Recruiters: Pick Up the Phone

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post covering some of my findings during an independent research project regarding recruitment shortcomings. Mainly, my discoveries covered a multitude of faux pas regarding initial resume screening and outreach. Some situations were commonly found within the industry, while others were inexcusable. Mostly, though, it seemed to boil down to the fact that these issues could be attributed to poor training and/or unrealistic and irrelevant goals and metrics. Unfortunately, these issues continue on to other areas of the recruitment process, creating new opportunities for poor candidate experience. Let me tell you about the latest blunder I’ve come across…

They tell you that you should always be passively looking for new career opportunities, no matter how loyal and happy you are at your job. You never know what could happen, such as: layoffs; a new manager who is a bad fit; lack of job growth and/or salary growth; relocation; unethical situations from leadership; and so on. There are plenty of reasons why a person should always be building relationships with potential employers. With the recruitment process being somewhat longer than in years past, it’s best to get a head start in case you suddenly find yourself in a less-than-desirable situation with your current employer.

With that being said, I decided to investigate my new stomping ground of Boston and passively see what was out there. Moving from South Carolina up to this city, I was sure that there’d be plenty of opportunities for HR and talent acquisition at desirable companies. Plus, I already had my resume out there for the resume research project and had received plenty of calls and emails from recruiters. Why not actually speak to a few… or should I say TRY to speak to?

Here’s a recent situation that had me shaking my head and really question companies’ approach to talent acquisition. Recently, I was sought out for an HR coordinator role at a Fortune 100 global company. I was intrigued to see what it was all about, being that the company had a well-known consumer brand and is huge. After getting an email from the recruiter requesting some more information about my background, I decided to take a peek at their Glassdoor page. It had no branding and had some fairly low ratings. Normally, that would be a red flag for me but I decided to feel it out instead to really see if it was that bad or if it was just because a specific business unit or location drove down the ratings.

I emailed the recruiter back with the details they were asking for. It was pretty standard and I assumed that I would either never hear from them again, would get a phone call to set up a phone screen or would receive a generic rejection email. I was surprised to get an email back from the recruiter in less than 12 hours requesting more information again, however, this time it was 10 specific questions. As I reviewed the questions, I realized they would have been typical questions you would ask a candidate in a phone screen. I thought it was odd but I complied anyway just to see where it was going. After submitting my answers, I then received a new email asking to meet with him and the HR Director for a 3 hour interview on-site by the end of the week.

It is a candidate’s dream to have such quick turnaround and responsiveness from a recruiter. But, for that quick turn around and for a request for such a formal interview without even being screened seemed sketchy. I did research on the recruiter to double-check that it wasn’t a scam or that it wasn’t a third-party agency. I found that the recruiter was in fact an in-house senior talent acquisition manager for the company. I also verified that the name of the director was correct. My mind was reeling at the fact that the talent acquisition department of a well-known company would be that archaic. Not once did I receive a single phone call from anyone at this company, even if it was to simply schedule the on-site interview. There was no personal interaction whatsoever and I was unappreciative that they didn’t take the time to at least phone screen me. The reason being is that the phone screen isn’t just for a company to feel out a candidate, but it’s also an opportunity for a candidate to feel out the company. Maybe the position wasn’t a right fit, maybe the salary was too low or maybe the culture was not aligned with what I was looking for.

The next thing that bugged me was the fact that I didn’t have an opportunity to ask them anything about the role or company, but they knew plenty about me, especially the fact that I’m working full-time. Why would I waste 3 hours (not including travel time) to meet with a company that I knew nothing about? For all I know, I could have gone to an interview to find out this position was not at all what I was looking for. Do companies actually think passive candidates (especially employed ones) have time to waste by blindly walking into a time-consuming interview? Needless to say, I passed on the opportunity. For someone who is involved in HR and talent acquisition, I could easily tell that these processes seemed to be stuck in the past and there would be no way I could work at a company that wasn’t progressive, especially with things like candidate experience and recruitment in general. I understand that technology is changing the way people communicate, but I just found the lack of personal communication to be unacceptable.

Maybe the position was a great one and would have offered a competitive salary for the new increased cost of living I’m experiencing. Maybe the company actually was progressive and the HR and TA departments would have offered me the best career development experience I’ve ever had. I’ll never know, though, because the recruiter never took the time to pick up the phone to establish that relationship with me and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who’s experienced this before. Unfortunately, companies who don’t train their recruiters to provide a better candidate experience will be missing out on amazing talent, both active and passive. It’s sad to know that during my research I have only experienced a couple positive and impressive interactions. It really makes me wonder what happened to the recruiting profession.

Poor training doesn’t stop at initial outreach. Companies need to focus on a well-rounded training program that teaches their teams to provide a seamless and positive candidate experience from initial resume screening all the way to onboarding. That’s the ticket to building a strong pipeline of engaged talent that will eventually convert into engaged new hires.

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Recruiter Training: Are We Focusing on the Wrong Things?

A few months back, I wrote a blog covering the recruiter faux-pas my friends had been experiencing during their active and passive job searches. Coming from a talent acquisition background, I was frustrated with the consistency of bad communications, outreach, general recruitment and interview processes. It brought to light the reasons why candidates are so turned off by the process of finding a job. Being out of the job hunt for a couple of years now, I decided to try a little experiment to see what candidates are facing.

Now living in a city much bigger than Charleston, I believed there would be many more job opportunities and it would be a prime time to do this research. About two months ago, I decided to put my resume out there as an active job seeker. I posted on the mainstream job boards, such as CareerBuilder, Indeed and Monster. I updated my social media profiles, About.me and LinkedIn. I uploaded my resume on more job-specific boards, joined talent communities and applied to a few jobs for good measure. The results were horrendous.

I thought this would have been a no brainer for recruiters. I have a bachelor’s with a focus in human resources and I’ve spent the last 4+ years working in human resources and talent acquisition roles. I even included links to my social media profiles and this very blog just to give a clearer picture of my skills beyond my traditional resume, if the recruiters decided they wanted dig a litter deeper. I was spoon-feeding them. I was making it easy. So why were the results so abysmal?

Out of all the recruiter responses I’ve received, only 20% have contacted me with something remotely relevant to my background. Even worse, not a single person has presented an opportunity that met my distinct criteria (which wasn’t even that picky – I just simply stated a full-time role within 25 miles of my current location). To summarize what I’ve experienced:

  • I’ve received calls about jobs in sales, web development, data entry, filing and entry-level call center
  • I’ve been offered jobs around minimum wage, which living in Boston wouldn’t get me very far
  • I’ve received calls about week-long jobs or 3 month contracts across the country
  • I’ve had non-stop calls from the same recruiters on a daily basis for weeks on end, but not a single email from them
  • I’ve even heard the gimmicky FOMO tactic, “I don’t want you to miss out on this fantastic opportunity!”
  • I’ve had discussions with people who sounded like they were reading off a script, completely dehumanizing the conversation
  • I’ve seen emails with gross misspellings and general spam
  • I’ve talked with sourcers (both internal and agency) that seemed to be clueless on what the job duties were for what they were recruiting
  • I’ve talked to people who had no job descriptions and no compensation details

I could hear the sales-pitch and franticness in some of their tones. It’s just getting bad.

Is it all the recruiter’s fault for being terrible at matching skills and general communications? Of course not. But having worked in agency, RPO and corporate recruitment roles the past, I can tell you that recruiters are trained differently in different environments…. if they’re trained at all. I have noticed over the years that business is rapidly growing and there’s an urgency to find talent, throwing training to the wayside to ensure a fast ramp-up. And the metrics I’ve seen recruiters held to are a little ridiculous. Most of them make absolutely no sense when it comes to ensuring quality talent is being found. Do I understand urgency in filling positions might cause hiccups in process flows? Sure do. But at what cost?

Lack of adequate new hire training and on-going training is causing our industry to become just as bad as the creepy “used car salesman”. Poorly designed performance measurement tools and metrics are causing people to feel like they have to cut corners in order to meet unrealistic expectations to ensure job security. Bad habits are being passed along during peer-to-peer job shadowing and training. In the end, it’s the candidates that are suffering. Also, the companies are suffering when they’re not getting the talent they need. And unfortunately, some hiring managers don’t have the luxury to hold off for the right talent and sometimes they do have to settle for someone presented sooner than later. But, shouldn’t it be the recruiter’s duty to at least try to find the best talent they can in that timeframe who won’t be likely to quit within the first 90 days?

It is a sad state of affairs, my friends. But one that can be fixed. If you’re in a position to implement changes, you need to at least make the effort. Don’t turn a blind eye just because you’re hitting your SLAs and getting butts in seats. Quality matters. Ensuring your recruiters are meeting REAL performance indicators matters. Creating a better candidate experience so candidates actually WANT to call your recruiters back matters. Ensuring the positions you are filling don’t become vacant again in less than 6 months matters.

And if you’re a recruiter reading this, you still can make a difference in your own work. I understand that sometimes you might not have the support from managers or leadership, nor know where you need to go to find it. I’ve been there before – I get it. But there is a plethora of resources out there in our industry that you can utilize to help you fill the voids in your training. Sure, it might be a little extra work to dedicate to independent learning and development, but it’s well worth it if you feel like you can keep your integrity intact.

I was by no means an ideal recruiter and I’m sure I’ve made some of the aforementioned mistakes above. However, the difference is to be self-aware of these things and to take the necessary measures to ensure our industry doesn’t come crumbling down on us, even if that means taking your training into your own hands.

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Recruiters: How Deep Does Your Research Go?

Richard Branson Reputation Quote

Lately, I’ve somehow found myself in the position of an informal career coach. I’ve been assisting job seekers who have been off the job market for several years and who were overwhelmed and intimidated by the way this whole process has changed. I was able to guide them through the process, from resume writing, personal branding, researching companies, and developing questions to ask during the interviews. As I went through this journey with them, I was surprised to learn that some of these questions have left recruiters scratching their heads. When I recalled my own experience in recruiting, I remember being in the same boat as these individuals. It wasn’t until later in my recruiting career that I realized how important it was to do deep research about a company to be able to confidently provide the information that these candidates wanted to hear.

To really create a positive and informative candidate experience during the interview process, a recruiter has to think like a candidate thinks. I know when I was a job seeker, the first thing I would do was essentially stalk anything and everything about a company before my interview. If I came across something negative, I wanted it cleared up early in the process so I knew whether or not to move forward. When applying this knowledge to my recruiting career, I noticed a huge difference. Transparency helped me build a trust with my candidates and they felt more confident when it came down to making a decision.

How can recruiters go the extra mile?

  • Talk to people within the company: Even if you work at the company you’re currently recruiting for, it’s important to speak to several people in different roles or departments. Getting an overall idea of employees’ opinions of the company can help you paint a solid picture for your candidate. So rather than saying, “It’s a great place to work,” you’re able to provide several perspectives, making your examples well-rounded.
  • Check out reviews on Glassdoor: Alright, I get it. I’m kind of a snob when it comes to this point but it’s definitely something that needs to be discussed. I’ve had plenty of job seekers tell me that they completely stumped a recruiter when they referenced specifics from these reviews. Needless to say, the job seekers would drop out of the interview process because they felt like there was a disconnect or that the company was potentially hiding something.
  • Know your employer brand: Employment branding is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Being on the marketing side of things, I see the amount of effort companies put into their brand to make sure they have various examples of why working for the company is great. The content put out can be a fantastic resource to provide to the candidates and can help keep them engaged throughout the process.
  • Do a deep Google search: What’s your reputation? Employment branding and content pushed out by a company attempts to paint the company in the best light, but what about the stuff that WASN’T put out by the company? What are brand ambassadors, customers, clients and/or competitors saying? Do credible news sources or amateur bloggers have something worthy of sharing? Are your employees bashing or praising the company on social media? Knowing these things beforehand can help you discredit things that aren’t true, give a deeper explanation for things that are, or promote things that are aligned to what the candidate values.

When I started doing this in my own recruiting practices, I was able to really make the most out of my conversations with candidates. If they mentioned something they were interested in, I had the specific details they needed. If they were concerned about something, I was able to ease their mind or give them the hard facts so they could make the call. If I was a job seeker, I would hope that the interviewer would do the same for me. After all, job seeking is hard these days and accepting a job offer can be nerve-wracking.  Essentially, a candidate is making a big decision based on referrals and other people’s opinions. It would make a huge difference if recruiters were able to incorporate these details during the interview loop.

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Showing Your Candidates That They Matter

Recently, I was having a discussion about the importance of the candidate experience with a friend. She’s a job seeker and was expressing her stress and frustration when it came to customize every single cover letter, resume, and letter of interest. It’s time consuming and exhausting. In the end, she sometimes only receives a generic e-mail back stating that her resume was received or that the company was going to “pursue other candidates that more closely fit their needs.” And just like that, it was all the interaction she got. Cold, human-less, and impersonal. We make candidates jump through all these hoops, but why aren’t recruiters held to the same standards? Recently, I came across an article on CoderWall and it really got me thinking about the messages we send to candidates.

The article on CoderWall discussed the issues with recruiting tech talent. I’m currently recruiting for tech talent and I know that it’s definitely not easy. This talent is in demand and more often than not, they get to pick and choose their opportunities. But regardless of this industry, the statements made in the article can ring true for any industry. With options like LinkedIn messages, e-mail templates, and automated messages, recruiters are able to increase the amount of people they contact in less time. But just because we have these tools doesn’t mean we should get lazy or abuse them, right?

Stacy Donovan Zapar also wrote a recent blog about spammy messages to candidates, which just continues to show that candidates are sick of our lack of personalization. How can we expect candidates to respect us or even be interested in talking to us when it seems like we didn’t invested a couple minutes to read about their personal experiences? We make them customize their messages to show us how they would fit in our job opening but shouldn’t we be doing the same?

Have I been guilty of shooting out generic messages to candidates in the past? Unfortunately, yes. And I realized that it’s no way to build a relationship. I’m not saying that templates are a bad thing. It could make it easier to include the job details you don’t want to have to rewrite over and over again. But it’s important to leave a section of your message open for editing based on each individual. Read their profiles, research their blogs/portfolios, check out their skill sections, and so on.  When you message them, include the things you researched. Maybe even ask them how they apply that to their current job or side project. There are plenty of ways to uniquely humanize your messages for each individual candidate.

I know that I’m instantly impressed by candidates who take the time to customize their letters of interest or cover letters for a job opening I have. I appreciate what they did and it makes me want to talk to them because they seem like they care. I’m sure that candidates feel the same about our messages to them. So let’s raise the bar and show these candidates why they matter to us.

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The Candidate Experience Faux Pas

SmartRecruiters

Last week on #tchat, we discussed the importance of the candidate experience. A few job seekers and candidates were very interested in hearing what this all meant. Some have been out of the job hunting scene for several years so they didn’t realize how the whole interviewing experience had changed into something more than simply submitting a resume and having a quick interview or two. These days, landing a job is a process and candidates may come into contact with several different people throughout the interview cycle. In the end, a candidate may decide whether or not they accept employment at your company due to their experiences. If this is the case, how do you think your company would stack up?

There are so many scenarios that a candidate can face while applying and interviewing for a job. Is your company an offender of any of these things:

  • The black hole: a candidate applies to a job posting and never hears back from anyone. Several months still pass by and there is not even so much as a generic email letting them know the status of their resume.
  • The disengaged recruiter: sometimes, recruiters are so overwhelmed with candidates that they only have a few minutes to chat to each one before determining if they’re going to move them forward or not. Sometimes, recruiters may realize within the first few minutes of their conversation that the candidates are not a match. In these circumstances, there are plenty of times that candidates can blatantly tell that the recruiter is rushing through the interview, not completely listening, or only half-heartedly conversing with them.
  • “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”: a candidate might make it to the phone interview round or even make it through several steps of the interview process. The recruiters or hiring managers will promise to give them an update, provide feedback, or set them up with the next step and suddenly fall off the face of the earth. A candidate may reach out to find out when to expect an update and the recruiter becomes unresponsive, leaving the candidate to come up with their own conclusions.
  • The unrealistic job preview: candidates may speak to the recruiters and hiring managers about the job, expectations, company culture, and so on, which may have been displayed in a glorified version. The candidate gets hyped up about the opportunity and excitedly accepts a job offer only to discover that it was not at all like it was advertised.

Although there are plenty of other situations that candidates experience aside from the ones listed above, the important thing to remember is that none of these things are good. A candidate experience is crucial when it comes to attracting talent. This experience can even affect candidates other than the ones that have applied to your jobs or have interviewed with you. A candidate’s experience with you can define how external individuals review your employer brand. What’s more, their experiences can be easily shared with others thanks to social media, blogs, technology, and sites like Glassdoor.

So maybe that candidate wasn’t a fit for your job. That’s completely fine, not everyone is going to be. But how did you treat them? Did you leave them feeling positive about your organization or job regardless if they didn’t get it? Do you feel like they would tell others to apply to your company? Would they want to give you referrals?

If they did accept a job after having a bad experience, how do you think they would perform? Would they lose respect for your organization? Would they be disengaged? Would they already be looking for other opportunities, ready to abandon ship once they found something better?

How you treat your candidates matters in more ways than just for those who you’ve directly interviewed with. It affects your organization’s brand and reputation. It affects your internal employees’ morale. It can help or hurt your engaged and interested talent pool. It can aid or hinder your ability to reel in passive candidates.

Being a job seeker is tough these days. Keep this in mind and think of how you would feel if the roles were reversed. It can help you provide an experience that these candidates deserve.

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Is the Candidate Experience Affecting your Company’s Reputation

I know quite a few months back, I wrote about the importance of the candidate experience. At that time, I was going through some hardcore job seeking and came across many different ways that companies handled their interviewing processes. Some were amazing experiences, some were a little weird, and some were awful. After a while, I took some time to research as much as I could about companies in order to better prepare myself whenever I did land an interview. Surprisingly, I learned that I was not the only one trying to learn about the interview processes at companies and many other candidates have even posted information about their interview experiences.

As a candidate, it’s amazing to come across this information. It can help you be prepared for the types of questions the interviewer might ask, how long the interview process will be, and so on. As a company, having that sort of information exposed can be terrifying. Not because candidates have a “cheat sheet” to your interviewing process, but because candidates can rate their experience with you. These candid responses can either help or hurt your employer brand and can affect the way you are able to successfully attract and engage quality talent.

As a talent acquisition specialist, I often tell my candidates to go to the website www.glassdoor.com to read up about the company I’m recruiting them for. I say to them, “I can tell you that a company is great but that will only weigh so much because you know that I’m trying to sell you on this position. Do yourself a favor and read about it from the people who have actually worked there.” After they did so, I’ve had plenty of candidates come back to me telling me how excited they were to move through the interview process. I’ve also had candidates come back to me with concerns about some of the things they learned about the company. I often try to bring this to the company’s attention when I can so they can clarify anything and ease a candidate’s mind (or do some damage control.)

Technology makes it extremely easy to research anything. Every candidate experience you provide can be scrutinized publicly. It’s important to remember these sorts of things and handle every situation with respect and care. I would also suggest that employers regularly take time to research themselves and see what their talent community is saying about them. This can help them find out which areas they can improve on in hopes to attract the best talent and keep them engaged throughout the whole process.

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Job Shadowing as Part of the Interview Process

Recently, some business contacts and I were discussing some of the issues that HR and companies face in terms of turn-over. Of course, we dissected the many reasons why employees decided to voluntarily leave: pay; lack of advancement; culture issues; and so on. One of the other issues that I had mentioned was the fact that employees feel like they weren’t given a realistic preview of the job before accepting the role. This had us all thinking about our interview processes. Many interview processes have extended from a simple face to face into a longer interview cycle. These cycles can include phone screen, face to face meetings with several members of the team/organization, and presentations. Even after all of those different scenarios, employees still feel that this is the case. So what could we do better?

I thought about all of the interviews I’ve been a participant of over the years and considered the details. Many of the interviews were informative, both over the phone and face to face. The recruiters and hiring managers took the time to interview my skill-set and was also open to answering questions I had about the company, the day-to-day, and the expectations. And although that might seem sufficient, I realized it really wasn’t.

It wasn’t until I experience an interview that involved a 2 hour to half day job shadowing session that I really felt like I got a good sense of the job. In this session, I took time to sit down with multiple people in the organization: people I’d work directly with on a team; people that I would support; and department managers. In each of these instances, the person I was shadowing would take time to show me what their role entailed in a hands-on way. I was visually able to see their to-do lists, the systems they used, their processes, and so on. Additionally, I was able to take notes, ask them questions, and get a better understanding of how it all worked. This also allowed the person who was “interviewing me” to see how much I truly understood about the job and really actually see if the experience I claimed to have was legitimate.

In addition to getting a realistic view of the role, the company, and the people I would potentially be working with; this also gave the company an opportunity to get a deeper understanding of how I would fit in. They tested my knowledge, they saw how I was responding, and they saw how I interacted with different members of the organization. This was a fantastic way to not only see if the role/candidate was a match but if the candidate/company also had a cultural and value match. It helped me feel extremely confident when it came to deciding whether or not it I would be happy in this role and company. It ensured that surprises were limited and I knew what I was getting myself into. And vice versa.

Although recruiting and interview processes are extensive as it is, I would love it if more companies took the time to include this in their interview loop. I would be curious to know if this could help limit the turnover of employees, whether voluntarily or not. I know it made a huge impact and difference in my candidate experience.

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