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Solving the “Candidate Sharing Problem” Using a Social Media Approach

Posted By Dr. John Sullivan On October 8, 2012 @ 5:15 am In Advice and How-Tos | 4 Comments

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NASA artist - black hole

There is probably no more misleading statement in corporate recruiting than “we will keep your application on file for six months.” While such a statement may be factually true, the reality is that at most corporations, hell will likely freeze over before anyone will review that application again.

Not only is this misstatement damaging to the candidate experience, but it may also mean that the corporation is missing out on a great opportunity. And that opportunity is to rapidly share exceptional “not hired” finalists with hiring managers located in other areas of the corporation so that a higher percentage of these highly qualified candidates can be hired. The best solution to this problem is a “top 100 candidates sharing list” based on a social media model.

It’s a sad but common corporate occurrence in recruiting. Your employer brand and recruiting process have worked wonderfully and you get an abundance of highly qualified applicants for a key opening. However, after you make your selection, even though the remaining finalists are outstanding and are interested in your firm, nothing happens to them and they disappear into your “ATS black hole” database.

Instead, what should happen is that these top candidates should be marked as “recruiting opportunities” and then proactively shared with other managers from one end of the corporation to the other. This candidate-sharing problem is so frustrating but pervasive that it consistently appears on my list of “major talent management problems without a workable solution.” Nearly every corporate talent manager is aware of this lack of top candidate sharing, but almost no one has found an effective solution. But fortunately, now that we have learned about the tremendous effectiveness of using social media approaches for sharing information, it now makes sense to revisit this problem and to design a proactive social-media-based candidate sharing process to finally solve the problem.

Examples of the Candidate Sharing Problem

I was having a conversation with the head of talent at a major high-end restaurant chain and I was not surprised to learn that the organization had no way to share a surplus of high-quality applicants received at one top-performing site with a sister restaurant only a mile away that was struggling to find enough applicants of any quality. On another occasion this year while visiting  an internationally known global food corporation I found that there was essentially a zero chance that surplus external candidates (or even top employees that were ready for internal promotion) would be placed in another business anywhere in the conglomerate.

Perhaps a sports example will help to illustrate the problem. Imagine that you were a top golfer who applied for an open position on a prestigious golf team, but you came in second and didn’t get it because Tiger Woods applied at the same time. On any other day you would have been hired were it not for the fact that a superstar also applied at the same time that you did. Because you came in No. 2, it would obviously make sense for the firm to share your resume with its other global golf team managers. However, in 99% of the cases, that simply wouldn’t happen quickly, so you would likely end up playing golf at a competitor. The key point here is that some of the “finalists” for corporate jobs have exceptional qualifications, and their only real fault was that they were part of an outstanding candidate slate or they simply were not the best fit for this particular manager or team. But if these exceptional individuals were to be viewed by other managers in the corporation, they would be judged as excellent candidates.

The Costs of a Weak Candidate Sharing Process

Most serious problems in recruiting and talent management go unresolved until someone takes the time to calculate the dollar costs associated with that problem. In this case, the costs associated with limited candidate sharing in major corporations is easily in the millions of dollars each year (if you multiply the average cost per hire times the number of top candidates who are not hired after becoming finalists). Let’s review both the benefits and the “failure-to-share” costs and missed opportunities from weak candidate sharing processes.

  • Sourcing costs – the thousands of dollars of recruiting costs for finding and attracting each candidate has already been spent. So if another manager interviews and hires one or more of the already identified candidates, they come at almost free sourcing costs.
  • Assessment time – because another manager has already thoroughly vetted a candidate on the sharing list, a great deal of assessment time and costs can be saved.
  • Already sold – because the individual has already been a finalist, they have already been sold on your firm, so getting them to consider a different job will likely take little time.
  • Speed advantage – because these exceptional candidates are already vetted and ready to accept a job, they can be hired immediately, thus reducing the tremendous costs as a result of vacant positions.
  • The candidates are ready to accept a job — once again because they were finalists, even though they might have been initially “passives” they are clearly active candidates now and they are ready to move to a new job. And if your firm doesn’t hire them, a competitor will.
  • Frustration may hurt your brand – top candidates who came this close to getting a job may become frustrated when there is little or no forthcoming encouraging feedback and no immediate follow-up opportunity. This negative candidate experience will certainly harm your employer brand, and after it the candidate may decide to drop your firm from consideration.

The Key Elements of a “Top 100 Candidates” Sharing List

With limited space, I can only provide an outline of the key elements or features of a great candidate-sharing program. Some of those features that you should consider include:

  • Adapt the social media model – the “just search the ATS database” model has not proven to be effective with managers or recruiters. This is because even though rejected finalists will still remain in the database, no one will have the time to search through it. The webpage “knowledge base model” is a second alternative but it too has simply not proven to be effective. Instead I recommend that you look at the success of social media models. The most obvious model to consider is the “Yelp” model (the social media restaurant rating service) which has proven both popular and effective in the external marketplace. This model is easy for users to understand and use. When adapted internally, its most powerful feature is that it allows hiring managers and recruiters to review candidate profiles that are supplemented by qualifying comments or “Like” recommendations.
  • Limit the number on the list – one of the most important features of successful candidate sharing is to limit the number of individuals on the list. Once the total number of candidates becomes too high, even with a great search engine, managers will find it cumbersome and they will avoid it. You should even consider naming the list the “Top 100 candidates list” (or “top 500” depending on the size of your firm) to make it abundantly clear that the list can be searched quickly.
  • Maintain candidate quality — if the list becomes a dumping ground for mediocre candidates, you will lose all credibility. Instead, criteria must be set to ensure that only top finalists and truly exceptional candidates are placed on the list. The list manager must monitor the list and remove any inappropriate listings.
  • Reviewer ratings of candidates — managers, recruiters, and even employees who use the list should be able to rate and comment on each of the candidates. Those comments can include their recommendations and their “like” rating.
  • Rating the reviewers – just like on many social media platforms, you should be able to quickly get some idea of the accuracy and helpfulness of an individual reviewer’s recommendations, candidate descriptions, or candidate reviews. And those reviewers who consistently receive low quality ratings (not helpful) should be automatically warned or removed from participation.
  • Keep the candidate profiles short – because of their length, offering a “resume only” approach may dramatically reduce usage. A superior alternative is to either have the manager or a recruiter write a summary paragraph or simply use their public LinkedIn profile as a summary. Obviously there should be a link to the full resume in case a manager wants details. Reviews, recommendations, and comments should also be limited to one or two paragraphs.
  • Include all managers – rather than simply including only active hiring managers, every manager should be allowed to review the list. This is because even though a manager might not have an open req, finding out that a top candidate is available may cause them to rapidly shift into hiring mode in order to take advantage of an unexpected recruiting opportunity.
  • Allow employees to comment — one optional feature would be to allow employees to view and comment on candidates on the list (who they know) who are in their job family.
  • Consider including internal transfers and promotions — consider adding another optional feature, which is a separate but related list that covers the “top 100 employees who are most qualified for promotions.” This feature for speeding up internal movement and promotions could improve cross business fertilization and reduce employee frustration related to a lack of internal movement opportunities. Allowing internal employee referrals for transfers and promotions can also be effective. Managers who hire employees from outside of their business or region should be recognized and rewarded.

Proactive Elements of the Top Candidate Process

Rather than waiting for recruiters and managers to visit the top candidates list website, there are some program elements that should be proactive. They include:

  • Proactively “push” exceptional candidates – in some cases, recruiting should not wait for a manager to find the time to visit the list. Instead, the profiles of the truly exceptional should be proactively sent via email or text message instantly to managers who wish to subscribe to this proactive alert service. The recruiter managing the internal top candidate list should have the responsibility for identifying truly exceptional candidates who fall in the top 10% of all of those listed. These truly exceptional candidates might include industry icons, key innovators, or top performers from a competitor firm. In addition, any “act-quick candidates” who have other active offers should also be labeled and proactively pushed to managers, so that they can act quickly before they accept the alternative offer.
  • Proactively “push” candidates for hot jobs – because filling high-priority jobs is critical, individuals who are placed on the list who clearly qualify for these “hot jobs” should be proactively sent to managers and recruiters responsible for those positions.
  • An automatic reminder – at the time an offer is accepted (or even issued), it should be part of the formal hiring process that both the hiring manager and the recruiter should be notified to of their responsibility to identify and send any exceptional candidates on the interview slate on the “top candidate-sharing list.” Obviously if the candidates are not posted immediately, they may be lost to other firms.

Adding Names to List of Top Candidates

The process of adding names to the top candidate list should include the following elements.

  • There must be a list manager — a recruiter must be assigned to manage the candidate sharing list. The list manager can be responsible for capturing the names of finalists from interview slates, or alternatively, individual hiring managers and recruiters can be required to add names. In the latter case, the list manager must review all added candidates and periodically provide direct positive or negative feedback to the managers and recruiters who place mediocre candidates. It is the list manager’s job to ensure that the list remains vibrant and interesting enough so that managers and recruiters will visit it on a regular basis.
  • Include top applications received when there were no position openings – recruiters should be encouraged to identify and list highly qualified applicants who applied (or who were referred) when they were no open positions that they were qualified for.
  • Tie-in with the referral program — top-quality referrals who are not hired should also be added to the candidate sharing list. The employee making the referral should be notified of their opportunity to comment on their listed candidate.

Elements for Making it Easier for Managers to Sort and Identify the Best Candidates

Making it easy for managers and recruiters to sort and categorize candidates will increase the usability of the list. Some key elements to consider include:

  • Include an effective sorting capability – in order to increase its usability, the list should have an effective search and sorting feature that allows a user to quickly sort those on the list. They should be able to sort by skill areas, experience, education levels, their current job title, their physical location, and by their current or previous employers.
  • Label exceptional candidates who are just not a perfect fit for this req – many interviewed finalists are rated so highly (on both their qualifications and fit for the corporation) that almost everyone agrees that someone in the corporation should hire them. That means that the only reason that the individual was not hired under this req was solely because the candidate was not a perfect fit for the growth/innovation rate of this team or they may not have been the best fit for this individual manager. So labeling these candidates as “great but they didn’t fit this job” would let other managers know that this individual would likely fit in other business units.
  • Label those willing to relocate – because some individuals are “local-only hires” those on the list who are willing to relocate to different regions or countries should be clearly labeled. This will allow remotely located managers to determine quickly if the candidate would likely consider a job in their locality.

Administrative Features of the Program

  • Rewards and recognition — both managers and recruiters who successfully place quality candidates on the list or that hire those on the list should be recognized and rewarded by senior management. Managers, recruiters, and employees who write accurate reviews should also be recognized.
  • Slow hiring manager response feature — managers who are sent high-quality candidates should be required to act on them quickly, so that the corporation doesn’t lose out on the opportunity to hire them. Since applicants are “owned” by the corporation, if an individual hiring manager routinely takes too long to hire, there should be a rule that penalizes these repeat offenders by removing their exclusive “hold” on the top candidates who they were sent. After the allotted time, these top candidates would be posted to the “top candidates list,” so that other managers will simultaneously have a chance to hire them before they are off the job market.
  • Legal issues — because each of the candidates has formally applied to your corporation, you can freely share them with other managers. However, it might be a good idea to notify individuals that they have been placed on the “top candidate list” so that they know that they are highly valued and that another opportunity may come along soon.

Final Thoughts

Recruiting managers should identify the percentage of candidates who came in #2 on any finalist list who were (within a month) later interviewed by another hiring manager in a different business unit. Unfortunately, in many organizations that number is zero because of silos and the absence of a formal finalists sharing process. As a result of this failure, the recruiting function is invariably costing the organization millions in additional hiring costs and lost talent opportunities. After reviewing the features of the “top 100 candidate sharing list” outlined above, I think most will agree that there is an available solution to end this long-existing problem that occurs in most large corporations. If you don’t like my approach, come up with your own but please do something to stop this unnecessary waste of recruiting resources.


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