By Dr. John Sullivan & Master Burnett
One of the first lessons that many third-party recruiters learn is one borrowed from the sales profession. The lesson basically teaches that as intermediaries between the organization and the applicant, the recruiter has to work diligently to equalize expectations between the two parties if they want to have a realistic chance at closing the deal and converting the applicant to an employee.
During the courtship, the recruiter needs to help establish expectations in the applicant’s mind about the nature of the work the job entails, the work environment, the resources that will be made available to the employee, and of course, what compensation the employer will likely offer. The recruiter must also work to establish expectations with the hiring manager regarding the applicant’s fit for the job requirements, their work ethic, and of course, what type of offer would be required for the applicant to seriously consider employment with the organization.
It’s a delicate dance, and when performed well, can bring applicants’ expectations down to earth, while bringing hiring managers’ expectations in line with reality.
Unfortunately, in today?s fast-paced recruiting climate, most recruiting processes are administration-centric, implying that they are not designed to close the deal with top talent, but rather to ease the administrative complexity of the hiring process. Establishing expectations is a practice long since tossed out the door by corporate recruiters, but one they should consider bringing back.
An Ever-Expanding Chasm
In a book entitled The Support Economy, the authors write: “People have changed more than the business organizations upon which they depend. The last 50 years have seen the rise of a new breed of individuals, yet corporations continue to operate according to logic invented at the time of their origin, a century ago. The chasm that now separates individuals and organizations is marked by frustration, mistrust, disappointment, and even rage.”
This chasm is overwhelmingly evident and growing in most recruiting departments. In an era where someone can move funds from one banking institution to another using a simple application on their mobile phone, notify all of their friends of their exact GPS location with the click of a button, and plan a party coordinating services from dozens of vendors using a single website, it seems ridiculous that it takes 40-plus minutes to apply for a job with a single organization. It’s even worse that these applicants then get nothing in return but a generic email notifying them that their application was received.
If you have ever gone to the movies more than once to see a new release on premier night and gotten to the theater just a few minutes before the movie was scheduled to begin, you most likely entered the theater with the expectation that your seats, for lack of a better word, were going to “suck.” When you ended up sitting between two groups with loud children while your date ended up sitting three rows back in the seat with gum stuck all over it, you didn’t like it, but you understood why. In this scenario, past experiences helped set your expectations.
Now let’s consider a different scenario. A new restaurant opens near your office, and all week you have been hearing people rave about the quality of the food. One day for lunch, after hearing all of the positive reviews, you opt to try it. You walk in and are seated promptly, and all of the service staff seem very attentive. They take your order quickly, after which you begin to salivate already thinking about the wonderful food you just ordered and all of the positive reviews you heard. Ten minutes pass and you start to look at your watch, 15 and your right foot begins to tap, 20 and you start to look around. By the time 30 minutes elapses, you have moved well past anticipation and are frustrated and disappointed.
Realizing your discontent, the service staff steps in. After voicing your concerns, they inform you that unlike many restaurants, all ingredients are prepped to order and that all dishes cooked to order in an effort to maintain the highest quality standards. They go on to inform you that on average it takes the kitchen approximately 40 minutes to produce each order. You leave angry, upset, and hungry, primarily because no one equalized your expectations.
You walked in with one set of expectations, which you didn’t communicate, and the restaurant operates under a set of expectations, which they didn’t communicate. When combined, these created a significant chasm in customer experience.
Whenever expectations are not set upfront, the customer in any scenario is likely to set expectations beyond those which can be met by the party providing the goods/service, a rule of thumb that often leads to customer disappointment!
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Preventing Applicant Frustration, Mistrust, Disappointment, and Anger
Preventing ill feelings among applicants resulting from their expectations not being met is truly easy, just stop treating them like crap! However, since that isn’t likely to happen, try equalizing expectations upfront with applicants and candidates about what they should realistically expect with regards to your hiring process.
While they still may not like the process, customer service studies repeatedly prove that customers, when educated what to expect, will stick through the process longer.
Think about it, when you dial in to a call center and learn that average hold times are seven minutes, are you not more apt to wait, and less disgruntled when they finally answer than you would normally be after waiting on hold for seven minutes without a warning?
Simple Statistics Will Do the Job
Providing data to help equalize applicant expectations isn’t difficult and doesn’t require a degree in advanced mathematics. To get started, consider these simple statistics:
- Total applicant volume. Contrary to popular belief among recruiters, releasing this statistic is not tantamount to sharing a trade secret. Inform applicants that in the past year “x” amount of applicants have applied. Add which percentage were selected for phone screens, how many advanced beyond the phone screen to an in-person interview, what percentage made it to the final round of consideration, what percentage were offered employment, and what percentage were contacted regarding an alternate position for which they did not directly apply.
- Process cycle time. If it takes three months on average for you to generate a hire, say so. While it may be embarrassing (it should be), releasing this statistic helps candidates understand why they may not have an offer on day two following their submittal. If you really want to be customer-centric, break down the cycle time with a detailed timeline that educates applicants about what your process looks like.
- Source statistics. Letting applicants who really want to work for your organization know they may be more likely to garner an interview if they attend an event or are submitted by an employee as a referral is a great way to allow them to circumvent the design flaws in your archaic process. Simply indicate what percentage of hires come from each source or express it as a ratio. For example, 26% or 1:4 hires applied for the position via our website, or 9% or 1:10 hires approached a recruiter during an industry trade show.
The statistics don’t have to be complicated, and sharing them poses no risk with the exception of embarrassment. If you have the data, and your recruiting workflow varies by job family, location, etc., publish the statistics relevant to the job being applied for.
Just like progress bars on multi-page online employment applications and anticipated hold time notices on call-center holding messages, publishing simple statistics about the yield and cycle time of your recruiting process can do a lot to reduce applicant frustration.
While your applicant database from a recruiting perspective may be nothing more than a data store on a mass of people you will never hire, it could also be a data store full of customers more apt to continue buying your organization’s goods and services, if only they were a little less frustrated with you as a potential employer.
Will doing it solve all of your problems stemming from a disconnect between your process and society at large? Probably not, but it may help a larger percentage of the Web generation tolerate the antiquated approach a wee bit longer while you catch up.