Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Are You Flushing Candidates Down the Drain?

However you want to categorize it, talent war, candidate shortage, etc...  it is a very tight recruiting market for software and web companies these days.

It takes an immense amount of time and effort to convert a prospect into an active candidate. All the work creating an employment brand, identifying and engaging your talent pool has paid off and you are beginning to get your message in front of the right candidates.

While at this point there is no silver bullet or proprietary secret to success, now more than ever, the hiring team needs to execute flawlessly. One miss-step in the process and your prospect will move on to the next viable option. And there are always other options.

Let's examine the crucial points along the way from initial contact, as your prospect progresses through your funnel where process execution can determine success.

First and Foremost Present a Consistent and Complete Company Profile on Recruiting Platforms

At minimum make sure your LinkedIn and Indeed company pages are complete and present a professional first impression to job seekers. These days if you don't have a LinkedIn profile, your company will not be perceived as a viable.

Loading the Top of the Funnel

Getting candidates into the funnel is the first order task of recruiting and requires as separate post to cover fully. But make no mistake, it is a numbers game and requires constant attention and effort to keep the funnel primed.

Don't Underestimate the Power of a Phone Call

How many times have you heard "cold calling is dead"? Yes we have the tools today that help us identify and contact our prospects via email and inbound marketing techniques and you should always start there. The fact is that a skilled recruiting call will convert at a much higher rate. Once you have made initial contact via email, twitter IM or any other e-contact method, a follow up call may provide an edge that other companies have abandoned. If you need an example that the phone is a powerful lead conversion tool, look no further than the creators of Inbound Marketing and you will find they have a large, aggressive and skilled telesales organization.

Boring Job Descriptions Don't Convert

Sometimes a job posting is the initial experience someone has with a company. A boring job spec is the first warning of the boring company behind it. Take some time and create a job description that portrays some character of your company as well as what qualities and experience you are seeking.

It is even arguable if a job description is the right approach, maybe it should be an employment branding ad specific to the talent function, such as marketing, engineering or sales.

Bottom line, don't sell short the power of your copy here and consider a branded career ad that might attract a wider spectrum of candidates rather than a generic buzz word compliant job description.

Each Additional Step in the Job Application Process Loses Candidates

It is well known that the more steps in a web sign up funnel, the less prospects will convert. The same is true when prospective candidates apply for jobs. The last thing a great engineer wants to do is fill out a multi-page form asking for the same info on the resume or worse, extensive personal information.  Keep the application process simple, ideally just a click to apply button.

Handling the Volume of Inbound Candidate Channels

Screening mediocre resumes is wasted time and effort. For roles with a higher volume of inbound applications, make sure to have some call to action that will eliminate mass submissions. Requesting a personal note from a candidate describing why they are a fit for your company or some sort of  puzzle will eliminate the unqualified or mass appliers.

Managing the Channel Metrics for success rates, is an important factor in improving results and making adjustments to maximize hiring production.  Older "bean counter" metrics of cost per hire, time to fill are giving way to more well reasoned and holistic business performance based metrics like QOH.

Referrals Should be Maximized

25-30% of hires made through referrals is a healthy rate for a company to maintain.

This is fodder for much discussion which we won't cover here. But it is clear that referrals are the best channel a company can take advantage of due to the low cost, and referential nature of the hires. However the referral value diminishes when it is not a direct reference or done only for the bonus dollars.

Treat all referrals with expedient care. Keep in mind that a referral rate lower than average may indicate low employee satisfaction, which needs to be addressed immediately.

Candidate Experience: All You Need is Love

Kayak CTO Paul English wrote a definitive post in 2002 entitled Hiring Religion that will tell you all you need to know about fostering a great candidate experience.

His lines "Show this candidate that you came into work today to meet with them, that they are the most important person on your list"  and "be energized and nice to all candidates, it very well could mean the difference in winning over that superstar candidate", and also having a goal that ALL candidates always speak highly of their experience with your team, sum it up very nicely.

The more personal contact your team has with prospective hires, the higher the probability of them joining your company. No matter if they ultimately come to work at your company or not, your goal is to have every candidate that comes in contact with your company, remember a great experience.

Efficient and Decisive Interview Process

The bottom of the Recruiting Funnel is where mistakes are most costly. Offer Rejections are damaging setbacks. Lost employee time meeting the candidate, recruiter expense, and even management time if they are called into the process at the later stage, all add up to tens of thousands of dollars spent with nothing to show for the expense of a kicked offer.

Sometimes when everyone is very busy getting things done, getting interview feedback gets lost in the  pile. Make sure to have a process in place where all outstanding candidates in the funnel are discussed and decisions made, ideally on the same day as the interview.  Then quickly communicate the interview results to the candidate.

Timely answers and rapid decisions have turned many candidates around when competitive companies were slow to respond and seemed indecisive.

Improve Offer Acceptance Percentage

First thing to note is that getting to the passive candidates not yet seeking a new opportunity yields higher close rates.

At this point in the funnel, it is all about relationship and communication. The goal is to have an open line of communication and no surprises. Ideally, you will know the competition, the decision criteria, how the family views the move and any issues that might prevent the candidate from accepting the offer. Your prospect should know what your offer process is and have spoken with you about their salary requirements for an acceptable offer.

If you are getting surprise rejections and hearing excuses, it might be a good idea to do a 5 whys analysis to discover where your process has failed. Not really, but you get the idea, figure out where the communications were unsuccessful.

"Failure to Communicate" as your potential new employee moves through your hiring flow, is a fault when too much time between contact or lack of feedback turns the candidates experience negative. Maintaining momentum after the offer is also crucial, so get them involved and keep in touch until they start.

Interviewing gaffes, on-boarding mishaps and late or no show interviewers is an indication of lack of attention to detail and a low degree of care given to hiring. Or it could be a sign that you are hiring like crazy and in-frequently mess up. Either way too many mistakes can be a problem.

Exploding offers are a great way to set your company apart with a negative reputation. If you want to look desperate and cast doubt on how you treat employees, go for it.   Not recommended.

Execution is a Fundamental part of Winning the Talent War.

A startup truism is execution determines the winners. The same can be said for a successful recruiting effort. Companies can win or lose talent based upon their ability to effectively execute the candidate experience efficiently, decisively and with a personal touch.


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