RPO & StaffingTalent Acquisition

Judge and Jury

How candidates feel about your hiring process.

By Tom Boyle
What does your company look like from the candidate’s side of the desk? Every interaction with a candidate is a brand-building opportunity for your organization. Gaining insight into the candidate’s experience is vital, given the high cost of recruitment and competition for the best talent. In a recent SilkRoad survey, 2013 Employment Marketplace Survey Results: The Candidate’s Perspective, nearly 250 professionals revealed what they thought of companies’ talent acquisition practices, as well as the tools and techniques organizations employ.

This survey examined how companies’ recruitment practices are perceived. A wide range of professionals were polled: those who are happily employed, those who “sample the market” occasionally, and those who are actively looking for a new position. The results can help talent management professionals determine whether their companies operate in positive ways to source, attract, interview, and engage candidates.

Tapping in the Mind of the Candidate
Organizational preferences. When asked what organizational characteristics candidates value most, more than half (55 percent) seek a work-life balance, while 38 percent are interested in good benefits, indicating that job seekers highly regard non-wage compensation when they look for jobs. The qualities of providing opportunities for professional growth and trustworthy, strong leadership each ranked third, receiving 36 percent of the response.

The connection between work-life balance and good benefits is clear-cut. Workers have an easier time balancing between family and personal life when they have paid time off, paid sick leave, child care benefits, and a quality healthcare plan. According to a United States Department of Labor survey, Selected Paid Leave Benefits, among all workers in private industry, 61 percent have paid sick leave and 77 percent have paid vacation and holidays. Among management and professional workers, the percentages rose to 83 percent for paid sick leave, 88 percent for paid vacation, and 89 percent for paid holidays. These can be important elements of your company’s value proposition to the candidate—especially if your organization is competing for highly skilled talent in a turbulent economy.
The least popular choices were companies that are committed to diversity (3 percent) and noted for corporate citizenship (2 percent).

The survey also showed there were differences between the preferences of baby boomers, generation X employees, and millennials. Millennials were more likely to value flexible work arrangements and a passionate, engaged workforce; generation X favored a work-life balance and opportunities for professional development; and baby boomers more often chose good benefits and recognizes and rewards achievement as characteristics they’d consider favorably. Given these findings, a recruiter might consider varying the company’s employment presentation by generation.

Job sources. Company websites rank as the top job-hunting source with 65 percent of respondents reporting them as their favored method. SilkRoad’s 2013 Recruitment Marketing Effectiveness Report echoes this finding. An analysis of more than 10 million applicants, 300,000 interviews, and 150,000 hires showed that of the top 10 online recruitment sources, company career sites provided the largest number of hires and the second largest number of interviews. A company website provides a unified brand image, which can reflect the culture and values of an organization. That image, plus more detailed job descriptions on the site, helps the potential recruit decide whether he or she is the right fit for the organization and the job.

Survey participants’ second choice source was job boards (65 percent) such as Career Builder, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Monster. While many industry experts wonder whether large, generalist job boards are still relevant, it appears that respondents in our survey sample value them highly. The third job source, referral from a trusted friend (61 percent), shows that referrals remain a strong base for recruiting. Candidates undoubtedly know that having a referral separates their resume from the pack. Studies and research (like the article “In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is a Prospect, Indeed” from the New York Times) show that referred candidates are 10 times more likely to be hired than other candidates in some companies.

The lowest ranked sources were newspaper ads and general search engines. Not surprisingly, newspapers’ job sections have been displaced by online media and have had decreasing advertising revenue for years.

Social networks. LinkedIn, the well-known professional job networking site, was more than four times as popular as other social networking sites when it comes to job hunting. This impressive number may be attributed to the fact that LinkedIn is primarily targeted at professionals and is career-centered. Moreover, LinkedIn enables a job seeker to network easily with special interest groups in specific industries or professions. There’s been a lot of buzz in the media this year concerning the use of Twitter and Facebook as tools to identify and engage candidates. But, SilkRoad’s survey respondents did not rank these as important sources of job leads: 18 percent chose Facebook as a source of leads; only 7 percent chose Twitter as a likely source. One reason for Twitter’s low rating may be that it’s difficult to deliver sufficient information about a job within the 140-character limitation.
Do these results differ by generation? After additional analysis, LinkedIn was still the most popular source among all generations. Not unexpectedly, the survey found that millennials were slightly more likely to use Twitter for job leads. Still, only 14 percent of millennials said that they would likely receive leads via Twitter.

Application process. Without a doubt, electronic media dominates when it comes to the way candidates prefer to apply for jobs. Forty-eight percent of survey participants said they would prefer applying for a job on a company’s website.

But what kinds of information or features do candidates want most on company website? Overwhelmingly, 91 percent reported detailed job descriptions were the most important to them. Sixty-seven percent said the ability to complete the entire application online was critical while 64 percent valued the ability to search and pinpoint jobs by title or geography. Testimonials were also deemed helpful by 32 percent and 31 percent felt executive profiles, annual reports, and messages from the CEO were also important.
A company’s career site can make or break the candidate’s experience. It’s clear that a combination of good content and well-designed functionality make up an effective company career site.

Hiring Process Pet Peeves
The way candidates are treated during the recruitment process surely leaves a lasting impression. Candidates share information among themselves and their opinions resonate long after a position has been filled. In fact, they shape your organization’s reputation.
How did candidates perceive they were treated by prospective employers? In an open-ended question, the survey asked participants to describe their job hunting experiences and to identify their pet peeves about the way they were treated during the recruitment process. Five themes emerged from their responses:
• Companies are unresponsive when a candidate submits a resume or an application. This was perceived as an indication that the company does not value applicants.
• Follow-up or communication after the interview is not common. Many respondents said they would like an acknowledgement or an update, indicating where the company is in the process of hiring.
• The application process can be difficult and lengthy. Companies’ career sites were sometimes poorly designed and hard to use, requiring candidates to enter unnecessary information as well as upload a resume. When this occurs, candidates lose interest and tended to drop out.
• Interviewers or interviewing techniques were not professional; interviewers were described as distracted, impersonal, late for the appointment, or asking irrelevant questions.

Even when the recruitment market is less competitive and candidates are plentiful, organizations must demonstrate professionalism in their recruitment practices. The application process, the interviewer, and the interaction with the applicant are the face of an organization. Poor behavior on the part of an interviewer, flawed technology, and unresponsiveness can cause serious damage to a company’s brand. Given the widespread use of social media—and sites that rate companies (like Glassdoor)—a bad experience can go viral. With efficient use of new technology and best practices, companies can ensure that they are more responsive and communicative.
Steps for Improvement

The survey found that recruitment technology and company career sites are principal ways that candidates find and apply for jobs. Yet, companies are not making the most of technology to attract and engage job seekers. Here are a few best practices of the ways companies can use technology to sharpen their recruitment process:

• There’s no need for a candidate’s application to go unacknowledged. Most recruitment systems enable a recruiter to set personalized and automated workflows, sending an email that acknowledges the application and sets expectations for next steps.

• Candidates who are qualified enough to merit an interview also deserve a follow-up note, even when the job has been filled. Recruitment systems can send an automated email thanking the person for their time and letting them know where the company stands in the hiring process.

• Recruitment technology can make the application process straightforward. Many automated systems enable an employer to create a step-by-step process with easy ways to submit an application—such as using a LinkedIn profile.

• Job seekers do not want to waste their time seeking out a company or a job that’s not right for them. Survey respondents said they wanted detailed job descriptions, in addition to better ways to pinpoint jobs on a company’s career site. Rich content presented on a career site—company mission, philosophy, and culture—can help a potential recruit decide whether they are the right fit for the organization and the job. Additionally, recruitment technology, specifically company career sites, can provide potential recruits with a transparent view—a window into the organization. It’s the “storefront” where a vital stage of recruitment begins.

• Those who are job hunting express a high level of frustration with their ability to find the right job. When companies use recruitment technology for distribution of job leads, the process is more precise. Leveraging the latest technology, organizations have the ability to review metrics that show the best sources of hire for the organization. The entire process is targeted and reaches best-fit candidates for a company’s positions. More exact targeting results in higher candidate satisfaction—as well as greater efficiency and reduced cost-per-hire for the employeer.

There’s no doubt that job seekers are living through “the best of times and the worst of times” in the workplace and the economy. Survey participants clearly and sometimes critically described significant changes occurring in today’s employment marketplace.
It’s the “best of times” for technology in talent acquisition. Online media and recruitment technologies are great enablers—and vital links between the employer and the candidate. Career sites, recruitment software, and social networking sites have certainly made job information more available than ever before. The majority of survey participants said online technology is the most important way for them to locate open positions.

As for the “worst of times,” many survey participants characterized the relationship between the potential employer and the candidate as transactional. The reality is that the employment marketplace is crowded, and there are only so many positions to be filled. Even as the economy turns a corner, companies are inundated with resumes, so it is difficult for them to give candidates the personal attention they deserve. Corporate and agency recruiters have a broader choice of candidates and can be more selective. Survey participants indicated that companies appear to be interviewing many candidates and treating them impersonally.

To improve the overall process for all parties involved, every organization should periodically review its approach, assess its technology and career portal, and survey its candidates. Only through feedback can an organization continuously improve in talent acquisition. To move toward an employer of choice, companies should develop a value proposition that communicates the characteristics that candidates value. The survey reported work-life balance, good benefits, professional development opportunities, and strong leadership were important.

Every contact with a candidate, from receipt of an application through salary negotiation, is an opportunity to enhance a company’s brand. Company values, technology, recruiters’ behavior, and current employees are all components of a strong brand. Every company should strive to be recognized by its current and potential employees as a great place to work.

Tom Boyle is director of product marketing at SilkRoad. For access to the entire report, please visit http://pages.silkroad.com/Sharpening-Your-Talent-Acquisition-Practices-R…


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