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Imagine how different recruiting was just a few decades ago when a foreman in a Philadelphia railroad yard exited his office, crossed the workplace campus and was met by a mob of job candidates each morning.

Not too long ago, word of job openings spread like wildfire through local neighborhoods and communities — all that separated the foreman and his next hire was a fence. But sourcing and recruiting workers today spins quite a different story. Reaching qualified applicants requires a marketing strategy significantly more sophisticated than walking across a campus. Thanks to technology, the information economy and social media, job seekers are changing the rules of recruitment.

Just as consumers research products and services online before making a purchase, job seekers research companies before applying. They want to know what it's like to work for you before spending time on an application. They check out your website and read reviews from customers and employees. If the company site isn't user-friendly and the reviews are unfavorable, applicants will exit their screens and flee.

How do you reach these modern candidates? While there's no lack of "best" recruiting practices available (a quick Google search turns up millions of results), the process can be narrowed down quickly into an acronym I've created: R-E-A-C-H.

R is for Reach

Job seekers today search for work the same way they search for a car, restaurant or house: they ask their friends for advice and “Google" it. On average, they use more than 18 different sources to make a decision!

Depending on demographics, skill sets, geography, and a dozen other factors, their search may take them to hundreds of different sourcing platforms. The best recruiting source for one person might be LinkedIn or Twitter, while another might be the job search engine Indeed or a college career fair. With so many resources and locations to connect with candidates, finding your next hire depends on your ability to be seen by enough qualified applicants.

E is for Engage

First impressions matter and recruitment is no exception. Engagement occurs when a job seeker visits your website, reads online reviews about your company, connects with you and your employees on social media ... and still wants to apply.

The last step of that process, applying, happens less than 2 percent of the time. Recruiting content needs to motivate the applicant to do more than just visit your site. It must convert the potential employee from a casual inquirer to an engaged participant.

A is for Apply

Even the best sourcing and engagement strategy falls short when the application process isn't user-friendly. While 86 percent of all job seekers start their job search on a mobile device, few company career sites are mobile-optimized. Even worse, many companies still require an applicant to email his or her resume.

Most applicants will simply not perform that action on a smartphone. Without the ability to start an application on a smartphone or tablet, the exit rate is ridiculously high, especially when recruiting millennials and tech-savvy candidates. If the application is too difficult or too long to complete, job seekers won't apply.

C is for Converse

Getting candidates to apply is hard enough, but turning a deaf ear on them after they do ("ghosting") is just a horrific practice. Just ask anyone who has recently applied for a job — the common theme is a deafening silence.

When a candidate submits an application, it's common courtesy for your company to acknowledge him or her. Who knows — the candidate could be a future customer or know someone who is qualified for one of those hard-to-fill positions. Send a simple "Thank you for applying!" note, or better yet, invite all applicants to subscribe to a newsletter, blog or future webinar to continue the conversation. As with customers, communication is essential to building your brand and sustaining your reputation.

H is for Hire

Most companies believe the selection process ends when a candidate accepts a job offer, but nothing could be further from the truth. One in five final applicants turn downs or reneges on offers. For those who move forward, nearly half of all new hires fail in the first 18 months. Some surveys indicate the number is even higher. The hiring stage ends only after a new hire has been successfully on-boarded into the new position and integrated into the company culture.

Interested in learning more about how to "reach" Gen Y? Sign up for Ira's course, Recruiting Gen Y Blueprint, on Udemy for free with the coupon code: Cornerstone.