Since the dawn of business, companies have been trying to figure out how to make buyers choose their products. Now, marketers break their backs creating fictitious buyer’s journeys and user experience maps in an effort to sniff out the moments when they can turn a lead into a customer.
While we’ve said before that recruiting is not marketing, anyone who has worked in talent acquisition for more than five minutes understands that it’s not all that different, either.
Educated guesses and consumer research has gotten us a long way, both in marketing and in recruiting, but we’re lucky to be living in an age when hard science is now shedding light on some universal truths that can help us understand our target audiences better than ever before. When it comes to sourcing, identifying, and landing ideal clients for your company’s open positions, neuroscience research can help shape recruiting strategies and tactics that dramatically improve candidate experience and employee performance. The best part is: you don’t have to be a scientist to understand it all.
So, what is neuroscience, anyway?
Neuroscience is a multidisciplinary branch of biology that focuses on the mechanics of cognitive functions. Simply put, nuniveuroscience is the study of what the brain actually does when we’re thinking.
Scientists in the field often use MRI scans and computerized 3D models to gain a better understanding of how and why we think the way we do. While the study of neuroscience can offer insights into a wide range of human activity, its primary objective is to understand common medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and the effects of stroke. Essentially, any condition that causes the brain to act in a non-typical manner is of great interest to neuroscientists, and the results of that research could lead to new medications, treatments, or perhaps even cures for some of these conditions.
Outside the medical world, neuroscience is making its mark in other areas. One rapper tried using neuroscience to recover from a bad breakup. And this French artist has an entire show in London devoted to imagery of brain activity. But in the business world, leaders in a variety of industries have realized how the research offers insights into the minds of their customers. After all, every customer and job candidate is a human being with a complex brain. And despite all the differences that make us unique individuals, our brains are (basically) the same.
What communication looks like in the brain
Whether it’s two people talking closely at a cafe table or trading emojis in a text convo, we know what communication looks like in the outside world. What it looks like in the brain is something entirely different. When it comes to neuroscience research, the parts that apply to basic human communication are (to laypeople like us, in the business world) the most fascinating—and by far the most useful. Some of the findings related to communication exist to confirm what we already knew, or at least strongly suspected, about why people respond certain ways to certain things. For instance, we often think about ‘being on the same page’ but it turns out conversations actually do that: our brains synchronize when we talk to another person. Having our instincts backed up by science makes it a lot easier to invest in them financially.
So, picture this: your best recruiter has a candidate on the line, either on the phone or in a chat session, and they’re discussing the job description. The candidate is interested, but has some clarifying questions. What’s happening in her brain as the recruiter delivers his response? Computational neuroscientist Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar conducts research in precisely this area. His 2017 TED Talk, entitled “What happens in your brain when we pay attention,” explains more about the patterns in the brain that emerge as people try to focus, revealing what our brains key in on and what they filter out.
He points out that overt attention (paying attention to something while also looking at it) causes brain activity to light up with less effort. And that’s how companies can benefit from online recruiting chats, because candidates must look at text messages to read them, and the neuroscience response in the brain is exactly what you want. A phone call won’t achieve the same result. For both the recruiter and the candidate, a chat conversation offers a better chance at achieving their respective goals. Recruiters are intent on determining whether a candidate should move forward in the process; candidates want to know that the position and company match what they are looking for. Because chat communication taps into overt attention, it’s a better approach to getting a candidate’s attention.
What happens in the brain when we hear a question is similarly useful, if you’re in the business of getting someone’s attention. Recent research shows that hearing a question “hijacks” the brain, because we can’t think about more than one idea at a time. This is especially important as we think about the structure and content of recruiting conversations. While those conversations have been saturated with questions for ages, we can think more carefully about the types and formats of those questions when we know how the brain responds.
How neuroscience fits into your talent acquisition strategy
Everything we’ve learned about the neuroscience of communication is relevant to the topic of recruiting. Recruiting has always revolved around communication, but the type of communication is changing with the times. While phone screenings used to be the most common first point of contact between a recruiter and a candidate, they are far from the most effective. The shift is, in part, due to the explosion of cell phone ownership. According to Pew Research, 95% of adults in the U.S. have a cell phone, and the majority of those are smartphones.
With that technology, as we all know, comes a constant stream of information and requests for contact, from text messages and tweets to pop-up browser notifications from retailers we shop with regularly. It’s no surprise that people in general, and particularly job seekers, are a bit worn out from the immediacy of it all. That’s one big reason candidates are responding positively to less intrusive, chat-based messages, especially when they can schedule a chat in advance. The open rates for text messages (98%) blow email open rates (28-33%) out of the water.
Meeting candidates where they are (online!) and giving them what they want (conversations!) is a fairly straightforward concept, but the execution isn’t as simple as implementing a tech tool. To go above and beyond, to differentiate your company from your competitors and attract the candidate pool you really want, your recruiting staff must know how to engage with candidates in a way that leaves them feeling warm and fuzzy about the prospect of joining your organization. Educate your recruiting team on the basics of neuroscience as it relates to their daily jobs, and be prepared to have ongoing discussions as new research becomes available.
We’ll keep monitoring the research findings, and you can be sure we’ll revisit the topic again in the future when there’s more to share. In the meantime, be sure you’re subscribed to our email newsletter so you don’t miss any insights on the future of conversational recruiting from us here at Brazen.
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