Customer Service: Key to Successful Recruiting

Jan 31, 2008

Fast and personal customer service is what I insist is core to being an effective 21st century recruiter. Every candidate should receive a personal response customized to their questions and needs. Candidates should be sold positions on the basis of the goodness of their fit in the position and to the degree they exhibit the skills and competencies needed.

Yet, many recruiters are challenged to provide this level of service. Here are a few quotes from recruiters: “I have received almost 500 resumes. Over 90% of these people are not qualified or not what my company is looking for.” Another said, “I have been overwhelmed with candidates. Some fit our needs, but most don’t even take the time to read the job description…I wish I could reply to every candidate, but if I did, I would not be doing my job!”

Candidates, on the other side of the fence, say, “Now, as a candidate going through a very bad dry spell in finding recruiting work, I rarely experience this common courtesy among recruiters who post jobs that don’t exist and fail to follow simple due diligence.” And this: “I’m a downsized corporate executive who has been repeatedly appalled by the way companies and recruiters are treating candidates.”

We all, I believe, want to provide candidates with great service, and we all know that those who have been ignored, dismissed as not qualified, and otherwise treated with discourtesy will not forget and may never recommend our firm to friends or apply again, even when they may be excellent choices.

Every act of discourtesy will eventually be incorporated into the overall reputation that our firms have about people and how they are treated. As they say in the customer satisfaction business, for every customer that tells you they are satisfied, there are at least 3 dissatisfied customers who have said nothing. The same applies for candidates.

So, what does the overworked, overwhelmed recruiter do? How can you provide responsive service in the face of huge numbers of resumes? Here are three tips:

Don’t Post Job Descriptions, But If You Do, Make Them Precise and Specific

I have taken an excerpt from a job description I found on a website that is representative of many I see every day. The question I ask is who, with even a modicum of technical ability and a dash of experience, will not feel qualified for this job? There are no specifics, no details, and no firm requirements. I almost feel that I could apply for this and justify why if asked.

You’re looking for more than just a job in Information Technology. You want a career that challenges your IT experience while giving you the freedom and support to succeed. Look no further than [company name]. Our Professional Services offerings span the entire application life cycle, giving our customers a complete solution and our employees the opportunity to excel on all platforms.

With our technical focus and emphasis on delivery, we strive to hire experienced Information Technology professionals with broad skill sets and the desire and versatility to learn new businesses and skills. We are selective in hiring and serious about retaining those we do hire.

We are looking for candidates with the following attributes:

  • Oracle Financials experience
  • Oracle 11i application development experience
  • Strong PL/SQL

I am sure that this has generated many hundreds of unqualified resumes. Unfortunately, most job descriptions are written this way deliberately so that they will generate a large number of responses. When we lacked technology and reach, this was a marginally acceptable approach. But today, it creates big problems. Most candidates are very concerned with applying for an appropriate job, but how can they really tell from the way descriptions are written? Are the specific requirements spelled out? Are you using technology to screen for these?

We need to focus on a building a new mindset. We do not need mass marketing for most positions, we do not need to generate hundreds of responses to make sure we’ve “covered the field,” and we can’t ignore hundreds of applicants because of our own inadequacies. Many of us have attitudes that would be similar to those of a store clerk who, when overwhelmed with customers, simply walks off and leaves them.

We Need to Use Technology, and Use it Better

The new recruiting tools and systems have built-in tools for communicating, screening, and maintaining relationships with candidates. These candidate relationship management tools are not magical, but they ease the burden and automate a portion of the task. However, the sad fact is that after these systems are purchased, only a fraction of recruiters utilize their powerful communication and screening features. Most recruiters are still focused on the zero value-added backend “administrivia” and don’t see as clear a connection between the candidate experience and the type of response they get from recruiters. and all the larger Applicant Tracking Systems can automate the responses candidates get to various actions they take on the website. They can periodically send e-mails and newsletters, and they can be better programmed to send intelligent responses to candidates’ questions.

The bottom line is that all recruiters need to do a better job letting candidates know where they stand in the recruiting process by sending regular updates and letting them know as soon as possible that they are no longer being considered. Even automatic bounce-back responses can be more intelligently written and distributed.

Relationships and Referrals Are Keys to Your Success

I am more and more convinced that posting job descriptions is an archaic process. While I have no doubt that the practice will live on for a long time, it is not the best, cheapest, or faster way to find good people.

Using technology to develop relationships and to communicate regularly with a selected and screened pool of candidates is the key to your real success. By developing and using tools that allow candidates and hiring managers to co-create requirements and refine requirements as needed, more good people will find jobs that fit them better. Posting jobs on job boards and pushing descriptions that seem to have been written by a PR firm out to wary candidates is no longer effective.

Recruiters have to use social networks, referrals, Internet search, and face-to-face conversation to build trust and establish a relationship with candidates that can be leveraged whenever needed. Unfortunately, face-to-face relationship building is slow, expensive, and clumsy. Social networks allow you do this with much greater ease and gracefulness at a lower cost in time and money.

Base your recruiting on the customer service mindset, go for quality (not volume), and do that by building relationships and asking for referrals. If you are generating hundreds of responses to a job posting, you are doing something terribly wrong.

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