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Q&A With Elaine Orler: Why the Peanut Butter Approach to Recruiting Needs to be Revolutionized

Cornerstone Editors

Candidates are at the center of the recruiting experience, yet that isn't always immediately apparent based on the application process. At Cornerstone Convergence 2014, Elaine Orler, founder and president of Talent Function Group, spoke about the challenges of the recruiting process, specifically the need to streamline how candidates apply. But that doesn’t mean following the status quo, or what Orler calls "the peanut butter approach." It’s about finding methods that are worthy of being best practices for your organization.

How are companies simplifying and reducing the number of steps for candidates to apply?

We’ve finally evolved away from "give me everything including your date of birth, social security, and driver’s license number" when you’re expressing interest. Organizations are really starting to say, "What is the minimum amount of information we need to initiate a decision as to whether we proceed or not?" That’s one of the things that differentiates companies that won the awards at Convergence from the masses, because they’re taking the time to think about the right steps from a job seeker perspective.

Our data from 2013 suggests that applicants are spending 30 to 45 minutes applying to each and every job, and as organizations, we have to really assess if we’re going to ask an applicant to give us 30 minutes to apply, are we willing to give them 30 minutes of time and attention back? We need to find a way to make sure the relationship is neutral.

How do companies figure out what constitutes the minimum amount of information?

There is an absolute difference in the amount and type of information you’re looking for when recruiting for a professional hire versus a craft worker. Organizations started to map their workflow or the required steps for candidates. For example, with a seasoned professional hire you are leaning more on a resume, or a LinkedIn profile, for a historic reference to the work that’s been done. For somebody that’s just graduated and is looking for his first career, it’s not so much about his work history as it's about situations where he has dealt with a similar landscape. In the application process, it’s looking for the right information to streamline that process, versus the peanut butter approach where everyone does the same thing regardless of job type.

How can companies avoid the peanut butter approach by taking their own path but still ensuring it’s the right one?

What is best practice for someone else is not best practice for you. Every organization is in a different stage and a different life cycle of recruiting. For most organizations, the first and foremost step is taking inventory of what you’ve got by taking a good hard look at the products, processes you’re using today, and outcomes. If the outcomes aren’t what you need, something has to change. Then it’s addressing what needs to change by figuring out what to keep versus what to replace. When you start to clean house, you start to see opportunities to do something different. Such as, when was the last time you updated the automated messages to the candidates? When was the last time a recruiter picked up the phone and called a candidate that they didn’t hire and actually have a conversation to keep them warm and in the loop? There are day-to-day things that can be done to optimize the time spent in the recruiting effort so the next time you go to hire for that position, you’re not starting from scratch. You’re starting from the group of candidates that you’ve built a relationship with over time.

From there, the next thing is determining what kind of change organization you are. There are a couple different models. One is an adoption model which is getting great at what we have and continuing to improve with minor edits. Other organizations are in a constant state of discovery or exploration. They love to experiment with different products, so their recruiting team could be on 10 different trial products at once to see what sticks. That can be disruptive but it can also be energizing because they’re in a constant state of finding a better way to do it. Then there are organizations that every three or four years blow the whole thing up and start over. There’s a change that’s always in play to improve upon performance. The organizations that evaluate where they are will figure out much more quickly where they need to make improvements.

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