Can HR Strategy Fix Online Recruiting?

When working on strategy it’s good to stop from time to time and assess whether our processes are actually helping at the front line. One of the most basic HR challenges day to day is still recruiting.

Putting it online, or at least the resume gathering pieces, seemed to offer a tremendous timesaving and benefits for both recruiters and applicants. But how much of that has really panned out? We constantly hear complaints from candidates about poor practices. When coaching job seekers it’s routine to caution them not to waste much time filling in online applications. Their experience is they never hear anything back, not even a confirmation of receipt.

On the company end, things aren’t working a whole lot better. This article about Zappos‘ continuing innovations coincidentally tells the story succinctly. Even withjob interview basic online recruiting tools, sorting through 31,000 applications for 450 jobs is no picnic, maybe not even feasible. From the candidates’ side we can hope those who took the time to fill out an online application at least got an electronic acknowledgment. Experience shows most companies don’t even do that. In Zappos’ case we can see why thousands would want to be offered a job considering Zappos will give them several thousand dollars to quit in the first few weeks. What seemed like a good, innovative hiring move on Zappos’ part may have inadvertently helped torpedo their online recruiting.

You don’t have to look far to find people bemoaning the lack of courtesy and feedback the typical online application process provides candidates. Many online systems waste gobs of applicants’ time because they can’t properly read or interpret what’s pasted in or uploaded in resume form. As noted in the article corrections can take more time than simply typing everything in, either way very time consuming processes. Applying this way to more than a few jobs online takes so much time away from the job search process most of us recommend against doing any more than the most applicable job postings. Still that doesn’t stop thousands from gambling. For many it feels easier than networking, but their results are generally poor. Perhaps effective networkers should be grateful that so many are kept from the networking scene by this time wasting activity.

No matter how often I’ve recommended to recruiting departments they should at least implement confirmations so people will know their applications have been received, few have done that. You can see from the second link these aren’t the only complaints that turn off good candidates. One key element of ensuring strategy is effective is to actually participate in its application oneself. You have to wonder how many recruiters have actually tried applying for positions at their own organizations. I found it generally takes only one such experience to turn me off, so I’m sure that a lot of research isn’t required to properly test one’s own system.

Applicants put so much time into filling forms it’s frustrating to see that not only do few get an automated acknowledgement their material was received, but there is nothing after that in virtually all cases. At the very least systems could report things like – “the job is now filled with an outside (or inside, as many suspect) applicant chosen from among xy-thousand applicants” and “your information will be compared against other job vacancies that may arise in the next six months” or whatever. Presuming many companies see no value in even such general reports, they should consider how many people they are annoying by not providing them. With such bare bones information applicants might understand better and not clutter future postings with highly irrelevant attempts. At least they’d be less tempted to think the posting was simply a fishing scam to begin with.

Every HR process needs to be tested for user friendliness before and during its application. To do otherwise is to invite the criticism of HR that we see so frequently. It’s true some of this was worsened by the recent great recession and cost cutting that most companies did, but it’s foolish to blame that and assume great candidates will recognize that and forgive us. As recruiting once again becomes more and more competitive, it’s time to rethink.

A big part of effective strategy is getting the implementation correct. The greatest strategies in the world are useless or worse if people won’t participate or get turned off by them. Part of the growing trend to collaboration has to be to collaborate with potential new hires by providing them with the best experience during all parts of the hiring process.

This sounds like a small point in some respects. Perhaps Zappos doesn’t need to care about 30,000 of the 31,000 applicants. I’m not sure the alternative process they are suggesting will work better without knowing more details, but it also sounds like a lot of work for candidates with dubious results likely. Small point or not, it’s an area where many organizations still have a lot of important work required.