The Horseless Carriage of Recruiting – The Internet Part III

Jan 1, 2001

We can learn a lot from nature. The first real medicine to fight infection came from the spores on moldy bread. Studying mosquitoes conquered yellow fever. Many biochemists feel that the ultimate cure for some forms of cancer may come from the flora and fauna of the rain forest. That is if we can discover them before we wipe out their habitat. Then there is the elegant and efficient beauty of the “Venus Flytrap.” It’s delicate and intricate form combined with an appropriate scent designed to attract its intended prey is an engineering feat. This task is not as easy as it may seem, for in the rain forest, the insects of the jungle have many choices. The Venus flower must make an effort to stand out and be visible from the myriad confusions of color and other life forms. Once the intended prey lands on the flower, the effort has only just begun. It now must be attracted deeper into the stem. There is no “grabbing mechanism,” no sudden lunge or poison gas. Just a carefully constructed natural trap that slowly lures the intended deeper and deeper into the center of the Venus. The predetermine destination from which there is no ultimate escape. The host has found nourishment. (Anybody want to talk about building a better recruiting website?) Well, OK, this may seem a morbid example of Web recruiting, but doesn’t it seem to really capture the real and ultimate goal? We need to attract candidates who have many options, no commitment, and a short attention span. We must further compel them to remain in contact with us long enough, and deeply enough, that we too gather nourishment, their background and their interest in our company or our client. Compared to us, the Venus Flytrap has a short week and long lunches. There are billions of flies out there, but how many Java developers with “Dream Weaver” can there be? So the challenge in building a better “fly trap” is not to merely get in line with everyone else and assume that building a website is the end of your woes. However, standing out in a crowd requires more than just a desire to be attractive. Different is not enough if you do not also mean better. But what is better? Hey, here is a crazy idea, ask candidates! Go to a database and select fifty to one hundred resumes of candidates whose backgrounds reflect the industry and backgrounds you seek in your candidates. Then begin a two-step process:

  • Send an email, ask the candidates to go to your current site, go through the process of looking at what you have to offer, and to make comments on what they liked, what they disliked, and what they would have liked to see that you did not provide. Offer a $100 gift certificates to the best suggestions.
  • Go to the website of these candidates’ existing employers and see what the sites contain that you lack. If they attracted the candidates you would have liked to hire, they might be doing it right.

The first suggestion is, after-all, part of your routine recruiting day, you do search for resumes every day, right? The $100 gift certificates are a lot less expensive than a “Web Doctor” would charge you for an intensive survey and study that would co-incidentally also recommend their consulting services to fix your “problems.” Plus, you may make a few hires as well. Not a bad days work. The second suggestion will give you ideas based on what “your industry” is doing. It is easy to always “check out” the few key competitors in your field. Nevertheless, that may be too confining, you may need to broaden your research. If a small group of companies are always checking each other out, what they call research may in fact be “a rut!” You now have mastered the third step of fixing and creating a true interactive website for staffing and hiring. You have decided to base your new design on what it is that the people you want to hire want to see. Which is not necessarily what your “Trekkie” webmaster thinks is “super cool.” The first two steps in website upgrading were reflected in the first two parts of this article:

  • STEP 1: Discovering that “cutting and pasting” newspaper ads into a Web site and signing a contract with “” does not constitute web recruiting.
  • STEP 2: Meet with all parties that are, or may be involved, in maintaining, supporting, designing, budgeting, allocating, purchasing, and policy and procedural oversight at your companies Web site to insure you know who you have to support you, or to whom you must justify what you are doing.

The answer to this research will vary from company to company, region to region, profession to profession and level of seniority to level of seniority. But here are a few of the most common complaints about company websites:

  • They are not updated routinely.
  • The job descriptions are dry and unappealing.
  • The companies spend a lot of time listing what they are looking for, but precious little effort is spent of giving the candidates information on what the company has to offer the candidate, professionally.
  • Large websites are often difficult to navigate and seeking “Jobs”, “Career Opportunities”, “Talent Requirements” or other creative titles can further complicate issues. As opposed to “WANT TO WORK HERE?”
  • There is little or no interaction.

Some of this was covered in the first installment, but, you cannot overstate the obvious. Too many of our sites are one-sided, boring, inaccurate, and more importantly, driving away the people we are trying to seek. Sort of like putting an anteater next to the Venus Flytrap. Here are some of the thoughts my team “chewed on” in developing our new site plans:

  • Research shows that 70% of al visitors to corporate sites are seeking employment information. Why then is the “Careers” area always restricted in the amount of space it can occupy on the front page?
  • Most people have either a desire to work in a particular geographic location, or in a particular field. Shouldn’t your site Does your site allow them to search under both criteria and not just one or the other.(IE: What openings you have in Santa Barbara Vs Dallas. Or, what sort of Engineers are you looking for?)
  • Even after reading your “corporate statement,” did I really learn about the people in your company? Why not have online testimonials from several employees representing your corporate diversity in people, professions, and career level. Not all prospective interns want to hear the CEO’s 48-year-old “view from the top.” Not all prospective CFO candidates want to hear about “neato” bean bag chairs in the hallways and Friday afternoon beer blasts. You site is trying to attract many levels of skills and personalities, shouldn’t your site have different looks for each of them? This is all about the capabilities you now have through Cyber Space, use it to it’s fullest. Think multi-dimensional. This isn’t a newspaper ad.
  • Why not have the resumes routed directly to the hiring decision maker? Assign every HM a “recruiting e-mail” address. Responses are “cc’ed” to HR for tracking, but to the manager for review and action. The acknowledgement e-mail sent advises the candidate that a “real person” is getting the resume.
  • Newspaper ad job descriptions on the Web? We are rewriting all our position descriptions (courtesy of advice given by Peter Weddle). The titles will include location, position title (spun up), and salary information. ( IE: Boston/ Web Content Superstar / 75K up , or, Dal-Bos-NYC / Java Miracle Worker / 85K up) With the number of opportunities candidates have to read, this let’s them know location and minimum earning capability. They are more likely to apply. The position description will contain “bullets” before the general description and requirements with the key reasons why a person should want to work in this role. (International Travel, Creative Control of MarComm Project, Visibility to the Executive Team, Access to Leading Edge Technology in Development ) Entice the candidate to read more, do not bore them to tears. Plenty of time for that during the HR interview.
  • Interactive? Of course, if you apply. When you cut and paste or attach your resume to the on-line application (With all legal and appropriate disclaimers.) the candidate is provided with a field to “ask” the manager relevant questions and respond to the manager’s favorite questions used for screening purposes. (Part of the new requisition approval process is the manager providing his or her favorite questions.) For those candidates who either lack or dislike resumes, we have created “fact sheets” that can be filed in to provide specific skill knowledge. This includes a simple rating system to allow the candidate to indicate strengths, preferences and aspirations. This form matches up (What a coincidence!) to a similar form developed as part of the job description.
  • If the candidate “applies” they are advised that they will be given a temporary user name and password to enter a “applicants only” area on the company website. This access and password are canceled when the process concludes with a hire, or a “no interest” entry in the resume tracking system. Located in this “special site” is information on the staffing process, area information about the region for candidates considering relocation (Real Estate, Recreation, Education, History, Culture), a master interview schedule for the candidate to indicate good days and times to interview or be available for phone calls.. The goal is to make the candidate feel more committed to the process.
  • Using the “e-mail alias,” the hiring manager can continue to introduce other members of their team into the pre-interview or phone/e-mail screening process. This allows a connection to be maintained and a candidates interest engaged.

There is a lot more going on, but the point is we are not just “fixing” our Web site, we are reworking the hiring and staffing process with the Web as one of the key components. But based on the changes being made, the need to include policy and procedure folks into the game early should be clearer than ever. Some of the major bones of contention have been:

  • Listing salaries gives our competitors an edge on us. Wrong! There are dozens of compensation Web sites out there for candidates to access this data. If it isn’t a secret, why conceal it? Plus, we are only giving the minimum end of the range. When is the last time you made an offer from that end of the scale in this market?
  • This is using up a lot of space on the web site. Wrong! Saving space is a bad reason to do anything poorly. Your IT people can give you the data you need to show that tripling the capacity of your process only represents a fractional increase of the space you are already using to do Web recruiting poorly. Besides, remind the Web manager that in staffing the only “space” you worry about is the “unoccupied space” of unhired employees!!!!
  • Too many of these features take too long to load, we will lose candidates. Wrong! Once the candidate is “engaged” in the process and learning, step-by-step, they will continue. You are providing them with a depth of access that they cannot experience many other places. Unique sells, as long as it is interesting, well constructed, and relevant.
  • This much effort will cost too much and use up a lot of person hours. Right…and wrong! This will use up recruiting budget resources. This will use up some creative time. But I wonder, does your company require that all new product projects, new customer campaigns, and new product upgrades cost nothing and take no time? If that is the case, I do not think staffing will be an issue for you too much longer!

The Venus Fly Trap flourishes because it adapted to the environment. It did not require flies conform to it’s desires. The Web revolutions has a corner piece that should influence any decision we make it in it’s utilization, “It enables faster action though information access.” Candidates who use the Web expect information, they expect to be able to act on that information. In essence, they are “begging” to be trapped. You just have to build a good one. Have a great day recruiting! <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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