Today’s Rant: Consistency as a Goal

Sep 10, 2014

Now, I’m not an anti-consistency guy at all. To scale, to create a great experience, you need to make sure certain things are predictable and dependable. For example, every candidate should know their status in a process and what the next step is (and timeline of that next step).

But, sometimes, consistency becomes the goal itself, not a means to a goal. And in a talent-centric world – where we preach personalization, creating a stand out experience, tailoring the process/tools/approach to the person — consistency can get in the way, and even create a bad experience.  

I guess it’s how you think about consistency, right? A “consistently great experience” for candidates, for example, would be a fantastic goal, as long as you recognize that the process you use for an engineer, a salesperson, an executive, a nurse, and an accounts payable person may need to look very different to deliver on that goal. The way they apply, the tests they take before they come onsite, the interview process (how many, what type), the way you engage post-interview, and the kinds of things you do to sell them … all should probably be tailored.

And, similarly, the kind of tools you provide to a field-based retail store hiring manager to interview vs the tools you provide to an engineering hiring manager at headquarters should probably look different. Not the “never ask someone their age in an interview” stuff; that should be consistent. But the actual interview guides, the focus areas, the assumptions made about how much time they’ll actually spend interviewing … these should vary.

Some examples:

  • A 500+ location organization required all of its HQ and field managers to use the same six-page interview guide. But the field based managers — who hire $10-12/hour employees — were expected to conduct one-hour behavioral interviews, just like the corporate office, with a focus that did not include requirements specific to their location’s needs or even the specific job. They were not allowed to go off-script. This was all because the HR and legal team wanted 100 percent consistency. (P.S. Do you think, when we audited the field managers’ actual usage of the guides, they were using them the way headquarters expected?)
  • A mid-sized organization got all of its recruiting and HR managers together for a several-month project to rebuild its recruiting process. One process to rule them all! It spent countless hours in meetings, arguing over steps in a process, as it tried to get a single process to cover admins to union workers to $100,000+ professionals, and — initially — even tried to create one process for both internal and external candidates. What it ended up with was the biggest, most complex swim lane charts you’ve ever seen, and a process that didn’t really work for any one group (everyone was equally unhappy, though!).  There was no voice of the customer in these meetings (no candidate representative, no hiring managers, no interviewers), fighting the good fight. Just good intentioned people with a goal of consistency.
  • A tech firm decided coding tests were a great idea (in general, I agree). So it used the same core coding test for all engineering jobs, from entry-level developers to senior-manager-level engineering leaders (as managers were expected to be able to code, as well). Why? Consistency. Unintended consequences?  Asking senior-level professionals and managers to take a test that focused on hands-on coding, before the onsite interview and any real selling, was a turnoff. Senior people were dropping out of the process, not taking the test, and generally less interested in working for that company.

I know, I know. Compliance is important, and you can’t just willy-nilly change up processes based on a whim.  But when we work with companies to help them improve their recruiting processes, we like to start by thinking about what processes need to be consistent (federal), what needs to be department- or geography-specific (state), and what need to be adapted to the individual (local). Then, we get prescriptive: you must always do X, but you can flex, customize, personalize on Y. As a judge for the ERE Recruiting Excellence Awards and the Candidate Experience Awards, I especially appreciate companies that highlight this kind of “one size does not fit all” approach. It’s harder to build, and doesn’t always scale well or make the compliance people’s jobs easy, but in the end, the extra work often gives you a real competitive advantage.

What do you think? How do you talk about consistency in your company? What’s consistent, and what’s purposefully inconsistent and tailored, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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