It’s Not Just Getting the Technology Right, Hiring is Broken, but we Can Fix it

  Businesses and human endeavors are systems

There’s no question that technology is transforming the career market. The introduction of job boards a dozen years ago created visibility on millions of companies and their needs.

    Many brands suddenly had the opportunity to increase their number of media impressions and share their business blurb through job postings. Technology has since opened the global job market opportunity wide.

    But it’s not fixed hiring and the candidate experience… yet.

A brief history of technology

    Organizations used job boards to advertise and market. On the operational side, they implemented Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to handle the inflow of information and the recruitment process. ATS works through keyword matching, and just like search it created a marketplace for tech to scan and identify keyword gaps#, along with advice and coaching.

    Where the marketing looked appealing, the candidate experience soon became miserable. Companies on the receiving end of hundreds of resumes per posting started adding requirements to manage the flow. This led to an arms’ race between candidates competing for attention and organizations becoming more demanding of talent.

    Technology eased some of the tension created by the jostling for positions by making relationships more visible — connections on LinkedIn, including past colleagues and peers, make someone and some organization more real for the job marketplace.

    The introduction of, a U.S.-based job/career site where employees can post anonymously on the pros and cons of their companies, rate the CEOs and the interview process was a big step to improve the odds for candidates.

    We can now cross reference media rankings of top companies where to work# with lists based on peer ratings and reviews#.

    We already use ratings and reviews to pick restaurants, movies, travel destinations, books, and all kinds of other products. An example of how technology is delivering greater transparency. Experiences may vary based on departments, lines of business or divisions, but reputation does precede people and organizations.

    This takes care of the marketing part. But what about the process?

Brand management needs a cohesive experience, at every touch point

    In marketing terms, creating awareness is the top of the funnel. It brings people into the process, but what happens through the process matters increasingly more at every stage. The problem is that while conversion is the most desirable outcome, in recruiting the opposite happens than we want in marketing – only one person makes it.

    If an organization has advertised itself well it will have more prospects than customers. People who don’t buy today are potential customers tomorrow, based on intent, interest, and timing. Marketers have several ways to keep in touch with them and build on that interest.

    We never do hear back from recruiters in organizations but on rare occasions, when the number one choice declines an offer, for example. Tracking systems are supposed to store resumes for potential later use, but it’s a function rarely or not used at all by recruiters. Instead, the expectation is that the application process restarts all over again with a new posting.

    An increasingly fluid marketplace and a strong startup culture are opening more options for professionals as well. As savvy customers we’re used to doing our due diligence on products. A greater focus on purpose is also prompting us to choose organizations and jobs that are meaningful.

    Employees are also customers and investors. We’ve been saying this for years. Thanks to technology, it’s now possible to cross reference those experiences with less effort. Which means a miserable hiring experience will reflect on purchasing decisions and recommendations.

    Ed Newman, Chief Evangelist at Phenom People and a 30-uyear veteran of the recruiting industry is also the Chairman and Board Member of Talent Board#, a nonprofit organization whose vision is to make candidate experience a top priority. He says, “If candidate experience is going to improve, then it has to come from those investing in the recruiting function. The C suite needs to understand the business implication of bad candidate experience.”

    Every year, Talent Board measures candidate experience through surveys. Participating companies register by region. In 2017, 220,000 candidates provided feedback on their experience:

  • 52 percent said they were still waiting for a response from organizations after two months
  • 35 percent planned to share their negative experience in social media
  • 46 percent who had a poor overall experience said they will take their alliance, product purchases, and relationships elsewhere
  • 30 percent said they were extremely likely to refer a participating company to another professional

    As we continue to shift from hierarchies to networks in all aspects of our lives, including data analysis and collaboration, value increases when we’re participating in the network. The better the experience, the higher the value.

Relationships drive value in the networked marketplace

    In 1954, Peter Drucker said, “What gives life to and sustains the corporation resides on the 'outside,' not within its direct control, and the customer is the primary mover of those external realities and forces. It is the prospect of providing a customer with value that gives the corporation purpose, and it is the satisfaction of the customer's requirements that gives it results.” 

    There are a number of trends that favor the customer. Forrester says#, “2018 will be a year of reckoning, CX hit a wall in 2017, and 30 percent of companies will see further declines in CX quality and lose a point of growth.” Customer experience is connected with employee experience, and vice versa.

    Forrester’s Predictions say the advertising market will be flat in 2018. Customers will use intelligent agents to escape the noise; their purse strings control $24B in spending. 67 percent of retailers will be unprepared to exploit intelligent agents, which will influence 10 percent of purchase decisions, to become more relevant to customers.

    There’s no amount of great content marketing or social media campaign that will make up for a poor product experience. In 1962, Doris Lessing said, “Everybody in the world is thinking: I wish there was just one other person I could really talk to, who could really understand me, who'd be kind to me. That's what people really want, if they're telling the truth.”

    The Forrester Predictions also say that 25 percent of brands will lack expertise in the lingua franca of intelligent agents and 20 percent of CEOs will fail to act on digital transformation and put their firms at risk. Organizations struggling to attract scarce talent will spend up to 20 percent above market. 

    In a networked world that wants personalization and runs from tracking, relationship and community building capabilities are critical. Strong communication experience, the ability to learn continuously and collaborate are vital skills. There’s nothing “soft” about them, these relationship- and community-building skills take more experience to develop.

    The ability to articulate a message, tell a persuasive story, update an experience based on new information are system-based. We learn in the same ways as cognitive computing. Individuals and not organizations have been investing in learning and upgrading skills. Which is why companies that fail to stay in touch with professionals miss out.

    Newman says Phenom built its software based on the same principles that drive customer relationship management systems – to provide an experience layer for talent. Organizations like Microsoft, Deloitte, and Whole Foods are using Phenom to improve the experience of applicants – external, but also internally, as recommendation engines for managers.

    Technology and platforms can be frustrating experiences for hiring managers as well#. To stay ahead of candidate experience from a communication standpoint, companies will need not just automation and customization, they will also need conversational skills. Chatbots can only go so far, community building will need to be at the core of their strategy to engage talent, inside and outside the organization.

    Alexis Trigo, Senior Director of Organizational Capability at Foot Locker says#, “We always have a need for the junior level associates in our stores. Most people are going to be disappointed. We have millions of applicants for thousands of jobs annually. I see it becoming more of a community for people to opt-in to hear about opportunities. I don’t see it as a singular req anymore.”

Where there’s a will, there’s a facility

    Smart organizations have upgraded their technology, but the process is still leaving much room for improvement. The problem is that technology cannot fix human biases and faulty mental models.

    We should hold off for the perfect candidate often leads to a backlog of work that costs a lot more than looking for creative alternatives – like a temp-to-permanent offer, or training someone internally. Peter Cappelli, director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources, says#, “the internal accounting systems in most organizations are so poor that they can’t tell what it costs them to keep a position vacant. They easily know how much it costs to employ somebody, but they can’t measure that employee’s contributions.”

    Poaching someone is far better than considering someone who’s consulting with different companies – because they’re considered “unemployed.” It also comes at a much higher cost without a guarantee that talent will transfer to the new organization. Because innovation comes from collaboration.  

    We need someone who can hit the ground running often turns into we want someone who has done that very same thing at our competitor’s. When more flexibility regarding industry and skills would provide an advantage over those same competitors, especially in non-domain essential roles.

    Cappelli has more ideas on why good people can’t get jobs. Part of the reason is due to not wanting to pay fair market price. A survey done by Manpower asking employers if they’re having trouble finding people to hire found that 11 percent say the problem is they can’t get people to accept the jobs at the wages they’re paying. “So 11 percent are saying we’re not paying enough. If 11 permit admit this, my guess is the real number is probably double that.”

    Employment is also a two-way street, and is helping professionals vet organizations. The rationale is that if someone has to invest heavily in keeping their skills sharp and meet an increasingly long list of requirements without any commitment from the organization on that “where do you see yourself in five years?” question, joining a high performing team doesn’t need to sacrifice quality.

    The practice of ghosting or not answering communications, alas still all too common after interviews and investments of resources may be expedient for busy recruiters, but it does leave a mark. Recruiters are now scanning social media accounts of candidates, but few still bother to become familiar with their body of work – articles, interviews about projects, etc.

    We can fix hiring if we start addressing the issues that create a bad experience and stop hiding behind unwieldy technology. Experienced professionals are doing more than asking their networks for help these days. They’re taking their talent directly to their network to create alternatives – agencies and management consulting firms are starting to see collectives as serious competitors.

    Robots may be taking over many jobs, but the future of work is still very much human. There's evidence that points to people being indispensable. Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum says, "it’s human talent, not capital or technology or anything else, that is the key factor linking innovation, competitiveness and growth in the 21st century."

    A study in 8 countries by by Korn Ferry, the Centre for Economic and Business Research, a leading British economic consultancy# found that human talent and intelligence is 2.33 times more valuable than everything else put together. What makes us more valuable are potential and appreciation.

    It's ironic that as an individual's potential grows from knowledge, experience and seniority over time, and they bring even more value to the business, businesses depreciate its value. In contrast, machines typically operate at a limited maximum output and depreciate over time, yet organizations invest in more technology than they often use.

    Technology alone won’t deliver the uplift in performance organizations want. We need a combination of technology and people. The question now becomes not so much whether organizations can improve the hiring experience, but why they aren’t.



The Trillion Dollar Difference

2018 Forrester Predictions (paid report)


P.S.: Get new updates/analysis on the impact of technology in our lives

I write a high-quality, weekly newsletter covering what's happening in technology, focused on business, culture, and mental models.