Recruiting never seems to change very much. As I have often written, even with computers, smart phones, cheap video, big bandwidth, and years of accumulated experience, the way we look for people and select them looks very much the same as it looked 50 years ago.
The question is: why haven’t these tools and technologies made any significant difference?
If we look at other professions, it is clear that technology is not what makes the real difference. Take building as an example. Using only primitive hand tools, carpenters and masons from Roman times on crafted buildings that are enduring and emulated. The construction methods they used are studied and copied, while their tools gather dust in museums. Chinese accountants used abacuses to keep their books and sailors had glorified rowboats to explore the world’s oceans. It turns out that knowing how to do something is a far more critical skill than what tools are used to do it. Tools do not cause change and transformation, but methods and processes do.
The skills involved in building, accounting, or sailing are what make the difference between success and failure and often between life and death. Those who have improved the methods of building — the ones who figured out how to build skyscrapers and elevators — have contributed more to our progress than have the tools they used.
Technology saves labor and time and often lets us do things we could not do with our own muscles or brains, but it is not a substitute for core knowledge or for understanding how to do something or for human behavior.
And that is most likely why recruiting has not changed. While recruiters have many new tools, they are using traditional processes and methods without much innovation. This is most likely because, despite the hype about a talent shortage, there is really not a major problem finding talented people. If fact, most recruiters would be bored if their job became too easy — and many enjoy the hunt. Innovation usually occurs when there is an unsolvable problem or a major problem or a crisis, and recruiting has yet to run into any of those.
But what could be is still interesting. What would an efficient, updated recruiting process look like? Here are a few ideas that I think might work.
If anyone has already tried them or plans on giving them a try, I would like to hear from you in the comments section.
Idea 1: Stop any branding activities and focus totally on referrals. If you are in a nationwide or global firm with a known reputation, branding is a secondary concern. You already attract people because of your product or service brand and most likely have a pipeline of good candidates. Whenever you have an opening, just let employees know and ask them to use their networks to bring in any additional people you might need.
Referrals are free, fast, and effective. Incentives are not really needed and may actually cause employees to reach out to less-than-optimal candidates in the chance of getting whatever reward your offer. Instead give the employees who refer the best candidates, whether they are hired or not, a title such as “Preferred Referrer” or “Trusted Referrer,” and give anyone they refer priority consideration. This will incentivize others to become a titled referrer and raise the bar on the type of candidates you get.
Idea 2: Use online assessments and reduce interviews. Forget screening interviews, meet and greets, and extensive resume reviews. Instead invest in developing one or two screening tests that can be given online, are scored instantly, and provide both you and the candidate with feedback.
These kinds of screening tools can reduce your workload, improve the candidate experience, and result in much better candidates. The challenge is to develop the right tests that actually screen for the characteristics that are important for the job or for the organization.
There may need to be several tests for different positions or levels, but none of this is more costly or time-consuming than endless phone screens and interviews. I would go so far as to say that recruiters should never interview anyone in person. By implementing online screening and eliminating face-to-face interviews, you could potentially expect a recruiter to handle 20-50% more open requisitions.
There are many firms who can do this for reasonable costs, and the online testing and screening business is growing rapidly. Charles Handler, one of the other writers on ERE, has just released a book cataloging and commenting on most testing services available today.
Idea 3: Use video interviews heavily. Video interviews are a powerful and effective way to do more with less and improve legal compliance.
Video interviews are no longer taboo, and many candidates find them much more effective and less stressful than face-to-face interviews. Face-to-face interviews are expensive and time consuming and most of the time lead nowhere. Probably 75% of all interviews do not lead to an offer because of poor screening and poor candidate qualification. By conducting one live interview that is recorded, many people can view the same interview and evaluate the same responses. This leads to consistency, the lack of which is the greatest legal issue with multi-person, live interviews. By recoding the interview, there is proof that the interviews were done legally and that no discrimination occurred.
Idea 4: Train recruiters and hiring managers thoroughly on closing candidates. Make sure every recruiter and as many hiring managers as possible know how to identify potential acceptance issues and how to overcome objections.
Most acceptance failures are because someone — a recruiter or a hiring manager — did not pick up on signs that a candidate had reservations or issues that would be difficult to overcome: perhaps a reluctant spouse, a nagging doubt about the organization or the project, a desire to stay at their current employer, and so on.
It takes practice and training to notice these things and many recruiters are not well trained to not only notice the potential problem, but to deal with it. I often recommend that recruiters take a traditional sales training class where these skills are and the methods to overcome them are taught.
Idea 5: Communicate with mobile technology and via social media. Getting feedback to candidates regularly and fast is one of the ways to differentiate your organization from other and to get first-mover advantage with a candidate.
Most candidates today are more than willing to receive feedback and updates via their Facebook, LinkedIn, or other accounts. Email is fine, but experiment with other methods that cut down the time you spend and get the word out faster. Hiring managers should consider interviewing candidates using Skype or other tools. You could develop a mobile app to provide feedback or updates.
There are probably at least a dozen more ideas that you could try that would lower costs, improve speed, and provide higher quality candidates. But, then again, by doing it the way we always have, we ensure job security — for a while.