Steve Goldberg's Analyst Perspectives

Candidate Engagement “Best Practices” Aren’t Always Best

Posted by Steve Goldberg on Oct 1, 2019 6:00:00 AM

Human resources and recruiting departments, and most job candidates, are well aware that we are firmly in a seller’s market when it comes to finding and hiring high-quality talent. Primary reasons for this include record low unemployment, the need to fill a variety of digital-age jobs across all industries that did not exist a few years ago and organizations competing fiercely to make their value proposition to candidates more attractive. This emphasis on effectively engaging candidates to maximize recruiting has motivated employers to devise new ways of elevating candidate interactions and personalizing the engagement experience. Some of these new methods are proving effective, while others may yield better results only when other variables are present.   

To better understand the ways organizations are engaging candidates in this competitive environment, Ventana Research is launching Dynamic Insights research into candidate engagement. This research will assess what candidate engagement practices are working, the role technology plays and the potential benefits of excelling in this endeavor. Using concise web-based surveys, the Ventana Research Dynamic Insights platform gathers real-world data while immediately providing research participants with a personalized assessment of their organization’s efforts based on their responses, as well as research- and experience-based advice on potential next steps to improve. Each participant who completes the survey is provided insights to support decisions ranging from prioritizing application and technology investments to what best practices are most relevant to their organization’s efforts.

In developing our candidate engagement research, we note that a major byproduct of the transition from a buyer’s to a seller’s market is that talent acquisition has become much less transactional and much more about meaningfully engaging candidates. While the former involves populating the candidate funnel and filling jobs quickly, the evolving engagement process of recruiting is characterized by many of the same steps involved in strategic sales: establish rapport, build trust, generate initial interest or curiosity, discover what is operating behind the scenes by cultivating authentic interactions that enable the potential candidate to express his or her goals, motivations and concerns. Only then, if appropriate, do the parties begin a more serious dialogue.

Particularly when the job to be filled involves skilled labor at the higher end of the pay scale, this process usually takes time, which is why focusing on the metric “time to fill” without considering skill and salary often is a bad practice. After all, what’s so great about hiring the wrong people faster? And the means by which candidates are effectively engaged vary, usually based on the job and surrounding supply-and-demand dynamics, as well as how actively the individual targeted for a discussion is seeking a position.

Those individuals not actively seeking a new position (“passive candidates”) can be among the most desirable talent out there, but it’s often a difficult population to reach. It’s therefore important to quickly ascertain the communication preferences of candidates as well what might entice them to consider another opportunity.

In my view, what many organizations believe to be best practices for engaging job candidates aren’t always optimal for achieving the goal at hand. Here are three innovative candidate engagement practices that organizations should scrutinize to confirm their effectiveness:

(Not So) Intelligent Virtual Assistants

Using an Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA), as opposed to a dumb chatbot, can be a great way to efficiently engage candidates, especially active job seekers. However, the ubiquitous question “what is your current job title?” isn’t likely to be helpful if the virtual assistant then launches into a dialogue about openings relevant only to that person’s current job. Asking the individual “what type of position interests you the most?” instead can make a huge difference. At the very least, after asking about the current job title, the next question should be “Do you want to pursue the same type of role?”

Overemphasizing Conversion Rates

In recruiting, many organizations still focus on the conversion metric — the percentage of “candidate suspects” converted to “QIA” (qualified, interested and available) candidates, and then the degree of success hiring those QIAs. This approach is myopic and risky, even more so if pressure to deliver on this metric has the effect of influencing recruiters or candidates to say what they have to say to move the process forward. This can seriously compromise the goal of both parties: to realistically and accurately assess the fit.

Job Postings Don’t Sell 

The reality is that even the most creative, attention-getting job postings don’t truly sell anyone not already predisposed to a job opportunity. Why not? Because unlike the written words in a great novel, a job posting cannot create an immersive experience for the reader. Another medium such as a video clip or video in conjunction with some written context will usually be more effective in engaging a job seeker or talent being sought. Better yet is to provide a video clip (directly or through the career site) of an enthusiastic employee in a similar role introducing him- or herself and talking about what’s great or unique about the company, or perhaps how the organization truly values diversity, internal mobility, teamwork, giving back to the community or other manifestations of company culture.

Our Dynamic Insights research into candidate engagement is designed to sharpen our understanding of what works best in this challenging hiring market environment. Take part in our Dynamic Insights Candidate Engagement survey by clicking here.

Steve Goldberg

Topics: Human Capital Management, Recruiting, Talent Generation, Talent Management, candidate engagement

Steve Goldberg

Written by Steve Goldberg

Steve is responsible for the Human Capital Management (HCM) research and advisory services practice. He guides HR and business leaders in leveraging their workforce for competitive advantage. He guides HCM technology vendors on the market of buyers and where their applications and technology can have maximum impact. Steve's uniquely diverse HCM experience spans over 30 years, including HR process and HCM systems practitioner leadership roles, heading up product strategy for one of the most respected HCM application vendors, and operating his own global advisory practice. His expertise areas of coverage include HRMS, Talent Management and Workforce Management, with specialized focus on recruiting, learning, performance, compensation and payroll. Prior to joining Ventana Research, Steve worked as a corporate VP in HR at UBS/Swiss Bank Corporation and Huizenga Holdings, product strategy leader at PeopleSoft and Unicru, and was also VP and Research Director at Bersin & Associates. Over 35,000 HR professionals and business executives have been informed by one of Steve's presentations on HCM, or have read his published work. Steve holds an MBA in Human Resource Management from University of Buffalo School of Management and a BBA in Industrial Psychology from The City University of New York.