What the 21st century recruiting function will need

Here is the answer – A New Design.

The lesson is clear: Our current model of recruitment evolved from pencil and paper practices and does not work very well. This will be very obvious when we emerge from this pandemic.

We have used technology to make our work easier, but it has not made work better for us, candidates or managers. For the most part, our processes have not been deliberately designed – they just evolved with little thought. To create a long-lasting improvement in our recruiting processes means we have to deliberately redesign them from the beginning with both candidates and hiring managers at the centre.  

When I talk about processes, I mean the various parts of in the recruitment cycle – from sourcing to workforce planning. Each separate process needs to be examined, rethought, and rebuilt.

Five Design Steps

There are at least five steps in the redesign process. Many of these steps take time and involve research, experimentation, and prototyping. But the payoff is much faster and leads to hiring higher quality candidates with less recruiter involvement. It also means that both candidates and hiring managers are happier and better served.

Step 1: Candidate Knowledge

How do active candidates find and approach the job search, how are passive candidates best reached and engaged, and how do candidates react to a phone call or inquiry from a recruiter? We need to know what branding appeals to them and what messages resonate. We need to understand what they think and feel when they get an unsolicited email from a recruiter. What stories do they tell each other about their job search or the recruiter? We need to get inside their heads and learn what they find useful and what confuses or annoys them.  

We also need to understand better the hiring managers’ motivations, real needs, and what leads them to make an offer.

Focus groups, surveys, interviews, and observation are important. We need to include diverse actual and potential candidates. Personas are essential tools to help understand candidates and hiring managers. We need to develop multiple personas of hiring managers and candidates of different types to find where they are compatible and the best ways to match them.

Step 2: Gathering Data

This involves gathering insight from actual data and using the data to learn what candidates looked for and what was critical for them to know to move on to the next step. Recruiters will need to gather data on career site searches, where candidates clicked, where they were frustrated or delighted. Ideally, there would be data tracking eye patterns on career sites and identifying points where candidates dropped out.  

Data can also tell us how many candidates a manager considered, whom he made offers to, what characteristics his candidates shared, and how long each hire remained employed in the company. 

We know that people often act differently than they say they do so we need to track actual user behaviour and use this to improve the design. The best way is to collect Big Data from ATS, HRIS, and career sites. We can also do surveys or questionnaires. The key is to look for can look for patterns and consistent behaviours that indicate interest and engagement. 

Step 3: Perception & Opinion

We need self-reported data on how candidates perceive the ease and speed of locating information and on the ease of learning about the position they are interested in.

Hiring manager surveys are also needed as well as interviews on what they would like to have in a system that involved them more closely in the hiring process. 

This is qualitative information but is no less critical. We need to understand how candidates react emotionally to the process. Do they feel their needs were met? How did they perceive the ease of use, the information they received, and the interface itself? We can do this with interviews and questionnaires and, to some degree, by observing facial and other expressions while they are interacting.

We need to know if hiring managers want to be more involved, what they would like to have control over, and how they react currently to our processes. 

Step 4: Ease & Simplification

Make it easy for the right people to apply. This is ultimately the qualitative judgment of both the candidate and the hiring manager, but there is also an objective component based on skills, attitudes, and past hiring patterns. We need to screen and assess candidates on key requirements before they allowed to apply. By using technology to do this, we can ensure that all applicants are qualified and capable of doing the work required. 

When it comes time to apply, we need a process that does not require filling in large amounts of data or uploading a resume yet is objective and verifiable. LinkedIn profiles don’t achieve this today nor do resumes, but they are the best that we currently have. There are emerging tools that will help us get verified data through verified sources such as university and government databases.

Step 5: Feedback & Analysis

Quick and meaningful feedback is part of any reasonable process. Assuming a candidate is rejected, we owe it to them to provide feedback on their skills and some explanation of why they were rejected. It has always been easier not to provide feedback for fear of pushback or legal consequences.

AI and other tools may be able to help identify the reasons a person was rejected, but it will still require a human-to-human conversation to explain why. This means we need to design the conversation, provide guidelines and training on how to give feedback and how to deal with the inevitable pushbacks. Rather than avoid feedback, we need to learn how to do it well.

These five steps are just the beginning. Design is by definition deliberate and requires experimentation. Recruiting leaders are not used to thinking like designers and lack the skills to lead design teams. This is why partnering with an outside expert or university can be useful.

It is worth setting aside time and budget to redesign a recruitment function worthy of the 21st century.

Cover image: Shutterstock

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