Recruiting's holy grail: Improving both quantity and quality of applicants
It's an ambitious goal but, like most things, it’s all in the prep
In a tight job market, those in talent acquisition often struggle to improve both the quantity and quality of job applicants.
Recruiters are busy working to reduce time-to-hire while also optimizing the candidate experience. Balancing these priorities with challenging market conditions around staffing imperatives requires a special kind of equilibrium.
"Implementing active, passive and talent community sourcing strategies ensures that companies are in the correct position to win the war for talent," Bill Neese, VP of talent acquisition at Paycor, told HR Dive in an email, "while driving an exceptional candidate experience."
As you work to hone your recruiting plan, there are a few questions to ask yourself, the experts say.
What are you asking for? Whether your problem is quantity or quality, the first place to look is within. The language of a job posting has the potential to exclude or encourage. Terms like "go-getter" speak to younger candidates; "rock star" tends to deter women, research shows. Vet ads to make sure they're inclusive. Some sites or tools will even "decode" language you input.
Where are you posting? Are you casting your net in a pond with few fish? Or, sometimes worse, the ocean? Work to figure out where your competitors are sourcing and recruiting, and make sure you're reviewing the ROI of your efforts.
Search on the fly. Are you optimized for mobile? If not, you're missing more than half the applicant pool. According to Pew Research, the majority of searchers use their smartphone to find an opening; 78% of millennials, 73% of Generation X and more than 57% of boomers are looking for work on the small screen.
Check your screens. Most companies are using some type of screening platform to weed out candidates that aren't a good fit, but these can be prone to errors. Periodically put through a "perfect" resume to assure screening is working properly.
Keep it simple. How long does it take to apply online? A recent survey found 60% of candidates will abandon the application process if it's too long or complex. The Society for Human Resource Management found an application that takes longer than 10 minutes to complete will result in the loss of half of potential candidates, but an application that takes less than 5 minutes will net 365% more.
"What fields are absolutely necessary to capture on a candidate expressing initial interest in a position?" Mahe Bayireddi, CEO of Phenom People, told HR Dive in an email. "Keep the application short and sweet to ensure a higher completion rate."
Translation please. Veterans are a large applicant pool waiting to be tapped. The problem is translating their experience to a language ATS or recruiters can understand. Unfortunately the language companies' use in job postings often limits the background and range of experiences of potential candidates," Zach Iscol, founder and CEO of Hirepurpose, told HR Dive in an email.
He recommended employers consider non-traditional experience as equivalent or greater. "A 25 year-old veteran with years of active combat experience, but no degree, has arguably more experience leading teams and thriving under intense pressure than someone at a similar age, no military experience, and a bachelor's degree," Iscol said. Sourcing through veteran employment and placement groups could open a vast applicant stream.
While short-term fixes are important, experts recommend that recruiters adopt some long-term goals as well.
Boost your brand. Recruitment brand is key to attracting top talent. Increasingly, marketing the company as an employer is as important as marketing the product line. Many HR departments that focus on their recruitment brand find increased funding in their budgets, as well.
"Most job boards offer some form of branding to upload a logo, video or link to your website," Kristin Lockhart, vice president of recruiting services at Adams Keegan, told HR Dive in an email. "This allows a candidate the opportunity to learn about the company before applying. Additionally, it can make it easier for the candidate to decide if they are a fit with the company or not."
Want to try a marketing tactic that's cutting edge? Geofencing sets up a wireless fence around key areas to target candidates where they live or work. Whenever a candidate enters the fenced zone, he receives ads on his phone inviting him to apply, Bayireddi explained.
Networking works. Cultivating relationships are an investment in the future. "Employers need to build referral sources through local schools, whether it's MBAs or trade programs," Lockhart said. "The teachers and staff are motivated to place their students and are willing to share your company's name." She reminded employers to make time for students that are interested in order to keep those schools continually referring candidates.
Reputation management. Is your online presence costing you applicants? Only one in five job seekers will apply to a company with a negative online reputation. If you're not continuously monitoring your online presence, you should be.
Tech times two. "Tools like chatbots can be used to engage an even greater number of candidates," Jim Stroud, global head of sourcing and recruiting strategy for Randstad Sourceright, told HR Dive in an email. "This technology also has the added benefit of enhancing candidate experience by ensuring that their applications aren't being sent into the abyss, but are being carefully reviewed and considered."
Your talent management system may hold treasures, as well. Leverage the applicants who've already expressed an interest in joining your rolls, but didn't quite make the cut for the last position you’ve listed. A process that looks through "near-misses" can supply an employer with a steady stream of candidates.
Time for a change? Is it time to rethink that opening? According to Randstad Sourceright's 2018 Talent Trends Report, 25% of company leaders intend to shift permanent roles to temporary or freelance talent in the coming year. And today, 76% of HR leaders are open to roles being filled by any type of worker from employee to contractor.
Constant evaluation. "A very small percentage of employers steadily track the quality of their hires," Stroud said. It's important to analyze hiring metrics to understand what’s driving candidates to apply and where your best conversions from applicant to hire are originating.
Stroud recommended employers look at their hiring process from beginning to end to make sure it consistently engages candidates, while simultaneously satisfying business needs. Improving the quality and quantity of applicants requires a bit of work, but like most things, it's all in the prep.