"Thank you for submitting your application. If your qualifications meet our needs, we'll contact you. Otherwise, we'll keep your resume on file for 12 months."
If your company has an online application system, every applicant receives an email like the above. Likewise, when someone applies to a specific job you're sourcing, you get a notice. In theory, online application systems are great — the candidate is notified when her resume is received and your human resources team doesn't have to engage with the candidate unless you want to conduct an actual interview. Applicant tracking systems allow HR professionals to keep on top of numerous requisitions, sort through stacks of resumes without touching a single sheet of paper and run reports to understand the level of interest in any job posting.
But if these systems make the entire hiring process easier, why do job candidates hate them so much? Because they take the "human" out of the process.
The Danger of Asking Questions Without Context
The questions on a standard application form are often intrusive and provide no room for context: Have you applied for a job lately? Have you applied for another job at your company? What was your salary at your last job? The system demands a number, and gives no opportunity for a candidate to explain if a role was part-time at 30 hours a week. As a result, if the recruiter runs a query on salary, some worthy candidates may not show up at all.
Many online applications also require candidates to list references in order to continue. While gathering this information saves time for the recruiter later on, the question can also make applicants nervous, wondering "Are you going to call my reference before an interview?" or "If I mark off 'Please don't contact' next to my current employer, does that take me out of the running?" Applicants don't want to bug their references for a job they have no shot at getting, and they certainly don't want unexpected calls to their current boss.
Here's the problem: As recruiters, hiring managers and HR generalists, we want to know as much as possible about candidates before offering an interview. But in return, we provide candidates with as little information as possible. We communicate when we need to know something, but not when they need to know something. We'll contact a candidate to set up an interview, but we'll rarely contact a candidate to say, "We're not interested."
How to Look Beyond the Checkbox
Since the online application system masks the actual humans behind the process, we easily reduce job seekers to checkboxes. Instead of thinking, "The person who submitted this resume is really interested in this job and holding out hope that we'll give her an interview," we think, "Only three years of experience, a degree in business and no statistical skills. Reject!"
Don't get me wrong, it's critical to consider skills and qualifications. It's important to know when a candidate isn't a good fit. We want to use everyone's time – our time, the hiring manager's time, the candidate's time – strategically. But when we reduce people to checkboxes and keyword searches, we often skip over people who can do the job, but may not have every checkbox filled in.
Consider the value of a college degree. Degrees are awesome. I have a BA and an MA. I love education. But someone with 20 years of experience and no degree isn't necessarily less qualified than someone with two years of experience and a degree. It's important to question why you are looking for someone with a degree in the first place — it's probably not because they need a piece of paper to hang on the wall. It's because having a degree shows you can stick through something difficult and perform. Five years of work experience shows the same thing.
Additionally, when we rely on computers to screen our applicants, we may accidentally reject qualified people just because the keywords are so specific. For example, I recently received an email from a woman who applied for a job as an "undergraduate advisor." The job posting required 3 years of experience. She had 5 years of experience as a "graduate student advisor." She was certainly qualified, but the recruiter didn't pull up her resume because she was looking for something specific. When the candidate reached out to the hiring manager and shared her qualifications in person, the manager quickly pulled her resume out of the system, interviewed her and hired her. But the computer? The computer rejected her.
Applicant tracking systems are efficient, but they can also cause you to miss out on the unique experiences that define a great applicant. It's important to remember to keep the "human" in human resources – use the ATS as a tool, not as the final decision-maker.
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4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy
Social media is ubiquitous, and companies are using it in many different and innovative ways for enhancing their sales, marketing and customer services. So why is it then that many HR departments still fail to see social media as more than a job board? Outside of the office, the same HR people happily engage with friends on Facebook, share news and ideas on Twitter, look at pictures on Instagram and send snaps on Snapchat. But when they put their work hat on they seemingly forget why they use social in the way they (and hundreds of millions of other users) do every day, and resort back to just posting jobs (in a boring way) on social media! Of course there is nothing wrong with job posting, and it's often an effective approach to reaching an audience, but not all of the time. According to LinkedIn, only 12 percent of the working population are actively seeking new employment. So, if all you do is post jobs on your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page, you are consciously ignoring the other 88 percent of the working population who might be interested in hearing more about your company in general. Creating and sharing interesting content about your company such as employee stories or volunteer days help bring your employer brand to life. It might even trigger people to reach out to you and find out more about your job opportunities. In truth, mixing up your social media feeds with a variety of content will provide more depth and candidate engagement. Here are four ways to expand your social media strategy and engage with new potential candidates. 1) Candidate Sourcing With people using an average of more than five social networks, sourcing talent via social media makes absolute sense. Branch out from just using LinkedIn and look to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to search for and engage with prospective talent. Try search tools like Followerwonk to search Twitter bios for keywords and job titles, a clever Chrome browser extension called Intelligence Search that easily searches Facebook and using the search bar at the top of Google+. They will help you identify new talent. If you are looking to build social media pipelines then try Hello Talent. It is a great free tool that allows you to build talent pipelines from many different social networks by using a browser extension. 2) Competitor Monitoring Social media is a fantastic source of information and data. By using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, you can monitor the social media activity of your competitors. Both of these tools allow you to set up search columns, where you can enter things like keywords, hashtags, Twitter names and track when any of these are mentioned on sites such as Twitter. You can use the interact or use the insights accordingly. 3) Resources for Candidates Consider your Facebook page (or Twitter channel) as a real-time customer services channel for you to engage and communicate with both new and existing candidates in the recruitment process. Provide links to your social media pages to candidates at all stages in the process and encourage them to visit the pages and ask questions about any part of the process. You can also share useful information about working for the company, including locations, employees and other relevant news. 4) Live Recruitment Events Not everyone can attend the many recruitment events happening every month. But by using social media like Twitter, Facebook Live, Instagram and Snapchat, you can easily provide live commentary for these events you attend or host. Real-time video via Facebook Live and interaction via Twitter chats are superb examples of ways to regularly engage with a live audience of potential candidates. With social media firmly established in our working lives, I question how much more evidence HR departments will need to fully embrace this "new" form of candidate engagement. Photo: Twenty20
Cartoon Coffee Break: Unconventional Recruiting
Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back every two weeks for a new ReWork cartoon. Missed the Recruiting Trends conference? From the state of recruiting automation adoption, to the role that the human element still plays in recruiting, our recap covers everything you need to know. Header photo: Creative Commons
The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt
Modern companies are more than just employers — increasingly, they are also gyms, cafeterias and even laundromats. As perks like yoga class, free lunch and complimentary dry cleaning become the norm, companies continue to push the boundaries on ways to attract and retain top talent by providing much more than a paycheck to employees. The latest in the slew of new workplace benefits? Student loan assistance. In April, Chegg partnered with Tuition.io to give full-time employees extra cash for student loan reduction. Then in September, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced it would provide up to $1,200 to help employees pay off loans annually. As a benefit, student loan assistance programs are certainly still in their infancy— one survey found that only 3 percent of companies offer such a benefit. But experts say that may soon change as companies seek to differentiate themselves in a competitive hiring environment. "We think student loan benefits are poised to be the next big benefit; similar to what 401(k) matching was when it was first introduced," says Dana Rosenberg, who leads employer and affinity group partnerships at Earnest, a lender that offers student loan refinancing and works with companies to create loan pay-down programs. The Burden of Student Debt Such programs could be extremely attractive to debt-laden Millennials. Around 40 million Americans collectively carry $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and the graduating class of 2015 was the most indebted class in history with an average debt of $35,000 (a superlative they won't hold for long come May 2016.) For employers looking to adjust benefits to correspond to the changing demographics of their employee base, student loan programs hit the mark. "In 2016, our employees will be 80 percent millennials, and we also hire close to 11,000 employees directly out of school each year," says Terri McClements, Washington Metro managing partner of PwC. With student debt often preventing young people from participating in 401(k) plans and reaching traditional life milestones, the benefit could potentially make a large impact on employees' financial and personal well-being. A study from the American Student Association found that 73 percent of people with student loans reported putting off saving for retirement or other investments due to their debt, 75 percent reported delaying a home purchase and 27 percent reported it was difficult to buy daily necessities. "Student loans can be a very stressful thing to deal with, so if we can give our employees peace of mind, that's great," says Caroline Gennaro, corporate communications manager at Chegg. The Allure for Employers Student debt assistance programs aren't just attractive to employees, either. Rosenberg says there are significant benefits for the organizations that offer them as well. "Employers that offer programs to help their employees get out from under their debt load are seeing big benefits: increased retention, more competitive recruiting and, perhaps most importantly, happier employees who have additional cash flow to put towards their life goals," Rosenberg explains. Rosenberg says happier employees are more engaged employees, who tend to be more productive. Studies show that companies with high employee engagement experience lower turnover and have double the rate of organizational success than their less-engaged counterparts. Student loan benefit programs may also lead to a more diverse workforce, attracting employees whose financial backgrounds meant they had to take on more debt for their education. "Diversity and inclusion are also very important to us, so the ability to offer this benefit can help minorities who come out of school with a higher debt burden," says McClements. A Promising Response Companies say the response to their student loan assistance programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Chegg has had more than 80 people sign up since they started their program this summer, and they've already eliminated roughly 86 years of collective loan repayments for their employees. Companies are also finding these programs are a way to differentiate themselves from organizations that may offer more generic benefits. "As a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are always looking to attract the best and brightest in the industry, and this benefit is a big draw," says Gennaro. Photo: Shutterstock