An Executive’s Perspective: Rediscovering the Human Experience in Recruiting

Sep 18, 2017 -
“Today’s recruiter must be a marketer, sales person, career coach, and psychologist all in one.” -- Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte. Before becoming the VP of Customer Success at Brazen, I’d been in the online recruiting industry for 18 years, and watched as technology had both improved and hindered the process of finding good employees. Back in the day before online job boards, people found an ad in the newspaper and sent in their carefully-crafted cover letter and resume explaining why they’d be a good fit for the position. Recruiters reached out to top candidates to schedule a phone screen or in-person interview so both parties could determine if working together made sense. Many positions didn’t require you to complete an actual “application” until later in the process, or even on your first day as a new employee. With the birth of online job boards, this process changed, and much of it not for the better in terms of the experience for job candidates (the resume black hole) AND recruiters (the application avalanche).   The early job boards typically asked for some basic candidate information and then the job seeker uploaded their resume and cover letter - all of which the job board emailed to the recruiter. For job seekers, the process didn’t change too substantially from snail-mail communication except it was easier for candidates to find and apply to multiple jobs, so employers started getting a higher volume of applicants. But that higher volume quickly became difficult to manage and recruiters couldn’t keep up, so job boards and applicant tracking systems started to try and help by asking candidates to provide even more information in standardized fields, in addition to uploading a resume. The cover letter started to disappear in an effort to use automation to surface the best candidates.   Before too long, the process had changed drastically. Instead of starting with a written expression of interest from a candidate who provided an overview of their suitability for a position that tied their experience to the job requirements, and then quickly moving candidates to a conversation with a recruiter or hiring manager, now candidates complete lengthy applications for jobs they may not even be sure they want (or are even suited for) with little or no opportunity to help recruiters understand why they believe they’re a fit. Instead of reviewing a manageable volume of interested parties where candidates differentiate themselves via a cover letter that conveys interest, aptitude, and an understanding of the employer and role, recruiters have to wade through databases of applicant info that all looks the same and resumes that often inaccurately communicate whether a candidate is a fit. According to the Talent Board CandE Research Report, 47% of candidates never hear back after they apply, and employers say up to 75% of the resumes they receive are from people unqualified for the job. ATS systems miss good candidates and move poor ones forward. A lot of people want to blame the challenge of filling seats on a “talent shortage,” but is that really the issue with a 3.8% hire rate, 6.2 million open jobs and 7.1 million unemployed people? The average time to hire is 42 days, and the average cost per hire is over $4,000. There’s no other word for this process than broken.

Inefficiencies in the recruiting process

At my last job, in our early days as a small start-up, I was the lucky one wading through the hundreds of online applications we received. If the candidate didn’t include a cover letter, they went to the bottom of my pile -- a cover letter told me they were more serious about the position, it helped me see why they felt their background was a good fit (even if at first glance it didn’t appear so to me), and it added much more context to who this person was than their resume alone could ever do. Even moving quickly through the stack, it still took me several hours to get through them. The ones that went in the “yes” pile, I’d contact to schedule a phone interview.  More hours spent going back-and-forth setting up calls, rescheduling calls, plus frustration when many of the “yes” candidates never responded -- they’d either moved on or hadn’t really been interested, yet I’d spent time reviewing their resumes and reaching out.   Then the phone calls began, and a disappointing number of them were clearly not a fit within the first five minutes of the call, but we were scheduled for 20 minutes, so I’d slog through for at least 15 minutes to avoid being rude. If I was lucky, we’d have two to three candidates make it to the in-person interviews. If we got to the decision point, and weren’t overly excited about any of them, do you think we’d start that process all over again?  Hellll no -- it’d already been weeks and many manhours of effort, we needed the seat filled pronto, so we’d pick one, hope for the best, and regret it later more often than we would have liked.   This was over 10 years ago, and do you know what’s changed when I ask recruiters today about their process? Nothing! The exact same recruiting challenges, frustrations, wasted time, and less than optimal results. Well, that’s not entirely true -- often they’re spending more money and have more systems to try and fix it. No doubt technology can help, but we also need to get back to human interaction earlier in the process, and help recruiters spend less time on truly thankless tasks and get them talking to candidates.

Live chat events: Filling the recruiting gaps with real people

I came to Brazen because I was inspired by the idea that this company’s technology disrupted the standard way of recruiting, which was very exciting to me. A scheduled, timed, text-based chat with a candidate gives so much context to a resume -- that piece of paper becomes a real person, and like that oldfangled cover letter, the candidate can tie their experience to the role! No more time wasted reviewing resumes first -- review the resume during the chat! No more chasing down candidates who aren’t really interested -- only the interested ones show up! Chats are much shorter than phone interviews, and to really ramp up efficiency you can chat with more than one person at a time and quickly float quality candidates to the top of the list. Seriously, I would have killed to have had this tool back in my early recruiting days, and luckily when we recruit here at Brazen, I get to use it! Not only does it make the recruiting and hiring process imminently better for recruiters, the candidates benefit as well. 72% of candidates want to talk to a recruiter or hiring manager before applying. And if you take the time to apply, getting a chance to chat with a real-live human being is a whole lot better than silence or an automated “sorry, your application doesn’t meet our current needs.” If you look at some of the top trends in recruiting for 2017, many of them highlight the candidate experience, putting a human touch back into recruiting, engaging hiring managers earlier in the process, demonstrating corporate culture, and accelerating the time to hire. Helping to fix the broken hiring process is a very rewarding place to be.

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