RPO & StaffingTalent Acquisition

A Healthy Codependency



Why the interconnection of employment branding and employee engagement means resumes are history.
By Brent Skinner


Engagement has become a cliché. But clichés are clichés for good reason, and recruiters have several good reasons for improving the ways they engage jobseekers.

Done well, engagement enriches the soil that feeds employment branding when that enrichment matters most—at the first impression. In turn, a strong employment brand serves as an excellent foundation for engagement. In other words, interrelations between engagement and employment branding are complex and the benefits two-way: High-quality engagement at once launches and reflects strong employment branding.

If engagement is the lifeblood of the employment brand, HR technology holds the promise of improving blood flow. While plenty of HR technologies can facilitate engagement, however, they can just as easily muddy communication between recruiters and job candidates to the point that the technology itself throws obstacles in the way. The result is disaster: Operating within dysfunctional recruiting or hiring ecosystems, otherwise good employment brands miss their chance to resonate at the most important time: the very beginning of the communication process.

Fear Static, Seek Clarity
"It’s not really the technology that’s detrimental," says Kevin W. Grossman, chief marketplace evangelist for HR Marketer. "Even the most basic of old school applicant tracking systems can improve employment brand if used correctly and to its fullest potential. Problem is, they’re not."

HR technology does amplify the noise that the preponderance of jobseekers and recruiters out there generate, and that noise in turn deafens jobseekers and recruiters. It’s circular, but true. Sure, all that technology theoretically aids the listening process, but only when the players can focus and select a tightly defined portfolio of tools in order to hear each other. Maybe it’s a portfolio of one.

"Great firms are always looking for great talent," says Brin McCagg, co-founder of OneWire Inc. "Without question, the number one priority is to get top people, but they often lack the tools to do that as well as possible. The Internet makes the ‘war for talent’ far noisier, even as it presents myriad additional opportunities to find talent. There’s noise on both sides."

For any hiring authority that uses OneWire, jobseekers have an easily navigable alternative to clunky, legacy application tracking systems. A less-than-desirable ATS can frustrate candidates and prompt the best and least desperate of them—precisely the candidates employers need—to abandon the application process and move on to hiring organizations whose processes are more intuitive and less rote, tedious, repetitive, or excessively lengthy. By contrast, through the product’s latest version, candidates have the ability not only to sign-up for or sign-in to a OneWire account using their LinkedIn or Facebook credentials, but also to use information from their LinkedIn or Facebook accounts to create or update their OneWire profiles quickly and easily.

"Firms that use OneWire may source candidates in a very precise way," says McCagg. "And candidates sit back and get matched. The more that jobseekers build out their profiles, the better a chance they’ll have to land the job they want."

A central feature of OneWire is, yes, a profile that jobseekers can create and use to apply to any hiring authority that uses OneWire. Recruiters benefit from the OneWire system, as well, with a vast array of features enabling them to source, consider, and assess candidates in an intuitive, one-system-fits-all fashion. In their success at improving engagement between recruiters and jobseekers, solutions like OneWire’s and even LinkedIn’s (which enables jobseekers to apply directly to a hiring organization via a button that converts LinkedIn profiles into a resume-like PDF document) might be precipitating the death of the resume.

"Resumes are soon to be history," says Jerome Ternynck, founder and CEO of SmartRecruiters, which bills its recruiting software as open, social, easy, and free. "They will be replaced by our social profile—say, LinkedIn or Facebook—or by an online profile page—say, DoYouBuzz. There is no reason for any job seeker to keep a Word resume on their hard disk, and there is no reason for businesses to continue to build databases of outdated resumes. Instead, we must look to connect to talent pools, or communities, connected to live profiles that always up-to-date. At SmartRecruiters, we already see that over 30 percent of applicants upload an online profile rather than a resume."

Because this technological shift affects a potential employee’s first contact with an employer, it is integral to employment branding and, again, engagement. With a growing prevalence of outposts online for jobseekers to upload their work history and experience and share their expertise, the constant requests from hiring authorities for a resume or curricula vitae can become redundant and dissuade great job candidates from applying. Have these traditionally accepted vehicles for sharing work background become engagement killers?

"Sing it with me now, ‘The resume must die,’ " says Grossman. "BranchOut, BeKnown, MyJobLinx, Work4Labs, and others are also working hard to kill the resume and increase the playful stickiness of career management products and services. Whether or not these players will survive or die on the vine remains to be seen. Changing the way hiring companies do transactional recruiting business makes for easier change management than, let’s say, performance reviews. But, change management is still painful for many."

A Huge Party, and Nobody Knows Anyone
Have you ever tried to have a conversation in a noisy place? Have you ever tried to focus on one thing or person when countless things and people are vying for your attention? These scenarios constitute recruiters’ and jobseekers’ present lots in life and make any meaningful, focused conversation between them a constant challenge. Facing distraction, confusion, and a lack of framework within which to communicate with hiring authorities, jobseekers are inclined to abort an onerous process, and might do so even after communication seems to have commenced. Meanwhile, recruiters would probably love to abandon the process, but don’t really have that luxury or mobility in their search; they zero in on the target they’re not at liberty to abandon, and in frustration, they—understandably—bang their heads against the wall, keyboard, or some other inanimate object.

Contributing to this primordial soup of lost recruiters and jobseekers is the traditional, one-dimensional model of job boards of yore, many of which persist in their one-dimensionality to this day. At these online destinations, jobseekers and recruiters practice primitive, untargeted one-to-many communication.

Successful parties, in contrast, are anything but disorganized hodgepodges bereft of structure; they begin, instead, with invitations and proceed with planned activities such as ice-breakers and introductions. And this is the gist of Jobfox.com, a job board whose evolution has led it to assist recruiters in embracing social media methodically, through the judicious use of introductions. Jobfox.com calls itself a social recruiting and career networking engine that automates the process of building talent networks. Through Jobfox Boost, HR professionals and recruiters create their own private networks of prequalified individuals and recruit talent directly from them, or request candidate referrals from their network connections. Network members can respond to job opportunities themselves or "boost" their own connections, many of whom may be a more appropriate fit for the position.

"That’s what Jobfox enables," says Dan Kimball, chief marketing officer for Jobfox.com. "It’s extremely streamlined, private communication—from recruiter to candidate, or recruiter to pipeline, and from candidate to recruiter, if the candidate sees an opportunity of interest. And it also enables employment branding that isn’t muddled by all the noise."
"People want to work for companies they admire," says Meghan M. Biro, principal of TalentCulture, LLC, and an expert in talent acquisition and workplace culture branding. "A negative or poorly-managed employment brand dooms a company to rapid, painful cycles of search-hire-replace. It’s deadly."

Focusing on the first part of that cycle, the searching phase, we find that the noise of the jobseeking process, and of recruiters’ efforts to source and engage the jobseekers they seek, manifests itself in myriad ways, most fundamentally through jobseekers’ and recruiters’ efforts simply to find themselves. And despite social media’s promise of being the long-anticipated answer to the challenge of jobseekers and recruiters finding good matches in the first place, many industry observers, recruiters, and vendors (and probably jobseekers) agree that the byproduct of all this social media has been more of that aforementioned noise—noise that keeps them from each other.

Many vendors strive to cut through the noise and clear channels of communication between recruiters and jobseekers. What’s worth noting is that the channel of communication itself is often clear, but just as often not perceived that way. Hiring authorities must craft clear, easily identifiable and noticeable messages. Today, with all that noise, the message needs to be different from all the other communication that jobseekers (or anyone else) receive daily.

The upside is this: Successfully executed, the message resonates and leaves an impact with the jobseeker from the very flashpoint, the beginning of engagement, thus fortifying and establishing the timbre of employment brand from the get-go.

Engagement and Brand Converge
E-mails can make communication sticky. Just look at Facebook, whose stickiness is attributable in large part to the e-mails its system sends users every single time something affecting happens on Facebook. Those messages tend to lure users back to the main website and increase the chances that they’ll interact further with whatever or whoever prompted the originating message.

The analogy is imperfect. How many e-mails do recipients ignore daily? A jobseeker is not likely to ignore an e-mail from a hiring authority expressing interest, but even so, the best jobseekers receive multiple messages of interest no matter the state of the economy. Within the context of recruiting, e-mails of interest, working as part of a finely tuned ecosystem designed to engage jobseekers, can be highly effective in not only spurring engagement, but also planting the very first seeds of the hiring authority’s positive, consciously developed employment brand.

"The biggest issue when it comes to HR technology and the employment brand is ‘fit,’ " says Mollie Lombardi, senior research analyst for human capital management at Aberdeen Group. "Just as we talk about a brand as a way to filter right from the start those candidates who may be a ‘fit’ for the company, the technology solutions used in hiring must also fit."

So where do candidate engagement and employment brand intersect? Everywhere. Engagement and employment branding are codependent. There are outliers to every norm, but engagement that resonates with jobseekers and projects an authentic, positive image of the recruiter and organization he or she represents almost certainly wouldn’t follow a negative or poorly developed employment brand. Satisfying engagement probably wouldn’t exist at all without the existence of a strong employment brand.
Simultaneously, while positive, strong employment branding rests on more than just engaging communication, engaging communication is an excellent starting point for organizations endeavoring to fix or create an employment brand.

"There are so many parts and pieces that have to work in unison for the applicant to have a positive experience, and the minute that negative experience happens, word-of-mouth travels fast," says Kevin Wallquist, co-founder of Spyre, a company that assists clients in creating and nurturing strong employment branding. Spyre then focuses tightly on creating and managing fully functional, sticky career websites that reflect and promote their clients’ employment branding in coherent ways.

Being Methodical and Quick
One of those ways is through video, embedded into targeted e-mail communication. In June, iCIMS, the second largest provider of software-as-a-service (SaaS) talent acquisition solutions, announced a partnership with Spyre, enabling users of iCIMS’ candidate management solution to leverage video to attract, hire, and retain top talent with branding strategies that help communicate organizational culture, talent drivers, leadership vision, and management practices.

"Once the candidate realizes that these steps will indeed move very quickly, the noise gets quieted," says Wallquist. Replacing the flood of noise with a clear path to ever-deeper engagement can be the key ingredient that commands that jobseeker’s attention. Spyre’s video, delivered as a communication component of iCIMS’ process, draws great job candidates into a process, turning their thoughts and time away from the noise that doesn’t matter by galvanizing them with a series of methodical, rapidly succeeding steps that lead them to a job.

"[Social media] sites create a lot of noise, a lot of conversation that has nothing to do with jobs or recruiting," says Kimball, of Jobfox.com. "And it tends to get in the way of an employer building a great brand that resonates and speaks to the kind of candidate that they want to attract. And for candidates, all that noise makes it difficult for them to find the right person to talk to at the organization and make sure they’re following those discussions and interacting with the people who will make a difference in their careers."

Further enveloping the jobseeker in a cocoon that blocks out the noise is iCIMS’ exceptionally easy, straightforward and intuitive ATS. As already noted, an easy process fosters more and better engagement, which ushers the candidate through a nonintrusive process that is prone note only to retain good jobseekers’ interest, but also to satisfy the recruiters who rely on it. For instance, one of the iCIMS talent platform’s assets is the communication center, which allows clients to create templates of frequently used correspondence such as offer letters, receipt of resume, and interview scheduling.

"One key differentiator for iCIMS is absolutely the focus on ease of use, no matter who is logging in," says Susan Vitale, chief strategic officer for iCIMS. "We came to the market a little bit late and had to step back and determine how we would be successful." Through extensive interviews of potential buyers in the market, iCIMS learned that many of the solutions were filled with bells and whistles nobody wanted or needed: "So we wanted to create something that was dead easy."

"Making it easier to apply for a job has made engaging the right candidates even more important," says Lombardi. "Engaging candidates via your brand is important because that brand becomes a filter. You want every applicant to think twice about applying if they don’t think the environment and culture are a fit, in addition to the skills. Lowering the barriers to application can just flood you with unqualified or mismatched candidates. You want a branding message that engages the right employees—right skill level, right culture fit, right career stage—as a mechanism to make sure that the applicants experiencing your easy-to-use ATS are the right ones."

With engagement, the importance of being easy is only eclipsed by the need to be not too easy. And, insomuch as that candidate engagement intersects with the employment brand, employers must adjust their approachability in ways that subtly, yet effectively, persuade and dissuade. Technology can help with that.

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