For some recruiters, finding young talent was as painful as a health scare or obtaining a mortgage, traumatizing experiences that belie what talent acquisition is supposed to be: a positive opportunity.
That's one thing revealed by the CareerBuilder's 2016 Candidate Behavior Study, Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder's chief HR officer, explained to HR Dive. Recruiters are struggling to present to a candidate what a good day or experience would be, she explained, especially as college recruitment continues to increase year over year.
But it's particularly tough in industries trying to define what that experience even means — and how to search for 'cultural fit' when such an idea is being robustly challenged.
The task for recruiters is multifaceted: finding top talent in a deluge of young applicants while discovering diverse perspectives that can add to and challenge the culture of an organization. But how do you present culture, as well as search for those aligned to it, without hiring a homogeneous crop of hopefuls?
Leveraging improved technology to attract candidates to your brand while also improving internal recruiting processes — including building blocks like interviewing — are some ways that recruiters can tackle the challenge and create results.
New technology: The impact on the external brand
College recruiting comes with two built-in caveats: it's incredibly seasonal and involves "very large quantities" of candidates with little in the way of real experience, Leela Srinivasan, CMO of Lever, told HR Dive. The struggle with volume exists alongside the struggle to make meaningful, personal contact with candidates, to vet them for experience, and to maintain the employer brand.
For that reason, modern college recruiting tech has focused primarily on building and nurturing relationships as well as scalability. Video has emerged as a potential solution, though Haefner noted that use of video was highly company-dependent.
"As far as video interviewing … I wouldn't say that there is a consistent use and following for that," she said. "It's used more when dealing with a national or global scope, and the logistics of that."
Srinivasan noted that using video for campus interviews and informational sessions has emerged as a way for companies to save money on campus visits while still maintaining a presence. But more importantly, young talent generally tends to be more tech savvy and tech demanding — meaning optimizing your technology, particularly mobile offerings, could be a "strategic win" for those who put in the effort to do so, Haefner said. More simply: You want to look like a place where they want to work right away.
Good technology also means increased efficiency of the recruiting process, which in turn reflects well on an employer brand. If a company's recruiting cycle doesn't enable them to respond to candidates promptly throughout the application process — within two weeks at least — they will move on. A well-optimized recruiting tech system won't allow talent to slip through the cracks, adding to a company's appeal.
"If you don't get back with them immediately, you probably lost favor," Haefner said. "Maybe they didn't move on to take another job, but it does hit your employer brand."
College students are watching and listening to their social media networks about organizations — and it's likely they are already watching you. That can be an opportunity, if taken advantage of.
"Don't abandon the tried and true," Haefner said, "but do be ready to modernize and extend the employer brand."
Hiring for cultural fit: Maintaining strong internal processes
Every hire has an impact on company culture –— which in turn attracts more hires. Understanding this conundrum and the way hires can change culture for the better is key for employers who want a strong pipeline of young, diverse talent.
"Millennials and Gen Z are the most diverse generations in U.S. history and are made up of the highest representation of minorities to date," Haefner said. "These generations expect inclusion of all people and seek out employers who share their values, so employers are taking this into account." Almost three quarters of organizations reported having a formal diversity recruiting plan for 2015 and beyond, she added.
Unconscious bias can often get in the way of these plans, however, Srinivasan noted.
That doesn't mean the hunt for diversity should be egregiously different from the typical recruiting process. At the end of the day, "it's about hiring the most qualified candidates," Haefner said. But that may also mean employers will need to make adjustments to how they approach and seek out candidates.
Checking the resume
One way to begin: change what recruiters expect on resumes.
Srinivasan suggested recruiters seek out only the projects candidates completed rather than companies they worked for or schools they attended. It can be very hard for recruiters to overcome the pull of people who come from brand names like Google or Stanford (and for good reason), she noted, but doing so comes with big rewards.
"By asking candidates to only provide info on work they actually did, recruiters were looking at these anonymous people in a different light," she said. "They ended up hiring people who likely wouldn't have gotten through the original screening process."
Someone who performs well in a Google environment, for example, may not do well in the environment presented at another company. Same rule goes for schools — having an Ivy League education is certainly commendable, but recruiters on the hunt for diversity should extend their reach.
Changing the interview
Recruiters and hiring managers should also be wary of the way they interview, and how easily judgments can be formed based on signals they may (wrongly) receive from different candidates.
"Of all the issues talked about, employers are not working on how to train employees well on how to interview or ask the right questions," Srinivasan said. It's also easy for recruiters to be "negatively disposed" toward candidates that may not be similar to them in certain ways.
To combat this, her company provides guidelines and an interview kit for interviewers that helps them focus on skills and experience rather than background or pedigree. It keeps the interview process streamlined and fairly standardized.
Culturally aligned vs. Cultural fit
If hiring managers and employees become more aware of their biases, they can in turn focus on what matters for the company. But for that to take place, a company must be aware of its culture — and what it means for someone to fit within it.
A recent CareerBuilder study showed that a single bad hire can cost an employer upwards of $25,000 (said 41% of participating companies in the study) to $50,000 (said 24% of participating companies in the study) in lost productivity, cost to recruit and train a new employee, and the hit to employee morale. The same study showed that 67% of employees were considered bad hires due to their lack of competency, while 60% did not work well with other employees (a problem of cultural fit).
"This data shows the importance of hiring based on job fit and culture fit at the same time," Haefner said.
Cultural fit has been slammed for potentially leading to bias and discrimination since recruiters would theoretically be hunting for someone who would fit in — aka, be just like everyone else, a particular problem in the "bro" culture of Silicon Valley. Srinivasan suggests a shift in tone toward 'cultural alignment.' The interview process should reveal how a candidate works and what they value. If those things align with how the company works and what it values, a candidate will likely be culturally aligned, even if they differ from current employees in other ways.
Be prepared to train
Volume of talent with the right credentials may still be an issue, Haefner said, but companies can make up the difference by being willing to train potential strong hires.
"Employers who go into recruiting at that level, the opportunity is 'can you be more open-minded?' " she said. "Can this person be 70% at day one, and you make up the difference over time?" Can someone with less experience but high potential get to where you need them to be if you provide the resources to train them? Such programs also enable diverse hiring, particularly at the college level, where credentials may fall slightly short across the board.
Wih a strong training program, employers can take calculated risks hiring those with lower credentials but high potential, making the company stronger all around.