The Recruiting Black Hole Really Sucks

This is not a new topic. Ever since the introduction of the ATS (applicant tracking system), we have been talking about the recruiting black hole. Like anything else, the black hole has too evolved. Back in the day job applicants would spend endless amounts of time providing personal information via the online application form; work experience, duties, education, resume upload, address, phone number, etc… and then you hit the “send” button… and then… wait for it… you wait, and you wait and you wait some more. Usually, nothing happens because this information you worked hard to provide is somewhere up somewhere in internet world-wide-web land.

Then new technologies were developed to improve the “candidate experience”; code words for “let’s avoid the black hole effect so applicants don’t get pissed off and dislike us”. Automated and templated email messages, chatbots, social recruiting platforms that enable real-time engagement, and the plethora of other tools that all say they’re unique, but in reality, aim to solve the same problem. After all, we finally figured out that positive candidate experience is smart business.

This post is not about recruitment technology, or how the applicant tracking system generally sucks. I know it’s virtually impossible for recruiters to keep up with the volume of resumes, applications and inquiries being directed at them front different channels. The black hole effect will always be a challenge; ensuring applicants and candidates are kept in the loop promptly. What I want to focus on is communication breakdowns between people who are not cold connections.

What does this mean?

I put a lot of effort into networking and building relationships. From a job search perspective, I am living proof that I am much more successful in landing a job with an organization where I’ve been referred to (i.e. warm lead), versus only submitting a direct “cold application”. The introduction from someone who knows me well to someone that has decision-making power is hugely impactful. Research shows that quality of hire is extremely high when new hires are referred to the organization.

Knowing this, what’s the problem? Using the example of where I am introduced to a decision-maker at a prospective employer, what happens when communication breaks down and possesses the same characteristics as the recruiting black hole? For whatever reason, the decision-maker stops communicating with you and simply doesn’t respond. It’s an interesting situation because, as I said earlier, I take introductions very seriously. If I am going to make the effort to introduce two people to one another, I fully expect both people to treat each other with respect. By doing so, they’re respecting me, “the one making the introduction”. If I am one of the individuals being introduced then I always do everything in my power to maintain open communication and treat the other person in this manner. It’s non-negotiable for me.

For whatever reason, this topic has come up several times recently within my close network; the notion that decision-makers at companies where people were introduced to are simply not responding. If the candidate experience is so important and critical to business success, and that employee referrals are the best source of hire, why is this happening? It’s actually very concerning to me that this is taking place. I simply cannot fathom not responding to an introduction that was directed at me. The person making the introduction took time out of their schedule, thought about my best interests, and made the effort to help. This is recruitment gold for companies today who are struggling to recruit top talent. It boggles my mind that this is happening.

The interesting part about this is, I have no clue how to fix it. It essentially comes down to the personal integrity of people today, and perhaps more people do not value the importance of personal introductions as I do.

One comment

  • Jeff,

    Great article and very valid points. (Full disclaimer here, I work for Talemetry, a recruitment marketing platform). And I agree on many things that you comment on here. We’ve helped our companies reduce the friction for applicants and made it easy to apply for positions, directly from the career site, removing the need to create a login for the ATS. And this has led to documented increases in percentage of applicants who complete the apply process. Now this is of course a double edged sword as you now have more candidates to choose from, and you also have more applicants that you need to decline.

    The way to fix this in my opinion requires executive leadership, deep thinking about your process and smart use of technology. If executives don’t care, the people in charge of recruiting won’t either. So it’s crucial that you have leaders who understand and value the recruiting function.

    Now it comes to thinking about what you want to accomplish. So you want to optimize your candidate experience? Great. And you should know that this will lead a large number of applicants not getting jobs or even interviews, so how will you care for those people? Again this is where deep, empathetic thinking about process and technology needs to happen. If you are going to optimize and streamline your apply process what does that mean to people? Think about a large organization with 10,000 FTE’s with a 10% annual turnover rate and a goal of 10% growth. That’s 2000 hires a year. Even a decent number of average applicants per position say 25 will yield you 50,000 applicants. Which means that you have to not only hire and on-board 2000 people, you need to decline and disposition, 48,000 other applicants.

    Doing that with grace and humility is a challenge. But it can be done. Once you have done the deep thinking and understood the scope of your challenge, the next is how to take action to build the processes and procedures that can scale. Building and documenting repeatable and adaptable business processes are an essential part of solving for this. You also have ask questions and get feedback so you need to collect data, analyze and adjust. Do people feel valued? Did you stay in communication.

    Move to into action and deploy technology. Automation can help you manage communications and many platforms today allow companies to manage a library of email templates that can be sent to applicants and today you can even send text messages. A confirmation email is the first simple step, and even better if it has details on what to expect. If you routinely have to decline applicants, help them at least understand what to expect. Systems today, can also be set up to automatically review an applicants eligibility and rules can be established again to automatically send those notifications based on status changes. So if you do select someone, your system should be smart enough to then disposition the remaining candidates, update their status and message them.

    Being candidate-centric is not easy, but it can be done. It’s a choice that you make as an organization and those that do are performing better than their peers.

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