Fixing traditional recruiting problems

“Evan” was discouraged. As a chief technology officer at a cloud-based communication company, he assumed he had an in-demand skill set. But, after six months of job searching and submitting 140 online applications, Evan had ended up with no interview requests. In fact, he had heard nothing back at all, except for a handful of automated messages telling him that his application had been received. As a career coach, I’ve seen that Evan’s experience is disappointingly common.

The fact that a talented executive like Evan was largely ignored by employers belies a problem with the traditional way of recruiting candidates. Consider these facts: There were more than 11 million job openings in December 2021. According to the Labor Department, that’s roughly 1.7 job openings for every unemployed worker—the most in two decades. Yet, in a Society of Human Resource Management studyonly 25% of HR professionals rated their organization effective in finding and recruiting talent.

The reality is that organizations that continue to operate this way, failing to prioritize courting and catering to top talent, will be at a major disadvantage. The old way of recruiting—with its lengthy recruiting cycles, delays in responding to candidates, and impersonal communications—is broken.

Amid the Great Resignation, employees have the upper hand, and they want to work in transparent, collaborative environments that are, for starters, responsive to their job application. As author Caroline Stocks suggests, companies realize that building an “emotionally intelligent organization” is critical to their long-term survival—and renovating the recruiting process must become part-and-parcel of that strategy.

Here are some tips on how to reimagine hiring for the Great Resignation generation:

Put hiring back where it belongs

Many HR departments are currently tasked with hiring and recruitment. Yet, as Roberta Matuson, author of Evergreen Talent, told me, hiring should be “put back where it needs to be—in the hands of hiring managers.” Quite simply, expecting already thinly stretched HR leaders to have the capacity to run best-in-class recruiting functions is unrealistic. HR departments are currently overwhelmed dealing with two-plus years of COVID-19 and its aftermath. During the pandemic, HR was tasked with many additional far-reaching responsibilities—this often involved setting up and supporting a distributed workforce on the fly and ensuring the workplace was safe for hybrid workers, all deftly managing the abrupt start-and-stop of return-to-office policies thwarted by the delta and omicron surges.

Instead of expecting HR to shoulder recruitment and hiring as well, empowered managers can humanize and shorten the hiring process by enlisting their teams in proactive sourcing, screening, and interviewing of qualified people. Managers can also act as brand ambassadors, responding in a timely manner to inbound communication requests from qualified job candidates instead of the now too-common practice of ignoring them or redirecting them to HR.

Use automation sparingly

Evan asked me how he could judge the culture of the companies where he was applying when he had so little interaction with his target companies. Sadly, as my client experienced firsthand, human connection is rarely part of the early stages of recruiting, because many use an applicant tracking system (ATS). These days, an ATS is often the first interaction that many candidates have with an employer. This cumbersome, lengthy online application helps the company in that it is designed to efficiently collect information that the hiring managers need—but from a job seeker’s perspective, it gives no hint as to the organization’s values ​​and mission.

Though useful in tracking the progress and diversity of applicants, an ATS is a one-way portal from applicants to employers, devoid of cultural cues and two-way connection. Worse yet, these mechanisms can be poor talent selectors, often Screening out capable candidates due to technical limitations. For employers who want to attract top talent, an initial step toward ensuring that candidates don’t experience what Evan did is to limit or replace ATS interactions.

Match the candidate experience to your brand

Another way to stand out in your hiring process and appeal to the current crop of candidates is to leverage your branding, with a goal of ensuring that the recruiting experience from a candidate’s perspective matches the company’s brand. All companies strive to be associated with a strong reputation and a sense of purpose. Some brands speak to the heart, such as Disney, Netflix, and Pixar. Others pride themselves on reliability, like Amazon and FedEx.

But, because not every company has the brand recognition of these behemoths, it can pay to brainstorm other ways to express your brand in ways that will attract the Great Resignation generation. A good start is to make candidates aware of your diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. If you’re willing to be frank about where you currently stand with DEI, where you want to be, and what you’re doing to get there, you can gain a competitive advantage in attracting today’s talent.

Look in unexpected places

Managers should seek to identify and connect with individuals and groups who often get screened out by traditional recruiting systems, such as people over age 50, military veterans, and professionals with gaps on their résumés. By tapping nontraditional candidates like Evan (who falls into this category because of his age), employers can be rewarded with loyalty when candidates who have faced unfair rejections are given a chance.

Prioritize transparency

Evan’s experience of being ghosted by companies where he applied to work falls short on what job seekers expect. According to organizational psychologist Gena Cox, candidates demanded transparency at all points in the hiring process. “They want the selection criteria, compensation, working arrangement, and career growth potential to be spelled out upfront,” Cox told me. “Candidates respond negatively to companies that don’t offer feedback,” or at least respond to applicants.

Expedite the process

If you take steps to speed up the usual recruiting rigamarole, you can create a win-win that will help the company reach its hiring goals more quickly while garnering appreciation from many job prospects. In today’s employee-driven market, if an applicant is talking with your company, then you should assume that they’re connecting with others as well. If there is a mismatch in hiring urgency between an employer and job seeker, then the organization will lose out on winning the talent they want to attract. You can stand out as an employer who streamlines the hiring process and makes it as seamless as possible for candidates.

It all comes down to creating differentiation in your recruiting practices to appeal to those who are part of the Great Resignation generation, rather than repelling them. When you reimagine hiring by prioritizing interaction, connection, transparency, and speed, you’ll reap limitless opportunities to attract new talent, showcase your company’s brand, and authentically highlight its culture.


Susan Peppercorn is an executive transition coach, corporate speaker, and writer. Download her free Career Fit Index.

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