Want to Be Candidate-Friendly? There’s Room for a Trend-Setter

Much has been made of the shoddy treatment of job candidates at the hands of employers, so we won’t beat that dead horse here. But as the old saying goes, whenever there’s a problem, there’s an opportunity. What’s the opportunity for employers who want to brand themselves as candidate-friendly and gain mindshare in the talent community? Here are some ideas worth considering.

Get to Know Your Annual Search Partners

As a corporate HR person, I used to hold an annual “search partners day” once a year to share business and product development goals, leadership initiatives, and other useful information with our search partners. This was also the day when our retained and contingency search friends could get to know hiring managers and key staffers better by chatting at the breakout sessions. Even the most fiercely competitive contingency folks would show up and chat with one another, on that one event every year. Certainly, they wouldn’t want to miss it. What if you went the next step and asked your chief search partners to schedule a “meet the employer night”? You could send an HR leader and a line executive out to a search partner’s facility and meet present and future candidates, or just anyone from the search professional’s database who wanted to learn more about your organization. As the talent pool shrinks, HR people will have to shed their fortress mentality (“keep them away from me!”) and get out there and mingle with the natives. A company could set itself apart in the local job market and build tremendous near- and long-term candidate relationships by actively seeking ways to expand its future talent network.

Establish a Moderated Yahoo! Group

It takes no money and little effort to establish a moderated Yahoo! group (or other email listserv) for job seekers interested in learning more about your company. A listserv goes one step beyond an email newsletter by letting participants ask questions of you or other members. You could, for example create the “XYZ Corp Talent Pool” discussion group to share information on the company’s plans, new hires, and hiring processes. An online discussion group is also a great place to answer candidates’ questions about working for your company or getting in the door, and ó by observing the conversation ó to spot likely candidates and invite them to take the next step. I’m not aware of a single company that has developed this easy candidate-cultivation resource. If you moderate the email group, untoward or company-bashing comments won’t be published, so the risk of misuse is nil, and the benefits could be tremendous. A follow-up step would be to invite members of your discussion group to participate in your employee referral bonus program or a variation of it. It’s a great way to put your company groupies and followers to work for you.

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Take a Hard Look at Your Phone-Screening System

Phone screens are efficient time-savers; they allow you to cut unwieldy resume piles in half quickly. But they suffer from this problem: Capable people can be cut from the list for not being at home when the screener calls. So back up your phone screen process with an email questionnaire that ensures you don’t lose track of talented people the phone screener missed. Use the email questionnaire to invite the candidate to suggest alternate times for a quick phone interview. A 4:00 a.m. phone interview appointment is a small price to pay for making the hire of the year. As the jobs shortage shifts to a talent shortage, candidate-friendly companies will win the gold, and there are precious few of them. Somebody ó maybe you ó has the chance to change the landscape and gain a competitive advantage at the same time. Do you have the guts (not to mention the juice) to promote future talent cultivation as a top-line corporate value for your employer in 2006? The top spot for organizations who value job seekers is there for the taking.

Liz Ryan is a former Fortune 500 Human Resources SVP and is the world's most widely read career advisor. She is CEO & Founder of Human Workplace, a think tank and publishing firm whose mission is to reinvent work for people. Liz Ryan is also author of the recently released book, "Reinvention Roadmap" -- a new millennium guide to successfully navigating the often complex and confusing world of job search today by breaking the rules to get ahead.