can, often times, help keep everything moving forward and help everyone involved to weather hiccups that may occur.

Keep Calm And Carry On

Not all positions are easy to fill; knowing this upfront helps the recruiter plan a solid strategy and reduce stress for everyone. If you’re an inexperienced recruiter, be sure to share your strategy with the hiring manager. They may have prior knowledge with filling the position and can share what has and hasn’t worked in the past. Incorporating keen listening skills and being flexible to accept this advice can create better efficiencies. Consider all courses of action and any direction provided by the hiring manager, then evaluate which are best.

Keep in mind, not all positions can be sourced using the same strategy. Some positions will be high touch and others a matter of using your pipeline to generate leads. Of course the more inclusive the strategy, the better chance recruiters have for sourcing and recruiting highly qualified candidates. Use technology to help with communications and networking, but remember, technology is there to streamline the process and not to eliminate the need for human intervention. Listening well and utilizing technology-enabled communications are basics needed by the talented recruiter.

Hiring is a team effort which requires exemplary communications between all the stakeholders involved. It really does take a village to hire.

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How to Build A Leading Candidate Experience Without Replacing Your ATS

In a time of unprecedented technological advancement, it’s peculiar to hear professionals cursing the solutions they use on a daily basis. But this is the reality many live with whose job requires them to interact with legacy enterprise software. And with their reliance on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), those in the recruiting field are no strangers to this headache.

While every recruiter would love to deliver a modern consumer-quality candidate experience on their career site, most are bound by the limitations of their ATS. This is because enterprise ATS deployments are so labor-intensive that it doesn’t make business sense to replace them too often. As a result, recruiters are left with an outdated talent acquisition asset and candidates exiting their career sites without applying.

Fortunately, in recent years the most widely deployed ATS’ have created integration points for their technology, allowing third-party solution providers to pick up where they fall short. In this article, we’ll inspect this issue further, diving into the challenges with today’s ATS’, and how to deliver a standout candidate experience without “ripping and replacing” your existing recruiting software infrastructure.

Candidate Experience And The ATS

Almost two in three talent acquisition professionals express dissatisfaction with or plans to replace their current ATS. This brings to light a candidate experience pain point, because many companies use the “out-of-the-box” ATS apply flow on their career site. Below tells the story of why this has caused concern:

  • Careers sites require unique functionalities to connect job seekers with requisitions and apply flows on the internet, so they’re often hosted on different platforms (the ATS) than the broader corporate website
  • Since ATS’ are traditionally systems of record and not systems of engagement, they tend to greatly miss the mark on candidate experience during the job search and apply process
  • As the career site is emerging as the top source for applicants, the underperforming ATS is delivering diminishing returns because it has not kept pace with job seekers’ dynamic and rising digital expectations over the years
  • Many companies have attempted to cover up the ATS by bringing in a creative firm, but this is still not up to par with the software functionality expected by today’s candidates

They key takeaway in this story is that the ATS was created to be a system of record—not a system of engagement. However, those same legacy deployments are now being used as the software behind the candidate-facing aspects of the site. This is where integration points come into play.

Delivering A Next-Gen Candidate Experience On Top of Your ATS

While there are many different career site functionalities, below is a list of the ones recruiting leadership should keep as top-of-mind as they consider third-party candidate experience solutions providers:

  • Responsive web design: Careers sites and their apply flows must be able to adapt to whichever device the candidate is using
  • Seamless apply flow: Recruiting organizations should aim for their apply flow to mirror the simplicity of top consumer-oriented sites like
  • Advanced search: The goal is to connect candidates with requisitions quickly and effectively, and it’s now possible to deliver advanced capabilities like autocomplete, geo-located results, filtering, and more to do this
  • Search engine optimized (SEO) requisitions: More job seekers than ever are starting their search from Google, meaning all requisitions and landing pages must be built with SEO in mind
  • Job alerts/notifications: Leading companies have deployed job alerts on their career sites and are experiencing massive reductions in cost-per-applicant and other key metrics
  • Integrated talent network: By adding the option to join a talent network, recruiters are organically building robust talent pipelines while being able to focus efforts on providing value elsewhere
  • Socially connected referral network: With social networks, it’s now possible to build the referral process right into requisitions, so candidates can request referrals from people they know
  • Back-end recruiting analytics: It would not be a “next-generation” candidate experience without having some analytical aspects for measuring and optimizing performance

Patching all of these pieces together on top of the ATS, and delivering a consistently branded experience from the time the candidate enters the career site through her job search and process of applying for a position, is the intimidating challenge companies are facing today. Fortunately, with integration and APIs, delivering this type of candidate experience can be done at a fraction of the cost it would require to replace the entire ATS.

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Brave The Flaming Bullseye With Total Talent Acquisition

“It is the fire that lights itself
But it burns with a restless flame
The arrow on a moving target
The archer must be sure of his aim…”

—Neil Peart (writer and musician, “Cut to the Chase”)

He hated driving. And yet, he drove me home from the airport. Nice guy. Personable. Articulate. Cleanly shaved head, just south of my age. Mid-forties I guessed. Great driver actually. Very aware of everything around him. We immediately hit if off as we discussed the ups and downs of the Bay Area highways and byways, the best times to drive and the worst.

“Well, you’re hitting the driving thing head-on,” I announced in a poor attempt at punning.

He laughed nonetheless. “It’s my job for now. I don’t have a choice.”

He leaked a weak smile in the rear-view mirror. Before I could press him further he deflected to me and what I did for a living.

A little while later I again tried to learn more about his professional life, but to no avail. What was obvious to me was that he was one of the more qualified “underemployed,” those who only work part time doing whatever because they can’t find full-time employment. How are companies leveraging this underserved talent pool and candidates like him? And can they?

Cut to 24 hours earlier while I sat with colleagues and an entire recruiting team from one of our recruiting customers talking about how to remain compliant while searching, sourcing and pipelining. If you’re in HR and recruiting, you understand the broad critical complexity of regulations that are in place to protect employers, employees, applicants and candidates.

The senior vice president of talent acquisition led the meeting and at one point he said something quite profound and refreshing, not something I’d heard of late:

“We cannot allow compliance to manage us. We have to be able to search and source our own databases in a timely way without compromising quality…in the spirit of effectiveness and productivity, not necessarily efficiency.”

At the same time the disparity between organizations that achieve high-performance talent acquisition and those that don’t usually boils down to agile processes and transparent branding without completely compromising compliance – all with the right technology that empowers the total talent acquisition package.

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 definitely a moving target – according to survey data collected by my mothership, PeopleFluent, 73% of the HR and recruiting survey-takers noted that developing a talent pipeline was a struggle.

Plus, if you take into account the latest BLS employment numbers, the true total unemployed include the underemployed, which is nearly double the usual unemployment numbers pumped into the media mainstream.

Mercy me, it’s a confusing hot mess out there. To add to the confusion, Will Thomson, Global Sales Recruiter for Rosetta Stone and the Founder of Bulls Eye Recruiting, told us on the TalentCulture #TChat Show that this year, 2015, will be the best year for recruiting since 1999.

Wait, what? Well, more jobs were created in 2014 than in any other year since 1999. According to a recent New York Times article, employers have hired more than 1 million people since November 1, 2014.

But, companies still struggle with sourcing the right people and job seekers can learn just as much if not more about a prospective employer today than the employers can learn about them. They can shop and screen with the best of them, which is why company culture and transparent relationships will be the primary drivers for successfully recruiting and retaining employees in 2015. The talent acquisition teams that get this will facilitate winning.

The challenge lies in doing away with the old recruiting process model and implementing a modern, total talent acquisition approach to recruiting. In fact, according to Brandon Hall Group’s High-Performance Talent Acquisition Framework, Total Talent Acquisition is a culmination of the process of identifying, engaging, assessing, hiring and onboarding talent in order to successfully grow an organization’s workforce.

According to data from the 2014 Candidate Experience Awards (the CandEs), companies can do this better by setting expectations up front, and having more job-relevant components in the application and seeking feedback from their candidates. Along these lines, it is crucial to provide a detailed description of the application process, which will help candidates understand how to apply, the reasons for asking diversity-based questions, privacy commitments and accommodations for people with disabilities.

Employers can also enhance the candidate experience, and better target qualified candidates, by including video-enabled screening questions and assessments in the application process. Doing so will enable companies to provide a more personalized process, allowing candidates who might not be qualified to self-select out, while moving the best candidates forward. Not only will these efforts help to shorten the application process and keep talent more engaged, but it will also help to target the qualified talent the organization needs to remain competitive.

When equipped with the right total talent acquisition technology solution, companies can provide a more engaging and transparent candidate experience, a more streamlined process for recruiters to sort through candidates and an effective process for hiring managers to make well-informed decisions, which in turn improves the overall speed and quality of hire today and far into the future.

Telling my driver that “drivers” were one of the top 10 hardest roles to fill in 2014 probably wasn’t something that he would’ve wanted to hear. But if we brave the flaming bullseye together – candidates, recruiters, hiring manager – with a total talent acquisition strategy, maybe we can hit the mark more often for everyone including the qualified underemployed.

How To Find Employees With The Right Attitude

Attitude over aptitude is the rallying cry for many in modern recruitment. All our fancy personality tests and scouring of resumes has given us a fair imitation of the recruits that we wanted in the past, but it’s never provider a reliable indicator that they would fit in well with a team or company. Employment options are now ever more fractured and specific, so that almost anyone will have to learn on the job rather than bringing a full skill set to their role.

Finding someone with the right attitude, with enthusiasm and a willingness to learn, with a personality that will fit your organization well, can be far more useful than finding someone with the usual list of qualifications.

So how do you do that?

Make the most of millenials

The current generation of employees say that they want more from their jobs. They want flexibility. They want satisfaction. They want fulfillment from their work.

So if you’re looking for people with flexibility and the willingness to learn then take candidates up on that demand for more. Show them the ways that they could work more flexibly in your company, or be given more meaningful decisions. Then see how they react.

Do they look happy and excited? Do they talk about what they would do with that opportunity? Or do they look nervous at the loss of familiar structures, answering only in platitudes? That tells you a lot about whether they will really let you tap into that flexibility the modern generation promises.

Make it personal

A personal recruitment process, one that treats the candidates like individuals rather than cogs in the machine, is great for the candidates. It gives them a positive impression of your company, helps them understand you better and makes them feel valued. It’s a good way to attract the best candidates.

But it’s also a great way to identify those best candidates once you have them. By taking a little more time to get to know them individually, to interact with them not just as recruits grinding through a process but as people, you will get a much better feel for who they are.

Make it social

Social media is a great way of reaching out to recruits, and it can also tell you a lot about them.

The fact that a recruit responds to a social media campaign, or even reaches out to you that way, shows that they are well settled into the modern world, that they are socially literate enough to comfortably use these platforms and to let the professional and personal mix.

But the way that they use it will also tell you a lot. Do they understand how to shift gears in a professional situation, even when it takes place on Facebook, the place where most people show their relaxed, unprofessional side? Can they make those quick shifts between the personal and professional and back again? Can they set appropriate boundaries when the old ones blur?

Make ready for change

The world of work is constantly changing. For example, as robots replace people in a range of roles and industries, so jobs become about maintaining those robots, not undertaking their tasks. In the more abstracted worlds of finance and recruitment, new analytical tools force us to constantly reappraise how we work and retrain for what comes.

We need recruits who are willing and able to adapt to those changes. We need employees chosen for their personalities, not just their degrees. We need to recruit for attitude.

And now we can.

Apply Now

(About the Author: Mark Lukens is a Founding Partner of Method3, a global management consulting firm. He has 20 plus years of C-Level experience across multiple sectors including healthcare, education, government, and people and potential (aka HR). In addition, Mark currently serves as Chairman of the Board for Behavioral Health Service North, a large behavioral health services provider in New York. He also actively serves on the faculty of the State University of New York (SUNY) and teaches in the School of Business and Economics; Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship and the Department of Management, International Business and Information Systems. Mark holds an MBA and is highly recognized in the technology and healthcare space with credentials including MCSE and Paramedic. Most of Mark’s writing involves theoretical considerations and practical application, academics, change leadership, and other topics at the intersection of business, society, and humanity. Mark resides in New York with his wife Lynn, two children, and two Labradors. The greatest pursuit; “To be more in the Service of Others.”)


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Stand Out From Competitors With Benefits Like These

Recruitment is a constant battle for HR. It’s a persistently nagging requirement, it never goes away. Just as soon as you think you’ve got enough stellar team members on board, someone else hands in their notice and you’re back to square one.

Locating talent takes a lot of time. It’s expensive, and excruciatingly difficult to get right. And even when you’ve spent time, money and resources finding the perfect fit – how do you get that person to stay?

Half the battle is retention.

As an HR and benefits professional, you know the key is making your business an attractive place to work. You want to be an employer of choice, and you understand that offering a comprehensive benefits package is important. But how do you stand out from the crowd when you’ve got a limited budget to play with?

The solution is making it relevant, and to do that you need to know your workforce inside out. In order to hook the best talent, you need to understand which benefits matter to your people, on a human and personal level.

Sometimes this requires a little thinking outside the box. If you’ve got a very young workforce, you need to excite them. If you’ve got employees with low income, your focus needs to be on stretching their salary further. It’s not always about money either – sometimes the simplest gestures, like flexible working – so that parents can pick their children up from school, can make your people feel most valued.

If you are going to spend money then you need a benefit that impacts everyone, in order to generate maximum return. You need to offer something that’s measurable, so you can map ROI and prove it’s working. And you need to go above and beyond your bread and butter benefits if you want anyone to take notice.

The truth is, you might not need to invest much money to get an engaged workforce. Success in terms of benefits strategy is getting your employees to draw a higher value from the benefits you offer than it costs you as an employer to provide. Salary is the most expensive way to reward staff, so you want to offer lots of additional exciting benefits as part of a well-rounded total compensation package.

In some cases, educational benefits can have a bigger impact on cementing an employee’s longevity at your company. In the first place you need to make sure you communicate your existing benefits expertly so that your employees are well informed about what’s available to them. Building on that, your employees will love you if you provide useful educational advice such as health or financial wellness initiatives.

By demonstrating that you care about employee wellbeing you may spark their reciprocal buy-in to the business. As a result you’ll decrease turnover, and in turn, impact your bottom line.

(About the Author: The ability to work for a fast growing employee benefits and engagement company called Reward Gateway is never boring. I saw this company grow from 70 employees to 190 in just one year. With brands like IBM, Yahoo, McDonalds and much more under our belt we can say for sure that we are the heavy weight champion in our industry. My position in the company is SMM (Social Media Marketer) which means my priority is to grow our social presence and eventually bring more happy clients that will learn how to engage their employees and see their business grow as a result of the happy employees.)

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Why You're Always the Interviewee and Never Hired

I just finished interviewing potential hires for two open positions at my company, and I was reminded why I founded Come Recommended in the first place.

Back in 2009 when Come Recommended launched, it was a professional networking site for internship and entry-level job candidates and employers. But in order to gain access to the community, all members (including employers) had to “come recommended.”

Our technology allowed potential members to send recommendation invites, which brought recommenders to a page that first asked for their relationship to the candidate or employer and then provided a specific set of questions depending on that relationship. Unlike LinkedIn, Come Recommended members couldn’t choose whether or not to show these recommendations…they immediately appeared on the member’s profile after the recommender hit Submit. Once a member had three recommendations (good or bad), they were granted full access to Come Recommended’s online community.

Why all the trouble just to get into a networking site? Because I was fed up with the exact reason I’m writing this post today: Candidates often look great on paper, only to disappoint majorly at some point during the hiring process. Even though Come Recommended is now a content marketing and digital PR consultancy (I know, complete change of direction), I still find myself butting heads with this issue.

I am convinced — as I have been for a long time — that many more people would be employed if they just took a closer look at what they might be doing “wrong” during their job search.

Instead, they get angry and blame employers and hiring managers for their troubles. Don’t get me wrong, there are way too many companies out there looking for the “perfect” candidate they will never find. But you need to take control of your job search — your career — if you ever hope to be happily employed. And that might even mean paying someone (oh, the horror!) to help you perfect your application materials and hone your job searching skills. Believe it or not, career coaches and resume writers exist to help you — and have valuable skills worth paying for.

I wish I was wrong, I really do. I wish candidates that truly weren’t a good fit for my position looked just as bad on paper as they do during the interview process. Trust me, it would save me a lot of valuable time. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. And that’s not to say these folks aren’t a great fit for some other position out there — they very likely are — but not mine, which is my primary concern.

For one of the two positions I had open, I interviewed approximately 25 people — and had zero problem narrowing the list down to three after interviewing everyone. By their experience on paper (or in this case, their LinkedIn profiles), all 25 should have made excellent hires for this particular position. Why didn’t they? Here are just a few examples:

  • Nervous laughing: I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and call it nervous laughing, although one candidate was laughing so hard during the entire interview that I thought I was being punked on a radio show.
  • Going for a world “you know” record: How many times can someone say “you know” in the same sentence? Six, apparently. In. The. Same. Sentence!
  • Disliking a virtual working environment: One of the questions I ask candidates is what they liked most and what they liked least about their previous positions. One candidate told me she disliked working in a virtual (sometimes called remote or telecommute) environment…which Come Recommended happens to be. (This is made clear in all our job ads.)
  • Calling from a rave: Not one, but two candidates I interviewed had loud music and conversations going on in the background of their interviews. While I can’t confirm they were clubbing, it sure sounded like it.
  • Putting me on hold: Yes, that’s right, one candidate put me on hold for a while to confer with someone else in the room before answering a question.
  • Telling me your life story: The first question I ask candidates is the ol’ “tell me about yourself.” Your answer to this question should be anywhere from 30-90 seconds. Two candidates took 30 minutes (yes, minutes) to respond.
  • Never leaving your script: I have a feeling one candidate got a hold of my full list of interview questions from another candidate…because she stopped me at one point and told me I “missed one” that she really wanted to answer. She proceeded to tell me what the question was and clearly read her answer to it from a piece of paper.
  • Not truly wanting to work for my company: Nothing gets my attention more than a candidate who tells me she’d rather be in grad school or working at a law firm than my company. (Sarcasm.)

Unfortunately, this list could go on…and on. Some of you reading this might not even believe these stories because they seem too (trying not to write “stupid”)…unbelievable. I would never do something like that, you’re thinking. Really, are you sure? What I find unbelievable is that people would purposely tank job interviews. Perhaps it’s time you evaluate what you could be doing wrong in the eyes of hiring managers and recruiters…and do something about it.