Moving from Transactions to Engagement — 4 Recruiting Trends

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 3.08.18 PMRecruiting is finally moving away from transactional thinking and beginning to understand how to better connect and engage with relevant candidates. We are not there yet, and I may be too optimistic, but many recruiters are making the transition to engage candidates and improve their experience and are therefore making more hires, increasing candidate satisfaction, and bringing in people who become productive faster and stay longer. An exemplar here is Google that has dropped many of its previous job requirements and adopted ones based on data and results.

We are moving slowly through the hype of technology into the deeper waters of understanding candidate psychology and motivation.  Over the next five years I expect to see much less focus on tools and technology, and much more use of them to really engage candidates and improve the experience they have in finding the right use of their skills.

Here are the four trends I see unfolding. They will not all be competed in 2014 but they will certainly be well underway in many organizations.  I’d love your comments and feedback.

Engagement/Experience 2.0

The holy grail is to get candidates engaged in conversations and activities that will get them involved with your firm, a recruiter, or other employees. This improves their experience and makes them want to come back. The better this is done, the “stickier” the candidate and the more likely h/she is to say yes to an interview or offer.

But engagement 1.0 was based on simplistic transactional things — very basic games, videos about your firm, and perhaps answering a few questions: Neither engaging or a very good experience. They also rarely connected with a potential candidate in any deep way.

Engagement 2.0 is about serving up content that interests the candidate and that gives something valuable to the candidate. This can be advice about using your product or services, or it could be some sort of training (see my recent article on using MOOCs). This level of engagement might use a service such as BraveNewTalent that offers learning and conversation that can be privately packaged for your firm.

We need to create online groups that provide substance and good content based on what our potential candidates are interested in. One firm calls these groups “Hives,” and I like that term a lot — both corporations and candidates are eager for honey, i.e. meaningful content, learning, deeper understanding, and connection with an actual recruiter or employee.

Well-designed games, simulations, and videos can all be part of the engagement platform as long as each of them is tested for effectiveness and continuously improved.  The nature of engagement and the quality of experience is dynamic and always changing, so everything that takes place needs to be current and relevant.

Social Media Goes Mobile & Video

Social media is about understanding people, how they react, and what they want. It is not about technology, as that is more and more invisible. The choice of platform and medium are becoming irrelevant. What is relevant is understanding what potential candidates want and need in order to give them a meaningful experience and to mutually explore each other for interest, fit, and skill.

Video and mobile apps will dominate the social media space. Job postings are being turned into videos or into graphics that incorporate video (See for examples).  The popularity of Instagram and other picture and video sharing services is growing and it is becoming much easier to reach and engage with a potential candidate using these than by email.

Recruiters should be making short videos about the jobs they are seeking candidates to fill. By getting hiring managers to make a 1-3 minute video describing a particular position, its requirements, and perhaps by interviewing someone who already does that function, a recruiter could have a powerful attraction tool. It is a medium especially suitable for mobile.

Employees can send short videos to friends as part of a referral program and, if the job descriptions are done well enough, there can be a viral effect as people watch the video and forward it on to friends.

I am not talking about the realistic job previews I see often on corporate career sites.  I am talking about the actual job description being a video with a verbal indication on how to apply.

Analytics — Key to Engagement and Experience

Analytics — the ability to get useful information from all the numbers, facts, and general data that you collect — is the key to creating a good experience and to building engagement. When you understand what motivates a potential candidate and what is meaningful to them, then you can include content that matches their desires and meets their needs.

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Amazon and many other online retailers use your actions, e.g., what you actually buy or look at, to make conclusions about your interests. Then they offer you books, music, movies, or other products that are more likely to be of interest to you.

The value of analytics can be judged simply: do they tell you what engages best or what contributes to the best experience through the actions of the candidates more than by what they say?

Until recently it was impossible to cull through this data and draw useful conclusions, but it is now easier and possible using tools that are not expensive or arcane. You can test two types of content and see which draws more interest and comments.  You can show different versions of videos and see which ones are viewed more often to the end.

Org Structure = Networks & Collaboration

Models of organizing work are changing to fit the more complex and less structured nature of 21st-century work. Hierarchical models with highly specialized roles are giving way to models that are more flexible and that get the best results. These are flat, non-hierarchical, collaborative, and multi-skilled/multi-tasked. They involve people who may not formally be part of the recruiting function, including hiring managers, business folks, and often just ordinary employees. They look much more like networks than hierarchies and titles mostly disappear.

Thus within your function there should be very few specialists; mostly broadly skilled people who can source, sell, assess, and close as well as influence managers and use technology effectively. They need to have many contacts throughout the organization and outside so they can better find and connect with relevant candidates. This requires everyone to work as a team: teaching, learning, and sharing rewards. No more awarding the “super” recruiter with bonuses, but spreading his or her knowledge throughout your team to make the entire team “super.”

Welcome to the 21st century.


Some of the Related Conference Sessions at the ERE Recruiting Conference in San Diego:

  • Using Big Data to Drive Measurable Recruiting Results: Getting Past the Hype (Wed. April 23, 4:15 p.m.)
  • Think Like a Marketer and Ace Your Recruiting Results (Thursday, April 24, 3:15 p.m.)
  • Strengthening Your Recruiting Department’s Internal Reputation and Influence (Wednesday, April 23, 10:15 a.m.)
  • RPO Decisions: Whether to Use RPO, and If So, Which One (Thursday, April 24, 2 p.m., with Kevin Wheeler and recruiting leaders from Honeywell and Ingram Micro)

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


8 Comments on “Moving from Transactions to Engagement — 4 Recruiting Trends

  1. What goal does the company want to accomplish prior to providing content to potential employees? If companies have not made a commitment to changing their hiring process, eliminating a 20+minute application process, investing in an onboarding process, defining what the company wants the individual to accomplish when hired, creating opportunities for personal growth, education and defining a timetable for upward mobility, nothing will change in terms of attracting and hiring productive people.

    -you have a cost-contained approach to talent acquisition,
    -when cost of hire is more important than quality of hire
    -when HR is the power broker and refuses to change policies and procedures in spite of input regarding the lack of quality in the candidates the hiring manager is seeing
    -when hiring managers don’t know how to interview
    -when companies do not invest in training and mentoring their people
    -when there appears to be no mandate to acquiring management skills prior to promoting individual contributors to management
    -when internal problems that would prevent individuals from accomplishing their goals have not been resolved
    -when companies can’t define where their targets are coming from and how they are going to reach those goals
    – when companies don’t empower their people to do the tasks they were hired to do

    The caliber of individual joining that organization is not going to change and companies will continue their march toward mediocrity.

  2. @ Edward: I agree with you. Most companies will do no more than attempt lip-service or work to be caught pretending to do the right thing. There are no major positive incentives for companies/executives to do the right thing, or disincentives to stop doing the wrong things- and when you don’t have those- things stay the same…

  3. Kevin, thanks for finding examples due to your ability to see the positive movement of emerging practices, pushed forward by leaders seeking continuous improvement. You offer all an opportunity to step along a continuum.

    Engagement/Experience 2.0 or 3… Read more

  4. Thanks, Edward. An common problem in ‘best practices’ and such is how do you implement best practices in a situation where mediocre to worst practices are being employed elsewhere in the company? The answer is you don’t, really. You can’t sell a commitment to candidate experience, and then expect the candidate to retype their resume, twice sometimes, and then follow up with an interview with a hiring manager who has the managerial and interviewing skills of a turnip, who will then sit around for weeks on end with his thumb up his ass rather than make a decision.

    It’s the prisoner’s dilemma in a sense. Best practices in one area are really only effective if best practices in all other areas are also being applied.

  5. Thanks again, Richard. I’d like to drill down more about how you implement best practices in candidate care.

    Let’s consider some scenarios:
    1) The high-level and well-connected/empowered staffing head sincerely wishes to implement beneficial changes but faces resistance from above and/or below (too many people may look bad, lose their jobs, have more work to do).

    2) The highest executives sincerely wish to implement beneficial changes but face resistance from below (same examples).

    3) Everyone at the company sincerely wishes to implement beneficial changes but there are no incentives/resources to do so. How do you make sure that all stakeholders are positively incentivized in some way(s) for implementing and maintaining the changes and negatively incentivized from their failure to do so?

    Folks, do you have some answers?


  6. One answer for all: Do what you can do on your own, to hell with anything else. Improve the quality of your own product as much as possible, if only for your own ends. Then when other people screw up and it affects your work, come down on them like an anvil. Do so judiciously or not at all when they are your superiors. If your boss says the sky is green, or something that’s the HR/Recruitment equivalent, then so it is. Simply proceed with your day comfortable in the knowledge that s/he is either incompetent or a lunatic, or both, and adjust your strategy to compensate.

  7. Kevin: Thank you for a great article. Your insight is deep and gets to core points on those trends.

    I’d add to the collaboration part – there is a generational factor as companies have to adapt to these changes in a growing segment of their workforce and flatter organizations will be key to attract staff.

    Also, to go beyond transactional, knowing the acquisitions strategy if at big company, or at least, analytics on the supply of talent in all forms, not just headcount

    @Edward & @Richard – great comments. There’s more organizational complexity (mostly self-created/self-preserving) resulting in noise that impacts the hiring process and budget to the TA departments. Any company can design a basic hiring process but when you don’t invest in it when scaling, you get this patchwork of a broken hiring process.

  8. Thanks, Richard.
    “Do what you can do on your own, to hell with anything else.” As long as what you do on your own only affects you and you alone, that makes a great deal of sense. I’ve learned the hard way over the decades that the environments where significant initiative is encouraged are rare indeed. “If we wanted you to show initiative- we’d tell you exactly how, when, and where you’d show it.”

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