Here’s How You Can Deliver Customer Service

Both sides ó recruiters and candidates ó responded strongly to my article last week on customer service. Many recruiters wrote in asking how they could possibly provide the quality and personal customer service that I insist is a core element of being an effective 21st century recruiter. Here are a few quotes I received from recruiters: “I have received almost 500 resumes. Over 90% of these people are not qualified or not what my company is looking for.” And another, “I have been overwhelmed with candidates. Some fit our needs, but most don’t even take the time to read the job description…I wish I could reply to every candidate, but if I did I would not be doing my job!” A candidate, on the other side of the fence, wrote: “As a candidate going through a very bad dry spell in finding recruiting work, I rarely experience this common courtesy among recruiters who post jobs that don’t exist and fail to follow simple due diligence.” And this, “I’m a downsized corporate executive who has been repeatedly appalled by the way companies and recruiters are treating candidates during this economic downturn.” We all, I believe, want to provide candidates with great service, and we all know that those who have been ignored, dismissed as not qualified, or otherwise treated with discourtesy will not forget and may never recommend our firm to friends or apply again ó even when they may be an excellent choice. Every act of discourtesy will eventually be incorporated into the overall reputation that our firms have about people and how they are treated. As they say in the customer satisfaction business, for every customer that tells you they are satisfied, there are at least three dissatisfied customers who have said nothing. The same applies for candidates. So what does the overworked, overwhelmed recruiter do? How can you provide responsive service in the face of huge numbers of resumes? Here are three tips: 1. Don’t post job descriptions, but if you do, make them precise and specific. I have taken an excerpt from a job description I found on a website that is representative of many I see every day. The questions I ask is who, with even a modicum of technical ability and a dash of experience, will not feel qualified for this job? There are no specifics, no details, and no firm requirements. I almost feel that I could apply for this and justify why if asked.

You’re looking for more than just a job in information technology. You want a career that challenges your IT experience while giving you the freedom and support to succeed. Look no further than Company X. Our professional services offerings span the entire application lifecycle, giving our customers a complete solution and our employees the opportunity to excel on all platforms. With our technical focus and emphasis on delivery, we strive to hire experienced information technology professionals with broad skill sets and the desire and versatility to learn new businesses and skills. We are selective in hiring and serious about retaining those we do hire. We are looking for candidates with the following attributes:

  • Oracle Financials experience
  • Oracle 11i application development experience
  • Strong PL/SQL

I am sure that this has generated many hundreds of unqualified resumes. Unfortunately, most job descriptions are written this way deliberately, so that they will generate a large number of responses. When we lacked technology and reach this was a marginally acceptable approach, but today it creates big problems. Most candidates are very concerned with applying for an appropriate job, but how can they really tell from the way descriptions are often written? Are the specific requirements spelled out? Are you using technology to screen for these? We need to focus on a building a new mindset. We do not need mass marketing for most positions, we do not need to generate hundreds of responses to make sure we’ve “covered the field,” and we can’t ignore hundreds of applicants because of our own inadequacies. Many of us have attitudes that would be similar to those of a store clerk who, when overwhelmed with customers, simply walks off and leaves them. 2. We need to use technology ó and use it better. The new recruiting tools and systems, especially those from companies like Hire.com* and Recruitsoft, have built-in tools for communicating, screening, and maintaining relationships with candidates. But the sad fact is that after these systems are purchased, only a fraction of you utilize their powerful communication and screening features. Most of you are still focused on the zero-value-added backend adminstrivia, and fail to serve your customers ó the candidates. There are countless email programs, newsletter distribution programs, and other free or inexpensive communications aids that you could use to help you do a better job letting candidates know where they stand. Even automatic bounce back responses can be more intelligently written and distributed. A follow-up email could follow the bounce back and automatically provide the candidate with another touch point. 3. Relationships and referrals are keys to your success. I am more and more convinced that posting job descriptions is an archaic process. While I have no doubt that the practice will live on for a long time, it is neither the best, cheapest, nor fastest way to find good people. Using technology to develop relationships and to communicate regularly with a selected and screened pool of candidates is the key to your real success. As we re-enter a booming economy, you won’t be able to find the people you need by posting on Monster. You will have to use your network, ask employees (and others) for referrals, and make this the cornerstone of your efforts. This is what agencies and headhunters have been doing for decades, and it’s why they have been successful. They have relied on face-to-face relationship building, a fine practice, but slow, expensive and clumsy. The Internet lets you do this with much greater ease and at a lower cost in time and money. Base your recruiting on the customer service mindset, go for quality not volume, and do that by building relationships and asking for referrals. If you are generating hundreds of responses to a job posting, you are doing something terribly wrong.

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*Full disclosure: I am a member of Hire.com’s advisory board.

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 ERE.net, 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 kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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