Ten reasons we don’t care about candidate experience

We love talking about candidate experience. I hear time and time again how important it is, yet the reality is that most of us are pretty dreadful at it regardless of whether we are HR or recruitment professionals.

The fact is that most recruiters don’t care about candidate experience, and here’s why:

1) We build dodgy website experiences – Most online application processes make getting in to Berghain look like a piece of cake. At a recent event I was at a roundtable of recruiters roundly condemned every single major ATS. And yes, whilst we can be a whiny bunch, there’s some truth in it. If these were e-commerce sites, we’d be losing money.

2) We don’t have time to give feedback – This is probably the defining question that sets out where you are on candidate experience. People tell me they just don’t have time, and I’ve got sympathy with that. But then don’t say you care about candidate experience, because you don’t.

3) We create mystery processes – Would you order something without a delivery time? Enter a competition without any rules? Our single-minded focus on making sure people don’t know how to get a job with us is something to behold. I mean, if people knew, they might hold us to account? And we’re too busy making sure they have a good experience to deal with that.

4) We don’t understand our own biases – I’ve heard too many recruiters….I could actually stop the sentence there and it would be enough…but let’s indulge…I’ve heard too many recruiters say, “I would never consider someone who xxxxx”. Bias? Who knows, but the chance is yes, absolutely. Get yourself here. Now.

5) We allow indefensible criteria – “The manager wants to only see people who can hold eleven marshmallows in their mouth and still hum the national anthem. Apparently the last two job holders could do that and they were both top performers”.

6) We value operational efficiency over optimal pathway – Every process redesign I have ever seen in recruitment has been to make things easier for the recruiter and the line manager. Not once have I seen people take on more work to make the candidate’s life easier. Not once.

7) We want to separate recruitment out from the employee cycle – Centres of excellence, outsourced solutions, service centres. Can you imagine setting up your business so that you sold a product without actually being aware of the quality of the build, design and the delivery times? No, me neither so how can we give candidates a great experience if we don’t know what’s going to happen when they’re hired?

8) We STILL use social media to sell – Even the companies lauded for using social media well are way, way, way behind the customer service functions of most businesses. Candidate experience? Don’t ask us questions and we won’t need to respond. See our FAQ and in the meantime, click this link. Thanks.

9) We work office hours – People enter the recruitment process when they’re not at work. For example, we’ve been using the awesome HireVue technology now for nearly three years. Our data shows that over 50% of people use the system outside of 9-5 and the most popular day is…..Sunday. We know this as a profession, but want to speak to a recruiter out of hours? We’re in the pub. But, don’t let that worry you, just enjoy the experience.

10) We serve the business not the candidate – I’m not saying this is wrong, it’s a thing, it just is. Every time we will put a line manager before a candidate because simply we care more about their experience. I know. I’m not wrong.

Don’t believe me? The REC have just launched the results of their research in to candidate experience, you can get it here.  And whilst you’re at it, join up to the Good Recruitment Campaign here.

Let’s stop talking the talk.

Make a difference

“If it doesn’t make a difference, it doesn’t make a difference.”

I know that sounds ridiculously simple, but that’s because it is. In our running of businesses, in our organisations, in our practice, we need to ask ourselves one simple question, “does it make a difference?” And if the answer is no, then stop doing it.

The reality is that within most organisational situations, people are doing a huge amount of things that don’t matter. They don’t make the business perform better, fulfil some regulatory need or create value. They just exist.

If HR is to be the driver of organisational performance, it needs to be a force for change, highlighting inefficiencies and unnecessary bureaucracy and calling out redundant practice. Simply, we need to be as comfortable looking at process and improving it as we are creating it.

It also means that we need to understand the entire organisations, how and why it works and the levers and buttons that make it successful . Then we can be clear about how to help it become even better. By retaining a single and absolute focus on performance.

It probably isn’t popular or politically correct, in a world that loves a trier but hates a succeeder, however, it really is only the result that matters. If we want to be a profession with teeth, if we want to define relevance, if we want to have influence and reach, then focussing only on those things that really make things better, has to be the way.

And that starts with our practice, our behaviour and our thinking. Because if we want to be better, we need to be single minded. Focus on results, focus on performance, forget the rest of the nonsense. If it’s not making a difference, it doesn’t need to be done.

Can you make the case?

There are two truths that I’ve learnt through blogging:

– If you write enough words the statistical odds are, that at some point, you will land on something that makes sense.

– If you reread that particular “thing” enough times, you’ll wish you wrote it slightly differently.

On this occasion, the specific phrase is one that I wrote in January 2013,

“We need to accept that you don’t get influence through control, you get influence through other people’s positive experience of you. Get influence through people wanting you involved not by telling them you have to be.”

Fast forward two and a half years and I’m sitting with some fellow HR Directors listening to the Conservative “political beast”, Kenneth Clarke MP, speaking about the challenges of winning the debate on continued involvement in the European Union. Critiquing the state of current politics, one particular statement he made really stood out (and I probably paraphrase a little),

“We used to look at the opinion polls and think, ‘how do we win the debate and convince people our arguments are right’, but now we look at the polls and say, ‘let’s do what they want’.”

In some ways, I think this is an argument that the HR profession needs to heed and particularly when we think about how we use data and analytics as a force for good work and organisational performance and success.

There’s a lot of pressure within organisations for HR to do what the “voters” want, and this has undoubtedly been one of the biggest weaknesses of the drive for HR to be more, “commercial”. Being truly commercial is more about leading the debate than it is following opinion, it’s about having a strategic direction and understanding the steps that need to be taken to achieve it, it’s about cohesive “policy making” and having a view.

One of the things that we overlook in our discussions on data and analytics is the, “so what?”. We can have all the data in the world, but what if it indicates something that is against the prevailing mood of the organisation or the leadership team? What then? Do we have the influencing skills to really carry the debate forward?

The fact is that data is only half the argument, how we use it, how we create the experience of the profession that positions us as experts of everything relating to the employment experience and how we develop the platform of knowledge and insight is as important as the data itself.

Sometimes, as in politics, we’re going to need to be brave and take forward an argument, a belief, a perspective that won’t be immediately welcome or in line with the prevailing opinion. At that point, we’ll test our ability to use insight and data to win the debate and convince people our arguments are right.

That’s when we’ll truly test our mettle and our organisational worth.

The outsourcing myth

Outsourcing has hung around our profession for a while. And it is easy to see why it’s an attractive proposition for a number of reasons:

  • For the CFO it removes headcount and overhead
  • For the HRD it allows the focus to shift to strategy
  • For the CEO it provides consistent service and support

Which in many senses is an organisational wet dream.

And whilst many organisations have moved away from the third-party outsource, they are, instead, setting up internal service models to provide HR services back in to the main organization. The insourced, outsource, if you’d like.

I’ve never quite been able to get my head around this. The arguments are simple and yet at the same time completely contradictory to the demands that I hear from line managers, employees and CEOs whenever I talk to them.

  • We want someone there to support us, someone who understands our business
  • We want to be treated like human beings, not part of a process
  • We want HR to be closer to the business

The simple process of moving HR services in to a separate organization, in to a separate location and away from the rest of the organization is directly in conflict with every single opinion trend that there is. Yet still we persist.

For most employees, the only contact they have with HR is on a transactional basis. The way in which we are perceived is based on this and the data that we need to understand our organization comes through these interactions. It just makes no sense whatsoever.

Rather than pushing away the bits of HR that seem like an inconvenience, we should be looking to drive service excellence. Rather than pushing it out in to some shed in the middle of a godforsaken town with “low labour costs” (for this read high unemployment), we should be pulling this in to our core.

Outsourcing has a beautifully convenient appeal. But as a wise person said, “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is”.