Recruiting Tech Should Stop Imitating Amazon and Yelp

I heard it early on in my career: Recruiting is sales. 

In some ways, that’s right. Part of your job might be contacting a lot of people. You could be told no frequently by people you hoped would say yes. Both recruiter and sales jobs require a great combination of interpersonal savvy, motivation, and analytical skills. 

But in most ways, “recruiting is sales” is very, very wrong. I’m not alone in thinking this, either. Selling a product or service is much different than identifying, qualifying, and hiring the right candidate for a job. 

I say that as no slight to salespeople or recruiters. Some of my best friends fall in each category. The level of skill it requires to be great for either is substantial. If the roles were so similar, staffing firms would only hire salespeople or recruiters, not both. But, of course, they don’t. 

The “recruiting is sales” mantra is so strong, recruiting technology providers have taken cues from consumer sales experiences to improve their products. This has led to some outcomes that don’t help organizations hire better, nor does it help candidates identify better job opportunities. 

One-Click: Great for Buying Air fryers, Bad for Applications

How easy is too easy when it comes to applying for jobs? 

Recruiting leaders will say yes to ease every time. They’ll buy clever pitches that compare applying for a job to buying a product on Amazon. You don’t want to get in the way of people applying, do you?

That “Buy Now” button is great for selling me a Minecraft backpack that my kid doesn’t need, but it isn’t a good application process. None of the jobs at Amazon, even for desperately needed warehouse workers, are one-click applications. That should say something.

Smarter recruiting technology companies are focused on increasing candidate intent rather than impulse. Impulse works fine for buying all kinds of goods, even expensive ones. Intent is more durable. Having information that helps people understand your organization, understand the hiring process, read about what you do, and learn more about the opportunities and challenges in a given role can all increase candidate intent. 

You want people invested in the job you’re offering, both for their sake and your own. That doesn’t mean you should make the application or hiring process onerous or that it’s about weeding people out. This is about giving people a reason to stick with you, through a hiring process that isn’t always smooth — and beyond.

You Can’t be Transactional When the Transaction Can Be Literally Years Long

Intent is also important because people don’t just opt in to a job once when they accept a new role. They opt in to it every time they go to work and do what they were hired to do. Each day is a choice: Keep going at this job or look for something else. 

While most people work at least a few days a week, every week, a person’s experience in their career might involve just a handful of different employers over a 40-year career. Even so-called job-hoppers who are only spending a year or two at companies before moving on are spending hundreds of days at work. 

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Employment is the exact opposite of a transactional experience. We should treat it like that.

Review sites for companies offered by the likes of Glassdoor and Indeed cheapen the depth of that experience, though. Yelp and other review sites work because we have a diversity of individual experiences related to meals, hotel stays, or experiences that can be compared. Equating a person’s employment experience, which can span thousands of interactions over many years, to a star rating and a couple of short paragraphs is absurd. I don’t need to bash you over the head with Seasons of Love lyrics to let you know why.

Don’t hate the player, hate the game? Well, employers are good really good at the game when they want to be. It’s hard to blame them, either. But this is an instance where it might be worth starving that beast. Organizations have to devise better ways to help potential employees understand the good and bad of working there without having to resort to paying Glassdoor to manipulate your landing page to look better. 

Focus on Intuitive UX, Rich Information

Rather than trying to use something that looks like Yelp or Amazon to help improve recruiting, you should put yourself in a candidate’s shoes. When I talk to candidates, they’ve done a lot of informal research before and after they apply for a role. They’ll consume what’s on career sites, on LinkedIn or Google, and consume videos — especially more candid content. Make it easy for candidates to discover it. 

For example, I’ve heard more about the movie reviews that my co-workers have done on Instagram than any of the formal content we put out about the job itself. Both of those things, of course, are super helpful for people to understand what a job is all about. 

Just because something isn’t a one-click apply doesn’t mean it should be difficult to navigate. An intuitive user experience — through career portals, video interviews, ATSs, assessments, background screenings, and more — should be the focus. Streamlining your processes and making them easy to follow is different than dropping parts of them in the name of ease or speed. Knowing what’s additive to the hiring process, both for the organization and the candidate, is key to delivering an experience that candidates don’t mind investing some time in. 

Finally, one of the most important differences between sales and recruiting is thinking about how to work with candidates who don’t make it through the process. Figuring out contextually aware ways of staying in touch, balancing personalization and scale, is still evolving. CRM and talent intelligence platforms can do some work here, but it’s not perfect.

It’s time to look at recruiting tech that promises a better, more consumer-friendly experience with the skepticism it deserves. Talent acquisition isn’t sales and candidates aren’t customers. Let’s treat candidates and the hiring process as something that deserves its own approach.

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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