As Talent Pools Get Competitive, Expectations for Recruiting Tech Increase

It’s good to be a job-seeker. 

I don’t mean that in a sort of “labor shortage” context. In fact, I’ve gone on record multiple times that there is no broad labor shortage and others seem to agree. Companies with good jobs and good pay are doing fine, or at least as good as they were doing pre-pandemic. People want to work and that they’re choosing not to immediately jump back to the companies that discarded them at the first sign of trouble is an indictment of the companies struggling now, not job-seekers.

What there is more evidence of is a shift in job-seeker discernment. People have different expectations, both for the jobs they are looking for and what they’d like the hiring process to look like. While record quit rates might suggest that individuals are moving on quickly to whatever comes next, the actual stories behind those moves are more complex. People are looking at a variety of issues and factors as they consider their next move — and your recruiting technology can help or hinder you. 

Candidates Don’t Want Just Efficiency

For a long time, I thought that the main thing candidates wanted from their experience was an efficient process. Don’t waste their time. Don’t interview them 15 times. Don’t ask them to do assignments that take days. Don’t put them through a battery of assessments. 

And to a certain extent, that’s true. A dozen interviews is a lot. Some of the test assignments I’ve seen are absurd. 

But this isn’t just about an efficient process. After all, the retailers doing low-tech hiring in my area — which entails showing up on an interview day, having a pulse, and passing a low-bar background check — are still having trouble finding people. Maybe more importantly, they tell me a good portion of them make it through a few weeks and then leave for something else.

If the most efficient process doesn’t eliminate talent shortages, then we can assume that companies with more complicated and lengthier hiring processes aren’t necessarily wrong. In some cases, I imagine it’s a better experience for them to invest the time. 

Opting In and Meeting Expectations

That’s good news for talent acquisition technology that continues its breakneck pace for investment. But where are the opportunities for recruiting tech to improve the experience instead of just making everything faster?

It starts with the opt-in. Before candidates become candidates, they’re just people with certain sets of skills who may or may not be interested in your job. All of the technology that recruiters use before the opt-in should be about delivering information efficiently to that person. That could mean a sourcing tool that helps you personalize your outreach with information most relevant to the candidate. It could mean a slimmed down mobile site that is easy to skim and dig deeper quickly. It could be a chatbot that can help answer basic questions and can also connect people with a live person to answer more complicated inquiries. 

After job-seekers get the information they need, they also want the ability to show interest in the job easily. Does your ATS allow people to pre-fill information from LinkedIn? Does it properly parse a resume? Do you need a resume at all at this stage? 

Some organizations may see a lengthy application process as the invisible first cut. If someone isn’t willing to upload their resume, fix the parsing, do a 15-minute assessment, put in their references, and give up their first-born, they’re probably not very invested. But of course they aren’t invested yet! They’re barely a candidate. 

Let your screening process do its job after the application, not before. Anything more than simple knockout questions, like the ability to legally work in the country, is a mistake.

Baby Steps to the Big Hiring Decision

After someone shows interest, they want to know what’s next. This is a great opportunity to set initial expectations. It can be as simple as saying, “We’ll get back to you via email, either to talk about next steps or through an automated notification for those not moving on in the process.” 

Here’s the thing though: The notification actually has to work, with a high probability of it not getting caught in a spam filter. If you can’t reliably deliver that, don’t promise it. But, you should really get that fixed.

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There’s some debate on when to discuss expectations for the entire hiring process. Personally, I like processes that start that discussion after the initial screen. Here you have a candidate who is, on paper at least, qualified. You invested some of your time into the candidate. Now is the time to talk about everything from a one-way video interview, assessments, assignments, and interview expectations. 

Each step should ease the candidate into more time investment. Get past the first screening interview and then we ask for a 30-minute assessment. Pass the assessment and then you have a 90-minute call with the hiring manager. Get through that and then do an assignment. 

The tech expectation here is that it works well and makes sense, not that it’s short or efficient. For example, an assessment has to make sense within the context of the job; otherwise, even a short one is a bad experience. 

If you’re using interviewing technology, it should be easy to use and it should work as intended. 

Communicating what technologies you’ll use ahead of time also helps people be prepared. Knowing that if I get hired, I’m looking at an eight hour process in total is good. Knowing that I don’t have to put in six of those hours before I even get to talk to a real decision-maker is better.

Keep Improving

That doesn’t mean you don’t need to be respectful of your final candidates’ time. Knowing you have a dozen interviews before getting hired is better than being left in the dark, but getting that down to less than a handful is better.

Technology, especially later in the process, is the same way. You don’t need an assessment that only takes five minutes or does complicated and ethically dubious AI machinations. But, can you find an assessment that’s easier to take or one that is more relevant for the position at hand? Probably. 

The stakes, even with invested, later-stage candidates, have never been higher. Every decision in process and technology is an important one. And every decision should be pushing toward being the best talent acquisition arm for your specific organization. 

Lance Haun is the practice director of strategy and insights for The Starr Conspiracy, where he focuses on researching and writing about work technology. He is also a former editor for ERE Media, broadly covering the world of human resources, recruiting, and sourcing. 
 
He has been featured as a work expert in publications like the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, MSNBC, Fast Company, and other HR and business websites.
 
He's based in his Vancouver, Wash., home office with his wife and adorable daughter. You can reach him by email or find him off-topic on Twitter.

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