Revamping Your Job Descriptions

Keep It Simple

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to consult and/or redevelop job descriptions for several organizations and I’ve discovered a lot of trending issues. Whether you are a Fortune 500 company with a fantastic reputation or a small company just trying to attract new talent, your job description can be the deciding factor of whether or not someone will complete an application. In a recent study by iCIMS, it was noted that 93% of candidates fall out during the application process at the job description step. Could your job description be causing you to lose applicants?

Revamping job descriptions can be a lengthy overhaul depending on how many resources you have or how many job descriptions you have available. However, if you’re looking for something simple, consider changing up the following:

  • Content: Sometimes I come across job descriptions that are so wordy, redundant or overdone that it completely turns me off from even reading it. I’m assuming that’s not a far cry from what candidates are experiencing. People’s attention spans are waning and unnecessarily long job descriptions filled with fluff words and irrelevant information is not going be well accepted. First thing you should do is simplify, cut redundancies or combine points to make it concise. Also, make sure the information makes sense for the audience and demographic. Don’t get too technical for non-technical jobs. Don’t incorporate VP-worthy language for entry-level positions.
  • What you can offer a candidate: Another thing I see in job descriptions is a focus about what the employer wants. They go over the responsibilities/duties. They discuss the requirements and qualifications. Some of the content even comes off as stern when mentioning the absolute must-haves of a candidate. But when all’s said and done, the candidate doesn’t get anything in return. A job description has to answer the candidates’ questions of, “What can this company offer me that another employer can’t?” With more employees having shorter tenure at an employer, an organization would do well if it didn’t assume the candidate needs it or its job. It has to be a balance of give and take and an employer should remember to include attractive information as to why they are an employer of choice.
  • Supplemental information: Job descriptions don’t give a full picture and this is where employer branding comes in. Adding relevant links in the posts, images or videos can allow candidates to investigate the job, department, project and/or company further. This can also create an opportunity to really hook the candidate and get them excited about going through the application process.
  • SEO and keywords: With many job boards and web crawlers out here, your job postings could get lost in the sea of other postings. To ensure you’re getting the most reach and coming up faster in searches, optimize keywords (both in the body and title) and SEO tactics. Coming up faster in the results means more opportunity for applications before the candidates get burnt out from reading job posting after job posting.
  • Company information: Along the lines of supplemental information, be sure to include company information so the candidate can get a better sense of who you are and what industry you’re in. A boiler plate can be sufficient. Taking it a step further, you could even incorporate your EVP.

It’s can be a challenge to gain the attention of candidates to the point that they even consider looking at your job site. But engaging and retaining their attention to the point of completing an application is another thing. Don’t miss your chance to yield applications from qualified candidates—keep it simple!

 

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Branding and Communities: Finding Your Starting Point

blahblahblahLately, I’ve had the opportunity to work on multiple projects that deal with employment branding and talent communities. I’ve come across some fantastic examples while performing research on successful and unsuccessful companies. I’ve been able to consult companies on their current state and provide suggestions for a better strategy. I’ve even had the chance to implement a few initiatives for my own company. It’s been a great learning experience from both research and hands-on experience, however, during this time I’ve also come across a lot of misconceptions regarding this. This simple misconceptions are what’s causing many companies to fail when it comes to maximizing their efforts.

In my time, I’ve seen companies with amazing branding, such as Adobe. I’ve also discovered some unique and fun talent communities, such as Zappos, GE and Accenture. I’ve even had the pleasure of demoing technology such as Work4, which has really added something appealing to social media recruitment and social media talent communities. And tech companies like Ascendify work well when it comes to having the functionality to truly make a talent community work in the way that it has been theorized. All of these things are examples that companies should look to when envisioning their strategy. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Some companies think that creating an email list to blast out their job agents is a talent community. Some companies think that throwing together a little fluff piece about their company culture or a job is employment branding. Neither are the case and, unfortunately, these scenarios are usually run by the same companies who curse communities and branding months down the line when they’ve gained no traction. To have a robust, valuable and engaging community, you not only need the manpower to run it but you also need the content to share. Content can’t only focus on sharing company news, jobs and employment branding, but also educational or informative pieces regarding the industry or job from other sources.

To have a functional employment brand, you need to go beyond the surface and really dig deep. When investigating this for my clients lately, I’ve noticed a lot of the issues seemed to revolve around the fact that they lacked an engaging or defined employee value proposition (EVP) that helped differentiate them from other companies. There were some companies that really didn’t even have one established at all. In my opinion, this is the first thing companies should focus on before they get to branding content and communities. The EVP is the backbone of all of these activities for so many reasons.

The EVP is a way a company defines itself to its employees and candidates. It’s a way of attracting new talent and a reminder as to why current employees would want to stay there. It also acts as the basis of all branding content. It gives branding a purpose, a focus and helps ensure consistency. It establishes a company’s personality and voice. And it helps branders understand what point they’re trying to make when they create content. This should be the starting point and companies should scale back to work on this before anything else.

To have a strong brand and community, companies need to know what they’re promoting. So many companies fail at this or create confusing messages because they haven’t established the consistent voice and message. Without a defined starting point (the EVP), your community messaging will be empty and provide no value. Starting at this point can also make it tremendously easier when moving forward with other parts of the development.

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Virtual Employment for Attraction and Retention

You belong somewhere you feel free

During the HCI event last month, several employers expressed the changes they’re seeing in employment trends. More employees and candidates are aggressive when attempting to progress in their career path and many are willing to make risky moves to get there. Additionally, it was noted that more people are becoming mobile in order to reach their career objectives. Because of this, employers are seeing an influx in voluntary turnover and shorter employment tenure. So, why aren’t employers considering telecommuting or virtual work to help retain their employees?

Over the last two years, I’ve been a full-time virtual employee. I typically receive the same responses whenever mentioning this to new acquaintances, ranging from curiosity, skepticism, envy or disapproving. Many people ask me if I feel isolated or if the lack of face-to-face time has prevented me from moving up within the company. Surprisingly, I’ve progressed faster in my career, learned more and had stronger development opportunities in a virtual setting than I ever had in the office.

Virtual work requires a person to hone in on specific skills or build new ones. It’s all about adaptability and identifying resources to use to your advantage. You learn to be independent due to the lack of “crutches” (aka constant coworker/superior feedback) or validation. This forces you to rely on your own decisions. Also, accountability is a must. The lack of micromanagement allows you to focus on producing results and perfecting processes. Of course, this only can happen if an employer has the infrastructure, processes and leadership to allow employees to succeed. Additionally, communication and collaboration tools are necessary to understand employees’ skillsets and help develop them for career succession.

Over the last week, I spent some time researching if more employers have embraced virtual employment options. Much to my dismay, the majority of the positions I’ve come across dealt with customer service (contact center, reservations, etc.), sales, consultants for software development and recruiting. Many of the positions were contract or freelance opportunities. I was surprised that more employers aren’t opening up to additional full-time positions that can be virtual, nor creating opportunities for internal mobility to higher-level positions. I’ve been someone who’s experienced both… and I continue to be successful this way. Sky’s the limit for my career potential as long as my employer has opportunities to support it.

Virtual employment can help retain employees for a couple of reasons:

  • It allows them to have better personal opportunities: We all hear about work-life balance or work-life blending. The point is, people have other needs outside of the workplace. For example, my fiancé recently got a fantastic job promotion that would require us to relocate 1,000 miles away. There were no second thoughts about accepting it. All I did was take a couple of PTO days to move and I was set. I didn’t have to worry about quitting my job or dealing with a lapse in compensation when I was struggling to find work. The process was very seamless.
  • It allows employers to find and develop talent: there are plenty of people within the country that may possess some amazing skills but might not be located near a major branch or headquarters. Organizations can utilize this talent by offering them employment without requiring them to relocate. This can be the same deal if an employee is ready to be promoted but can’t relocate. Rather than giving them the less-than-ideal options of staying underemployed, relocating or forcing them to consider another employer in order to move up in their career, a virtual option can help retain an employee while giving them internal mobility.
  • It focuses on what matters: Results. Much like the purpose of ROWE (results only work environment), virtual work can be supportive of a results-focused situation. Micromanagement is disengaging and sometimes people don’t perform their best work during normal business hours. Being strapped to a desk can lower productivity. And maybe some people thrive when they’re blasting music, while others might prefer a quiet workspace with no distractions. Virtual work makes it easier for people to find their happy place without having to deal with formal requests or pushback from their peers.

Virtual employment can be a fantastic opportunity for both employer and employee, as long as it’s done right. Consulting an Organizational Development Specialist and researching technology to ensure a virtual environment can function the same as a traditional environment will be necessary.

If you’re curious to know more how virtual employment and virtual internal mobility works, ask me! I’ll be happy to tell you about my ongoing career story. Connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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Recap: HCI’s 2014 Strategic Talent Acquisition Conference

HCI

While living in South Carolina, I obtained the majority of my professional development though social media discussions, webinars and networking calls. Although these were tremendous in helping me learn about things outside of my education and work experience, I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing an instrumental piece of my professional growth and believed conferences and workshops were going to be a major player in taking it to the next level. When I first found out I was moving to Boston, I was excited about the possibility of attending professional networking events. As luck would have it, two months after I moved, I was given the opportunity to attend the Human Capital Institute (HCI) event in the Seaport District last week. And it was exactly what I needed.

Usually I follow trends and conference updates by checking out the live hashtag streams. For example, the hashtag for this particular conference was #HCIevents and I made sure I made good use of it. Aside from seeing some of my coworkers and meeting ones who I haven’t met yet, I was able to take everything in through my own perspective. Overstimulated doesn’t quite cover my experience, but I mean it in the best way. From checking out some of the vendor booths and learning about new technologies, to attending presentation sessions and networking opportunities, I felt like I learned a lot.

Three sessions I really enjoyed the most were:

  • “Engaging Your Community Intelligently” presented by GE’s Recruitment Technology Manager, Shahbaz Alibaig. Talent communities have continued to be a hot topic in talent acquisition. Even now, I’m currently part of a task force to research, identify and develop one for a current client, which has been both exciting and frustrating. I’ve built my own ideas by pulling together pieces of theory and concept and considered the uses for our current needs. However, I had yet to see a successful talent community that I could compare it to. Thankfully, the presentation Shahbaz shared was rich with information, both confirming the concepts were on the right track and also sharing information worth thinking about, such as how workforce planning and forecasting impacts the community engagement goals.
  • “Employment and Consumer Brands: The Heart and Soul of Your Company” presented by Royal Bank of Canada’s Director of Employment Brand, Estela Vazquez Perez. At the close of 2013, I identified my 2014 professional goals and employment branding was one of them. During the presentation, Estela shared some interesting statistics and metrics that made it clear which key drivers were behind a strong brand. It isn’t just about promoting your company as the best of the best, but rather forming your brand to shift focus on candidate and employee trends. Understanding their values, drivers and needs is a starting point for companies to link the dots between those things and find a meaningful connection. Where can this information come from? The HR department. Employment branding initiatives NEED to include HR more, as their information is going to make the difference.
  • “How HR Innovators are Reinventing the Future of Talent Acquisition” moderated by Elance, with panelists from Krash, CustomMade and Bit9. This conversation was very unique and eye opening because they were able to emphasize the changes in talent acquisition from their own hiring experiences. With these companies focusing on the “free agent” and independent employees, it was important to learn that these types of workers will be making up 50% of the workforce by 2020. Not to mention, gen Y is changing the game, consistently raising the bar, ramping up quickly and is not afraid to move on to better opportunities. HR and talent acquisition need to invest in workforce forecasting and planning as the years press on. With long-term employment becoming a thing of a past, what are we doing to prepare AND accommodate the change in employment trends?

After all was said and done, I had a moment to sit down and charge up my phone. As I was waiting there, I ended up chatting with a few other attendees. Needless to say, it was so nice to “nerd out” with people who are in my industry, know what I’m talking about and are equally as passionate. Simple conversations with strangers had taught me just as much as those sessions and I can’t wait until the next opportunity to attend another conference.

Interested in these topics? Be sure to review the #HCIevents hashtag on Twitter.

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Employee Retention: Is Offering More Time Off the Answer?

Out of office

Losing an employee can have negative impacts on an organization, even if the separation was initiated by the employer. Despite terminating an employee for poor performance or something else unsavory, the cost of replacing them can add up. From recruiting costs, time and lack of productivity due to being short-staffed, employers need to consider all that goes into this. But what about voluntary turnover? How can this unexpected disruption in the company’s workforce make a difference?

Regardless of the situation, human resources professionals understand the importance of employee retention and are consistently considering ways to make their offerings, benefits and perks better to stay competitive and attractive to their employees and future hires. Offering things like free lunch, tuition reimbursement, bonuses/incentives, training and development or flexible work schedule have all been things companies incorporated into their offerings, but what happens if that’s not enough?

All of these things can cater to different employees’ needs, but truth be told, employers can’t always offer everything that matters to employees. As we discuss the importance of work/life balance, employees are consistently encouraged to take their vacation time but with a capped amount of paid time off, many employees have actually taken less time off despite having it. This could be due to various reasons, ranging from: stress from getting behind in work and/or coming back to a large workload; determining what’s worth taking time off for; or worries something important will come up after all paid time off (PTO) has been used. I know I’ve even been guilty of saving vacation time only to reach the end of the year and realize I have a ton of days left that will be lost. So what can employers do? Remove the limit.

In my career, I’ve come across many companies that have removed the limitations of PTO. Some of the most interesting concepts I’ve come across are as follows:

  • Breaks for learning: A little over a year ago, I came across a few technology companies that offered their employees several weeks off a year for learning. I thought this was brilliant and felt the employer most likely would progress because employees are bringing back outside learning and applying to their work. Employees are given the freedom to learn about the things that truly inspire and interest them without the stress of having to take time off to do it. And the employer benefits because these new insights can help the organization progress in a way they wouldn’t have otherwise.
  • Sabbaticals: A company I interviewed with about 3 years ago offered month long sabbaticals for every three years of employment. Throughout my career, I’ve had many coworkers quit their jobs to take time off to travel, find their calling or soul search. Perhaps this is more common in younger generations before they have the responsibility of taking care of children, pets and mortgages, but with the influx of generation Y coming into the workforce, it’s something employers need to be prepared for more and more. Rather than lose employees due to their wanderlust or desire to get involved in personal projects, employers offer these sabbaticals to allow them to do the things they want to do without losing their key employees. Pair this with good workforce planning, and employers would be likely to incur less costs than if an employee quit.
  • Unlimited vacation time: Another company I’ve interviewed with also offered unlimited vacation time. I asked them how this affected productivity if employees took time off constantly but learned that it didn’t make much of a difference as if they were capped. The reason was because this structure led to accountability and reward. Employees are able to take unlimited time off if they finished projects and completed work on time. This offered them a little more flexibility in their schedules to get their work done and the reward for finishing projects early or on time was something that kept the team motivated.

Are these options feasible for every employer? Of course not. But in the pursuit to find retention initiatives, this should be considered. Employees can’t get everything they want out of life from their employer and may occasionally come to a crossroad between work and personal desires. Employers offering better PTO benefits might help mediate a person’s individual work/life balance needs.

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The Importance of Accurate Interview Notes

Interviews have evolved. No longer do people go through one or two face-to-face interviews before landing a job. The interview process has become more complex, with variations of interview options and multiple people involved in the process. With that in mind, it’s not impossible for candidate information and responses to get lost in translation. Could interviewers create issues by filling in the blanks while writing up their interview notes?

Recently, I’ve been thrown back into the trenches of recruiting. Although my current job deals with strategy, it’s amazing to see how much recruiting has progressed since the time I’ve been directly involved in it and it’s great to remember all the little things that go into the recruiting and interviewing process, from sourcing, to outreach, interviewing and submittals. In the current project I’m involved in, we’re even utilizing the live video interviewing technology. And as always, HR compliance is definitely stressed through this process.

As I’ve been going through the interviews and getting back into the swing of things, I recall the importance of keeping interviews conversational. Rather than interrogative, it’s important to cover the questions on the interview screener and even more important to ask follow up questions throughout the process.

But why are follow up questions important?

As the candidate is moved throughout the process, many people will come in contact with them. From recruiters, hiring managers, department heads, and so on, many people will be interviewing them on different things. And, as such, many people will rely on the previous interviewer’s notes to get a background story prior to interviewing them. Certain questions need to be documented and a detailed synopsis should be written up and passed on to the next interviewer. But what happens if responses get misconstrued?

Communication is fascinating and many different people can perceive the same information in different ways. Additionally, people’s minds can connected points A to B with little information. But, how things are understood (or misunderstood) and people’s ability to fill in the blanks can affect the end result of what the candidate really meant. This can skew information and potentially disqualify a candidate from progressing when they were actually a great fit.

So recruiters, don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions. Don’t even be afraid to touch base with a candidate after an interview for further clarification. It’s better to cover your bases than miss out on a great hire.

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Simple Steps to Boost Your Employer Brand

 

 

Love Your Job

As employment branding continues to be a trend in talent acquisition, more organizations are starting to see the positive effects of this, while others are sensing competitive pressures by not having one. As more job seekers become advised about performing their due diligence and researching a company before applying or interviewing, companies need to take stock of what a seeker would see if they did a basic search of the organization. Will the company have a robust presence on social media and enticing career pages, or will their social media pages seem abandoned and will the career page fall flat?

Of course, there are plenty of companies who have an amazing brand, but some of them also have a person or team of people dedicated to managing it. But, what about the companies that don’t have the resources or budget to hire a full time employee or consultant? Do they miss out on the chance of showcasing their culture just because they don’t have the means to do it? The answer is no.

There are plenty of simple things that companies can do to build some traction on their brand, and it doesn’t require a full time person to manage it. It’s simply about optimizing on the things occurring at your organization day in and day out and repurposing it for branding. The person contributing to this effort doesn’t need to be a marketing guru or recruiting genius, but someone who understands the fundamentals of both and who has a little extra time in their work week to keep initiatives consistent.

Below are a few easy things to boost your brand:

  • Social platforms: There’s no denying how useful social media can be when it comes to getting your company’s name out there. Some of the best brands even have dedicated profiles for their jobs or specific job roles. Of course, managing a bunch of profiles can be a huge undertaking. In this case, simply using your established company profiles to include employment branding can be perfect. Ensure you’re regularly scheduling out jobs, events and things showcasing your culture. All it takes is a few minutes a week to schedule out consistent messages through tools like Hootsuite. Just make sure whoever’s managing the profiles also remembers to check and respond to messages in a timely manner.
  • “A Day in the Life” campaigns: When candidates research your company, they’re trying to get the most accurate picture of what it’s like to work there. Including little blogs, short videos or employee Q&A sessions can give them exactly what they’re looking for. Take time to connect with internal recruitment and find out what hot jobs they’re recruiting for and then connect with those currently in the position. Taking time to interview them or get some candid feedback about the aspects of their jobs, why they like it and any interesting facts can help you build that content easily. Keep it authentic—include the good and the mundane aspects. That can allow candidates to get a realistic preview of the job.
  • Employee testimonials: Employee testimonials are considered heavily by candidates, so be sure to consider these in your branding efforts. Creating a Glassdoor campaign to get consistent (and candid) reviews is one suggestion. Also, including employee spotlight features on social media or your career pages can be another simple way to boost the brand. Get a quote or two about why they like working at the company or in the specific job.
  • Sharing events: Your company participates in several events a year and this can be a great way to showcase your culture and happenings. From pot lucks, birthdays, “wins”, conferences, holiday events, social responsibilities and just general good times, this can be opportune for getting visual content. Snap a picture or take short videos. Make sure they’re edited and post away on social media, eblasts or the career sites.
  • Optimizing career pages: I have come across career pages that are so boring, it actually turned me off from the company. Even if they were a reputable company with good opportunities, a bad career page can have adverse effects. This is the time you can hype up a candidate and it’s the homestretch before whether they apply to a job or not. Even if you don’t build out multiple pages to highlight specific things like benefits/perks, corporate social responsibility, and so on, it’s still an opportunity to build out the content on one. What differentiates your company? What can you offer your employees? Why should someone want to work for you? Keep these questions in mind when including key information. Also be sure to include the content you’ve been creating for the branding initiatives, and if possible, feeds to your social sites.

Building a brand doesn’t have to be as involved or as intimidating as some companies might think. It’s just a matter of staying timely, consistent and well-rounded. Dedicating some time to this regularly will build up your content quickly.

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