Sourcing Insights: No More ‘Apply or Goodbye’

Sep 3, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

FL09_Masthead“Apply or Goodbye” is a great metaphor for a transactional recruiting process. Sadly, “apply or goodbye” seems to be the end result with most recruiting processes. Everything seems to be about a transaction—filling the open requisition. If a prospect is qualified and interested, then they are moved through the process. If they are not qualified, then at best, they receive a letter of rejection. If a prospect is not ready to apply to do a job, we usually do not know about them. We have de facto told them “goodbye.” And given the prospect-to-candidate falloff rate (research projects application non-completion rates as high as 70-80%), a great number of prospects get lost because of the transactional nature of recruiting technology.

In a moment of frustration (or epiphany) I quipped that candidates were seeking relationships and our recruiting technology offers them the equivalent of a one-night stand (or more accurately a chance to complete an application). Looking past the potential off-color nature of the comment, the truth is there is a gap between what people in this world of Web 2.0 desire and what a typical recruiting operation allows. That gap is the williness on the part of recruiting to have a conversation with you unless you are part of the chosen few that meets with requirements of a specific job.

Jeff Jarvis writes in his book–What Would Google Do?—about the first law he learned on the Internet:

“Give the people control and they will use it. Don’t and you will lose us.”

Think: It Is Not About Us!

Giving up control is scary, but the alternative is downright frightening. If you would like to see that picture, just read Jarvis’s famous blog post about “Dell Hell.”(Use keywords “dell hell” in Bing.) It is the story of Jarvis in a moment of frustration with Dell that caused a groundswell of public opinion and caused Dell an amazing amount of pain (i.e. lost sales, bad PR, etc). Dell eventually got the message, but at what cost? To say that this event has caused a sea change is an understatement.

Think Distributed, Not Destination

Jeff Jarvis (What Would Google Do) suggests that companies (like Google) that act as a distribution system have been more successful in the Web 2.0 world than organizations (like Yahoo) that have focused on building portals and destination points. When you build a destination site, it is as if you are taking the prospect where you want them to go, as opposed to using the site as a method that they can go where they want to go. The Microsoft Talent Engagement Model (see graphic below) is more of a marketing distribution system for our jobs and jobs-related content than to a single talent community site. In fact, as you dig into the model, you will notice that activities and information flow in a myriad of directions as opposed to a single web site.

Not Creating New Communities!

We joined existing communities (LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook) and used their platforms to engage the appropriate segments of their membership. Not only do these social networking sites have a large number of active participants, the very audience we are trying to reach contained in their ranks. Forrester’s Technographics research indicates that a Groundswell has occurred and the majority of adults in our society (especially the best educated, highest-paid professions as well as the new entrants to the job market) have joined social networking sites. It is very apparent that our target audience is online and in these existing communities or social networking sites.

We are creating community, but not necessarily creating new communities (if that makes sense). Perhaps a way to good way to think about it is that we are organizing a community in way that can make the community function better to better meet the interests of our target audience. For active job seekers, we can provide a higher quality experience and help them navigate Microsoft. For the more passive individuals, we can provide the “inside scoop” on technologies; what it is like to work at Microsoft; and engage current employees in conversation.

An Alternative to Goodbye!

At Microsoft, we are pipelining talent in communities as an alternative to saying goodbye. These communities are located on social networking sites (LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook) as well as our vendor’s (Jobs2Web) platform. We use communities to

  1. Offer an alternative to prospects who are not ready to apply
  2. Offer an alternative to prospects who are screened out
  3. Offer an alternative to prospects who do not complete the application process.

The Microsoft Talent Engagement Model (see graphic) illustrates that there is a lot going on in our approach to pipeline and creating community.

ERE Slide Deck Sept 2009 Rev 14

The pie chart in the upper-left hand corner is a reminder that the talent supply is comprised of active, casual, passive, and non-job seeking talent. And it points out the active job seeker is only about 14% of our potential audience. That leaves approximately 86% of the potential audience—causal, passive, or non-job seekers that could be part of the talent engagement equation.

The center of the funnel illustrates that we feed our SEO results; our SEM activities; our TalentStream (A CRM-based pipelines/community engaging approach that maps a target audience’s behaviors, attitudes, and interests to our outreach) campaigns; and the prospects generated from live and virtual events. Previously, I argued that SEO Is Not Enough: that tactic alone does not reach a large percentage of the potential talent supply. So we add TalentStream campaigns, events, and other outreach strategies to reach deeper into the potential talent supply toward where the more passive prospects are. We use a variety of approaches that are based on an understanding of our target audience’s behaviors, attitudes, and common interests.

The left-hand side of the Microsoft Talent Engagement Model depicts how we use a number of different opportunities to distribute information to active, as well as some casual and active prospects. In this way, we allow the prospect to decide how they want to engage or hear from us. For example, the passive job seeker might want to subscribe to a job agent that will alert them when a certain type of opportunity becomes available. The casual job seeker might have been referred by an employee to a specific job and we want to move them forward in our process. The prospect that is not looking might show up at a virtual event that has a Microsoft leader discussing an important new technology.

Not ready to apply? Not the right fit? Came in second? Regardless of the reason, the right-hand side of the Microsoft Talent Engagement Model graphic illustrates the ability to offer the prospects the opportunity to remain engaged. If they join a community, we will listen, answer questions, and converse with prospects. If they are “non-applicants” at the present time, we offer a variety of ways a prospect can decide how to receive information. For the person who is screened out of an interview process, we can offer them the opportunity to stay engaged while they wait for a better job fit. For the candidate who came in second in an interview panel, we can actively assist them in considering other opportunities within Microsoft. And for the person who has left Microsoft for other opportunities, we can keep in touch. In many instances Microsoft Alumni wish to return after a short length of time in their new venture.

This behavior of not allowing for conversations with prospects is going to catch up with the recruiting profession—and it is not going to be pretty for some of us. But we still have a chance to get in front of this. Apply or Goodbye is no longer the only option.

The THX commercial tickles our ears in the movie theater, loudly proclaiming the “Audience Is Listening.” The lesson of the Web 2.0 is the “Audience Desires a Conversation” and recruiters had best join in the dialogue.

One purpose of this article is a preview of a presentation for the Fall 2009 ERE event, where our talent community pilot will be discussed in the broader context of Web 2.0 Beyond the Social Recruiting Hype: Microsoft’s Approach to Building Talent Pipelines and Communities. While the presentation will be much broader than a discussion of “apply or goodbye”—one of our core beliefs is that Web 2.0 demands that we have conversations with prospective employees at all phases of the job search cycle. Failure to do so will result in our recruiting the best talent for Microsoft, and that significantly impacts our business.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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