Job boards could be more effective if they prevented unqualified candidates from ever applying for an open job in the first place. Here’s one idea on how they could do this: kill candidate agents, and limit to three the number of jobs a candidate can apply for daily. Candidates would then be more discriminating ó unclogging the system overnight, and benefiting everyone. Until then, a similar affect can be achieved with some creative planning on your part. In a recent article (The Secrets of Semi-Sourcing Revealed), I made the contention that there were some outstanding people who looked infrequently for new opportunities on the job boards. However, unless they were an employer of choice, most companies had difficulty attracting these people. And even if companies did manage to attract them, they were almost impossible to find in a sea of otherwise unqualified candidates. Semi-active candidates are those people who look for jobs on an infrequent basis. They’re the ones who didn’t get laid off, and are now overworked, under-appreciated, and underpaid. As a result, they are ready to jump ship (en masse) once the job economy recovers. Until then, they’ll stay put. However, after an especially bad day, they will look to see if there is anything better out there. If you can attract them on their bad Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday nights, you have a window of opportunity to hire some great talent. Semi-active candidates don’t follow the same rules as active candidates when looking and applying for jobs. Here are the basic differences:
- They don’t have time to spare.
- They look infrequently.
- They’re looking for a better job, not another job.
- The good ones will be off the market quickly.
Since semi-active candidates don’t have time to spare, they only look at the titles of the jobs and the names of the companies on the first or second page of any job board listing. So if your job or title doesn’t stand out, you don’t have a chance. If you get them past this, they’ll then read the ad copy. If the job sounds boring, or lists the traditional must-haves ó skills, requirements, years of experiences, academics, industry background, with a few duties and responsibilities mixed in ó they’ll instantly opt out. If not, they’ll next look at the your website and the detailed job description. If these aren’t as convincing as they could be, nor easy to find and review, it’s over. However, if you manage to get them past these hurdles, you must then make sure you contact these people by 10 a.m. the next morning. This is where the quality of your back-end processing systems and the professionalism of your recruiting team come into play. If you wait three to five days before you call a semi-active candidate, or sound unprofessional even if you call by the 10 a.m. deadline, the window will be shut tight. The good news in all this is that it’s quite easy to find and hire top semi-active candidates ó if you design your recruiting advertising and applicant processing systems around their needs, rather than assuming they look and apply for jobs like active candidates. Here are some ideas you can try out:
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- Make your ads highly visible. Your job must be on the first page and among the top ten job listings. Pay extra for this, even if you have to post the job every day. If you do everything else described here, you’ll only need to post the job for one or two days anyway.
- Use long, outrageous titles that stand out and can’t be ignored. Make sure the job title is not the same as the title of the ad, or of every other ad listed. A line for a field sales rep might be, “You’ll Like the Rhythm of Our Beat,” or a senior engineering designer might be, “Make History Designing Our Future.”
- Make sure the ad copy is compelling and describes what the candidate will do, learn, and become. This is what motivates a top person to excel, so you must offer a better job, not a similar job. This is a critical point. Semi-active candidates read this stuff, so make it exciting and make sure they can get to it within five seconds of clicking the title. Something like, “You’ll learn the secrets of top designers as you help launch our new industrial product line,” can quickly capture the interest of someone sitting on the fence.
- Write job descriptions that offer opportunities, not ones that list requirements. Make sure that 75% of your job descriptions are devoted to the challenges and projects involved in the job. Tie these to the company’s strategic vision that you’ve added to your home page. This is how you brand the job. Then minimize the skills, and make them dynamic. “Use your CPA to improve our international reporting system” is far more attractive than, “Must have a CPA, and 5-8 years of international accounting experience.” Make sure these job descriptions can be found in less than 30 seconds without the candidate doing much more than clicking.
- Make the application process easy to prevent opt-outs. Shoot for five minutes or less to apply, after they’ve seen the compelling job description. Eliminate anything that could prevent a top person from applying. Whatever you do, try it out first to make sure it works, and track opt-out rates at each web page.
- Sort the best candidates to the top of the list so that a recruiter can call them by 10 a.m. the morning after they apply. Your applicant tracking system must be able to sort the resumes by best first, without the candidate doing too much work. This means the upfront questioning needs to be super short and meaningful (e.g., “How many years have you made sales quota?”) and built on top of a robust search engine that allows searching by performance terms (recognition, awards, promotions, raises, honors) rather than skills. If you don’t find any top candidates after you’ve gone through the top 40 resumes, stop looking at the rest of the resumes. Somehow you’ve made a basic mistake in steps 1-5, or else you’ll have to broaden your sourcing channels. Under no circumstances keep on looking at the resumes of more unqualified candidates. This is a huge time-waster and must be avoided at all costs.
- When you call the candidate by 10 a.m. the next morning, treat the person like a customer. Try this: “I’m very impressed with your background and wanted to call you right away. We’re involved in a number of exciting projects that I think you’ll find compelling.” Then stop talking about the job, ask questions, obtain the person’s profile, find out some of their big accomplishments, and determine what type of recognition they’ve achieved. In 10 minutes, you’ll know if your semi-active candidate is worth pursuing. If so, you just found a top person for $150 within 48 hours of getting the requisition approved.
When hiring processes are designed to attract semi-active candidates, job boards can be a useful, low-cost means to find some very strong people. However, to be effective, all of the steps described here must be implemented. The process will collapse otherwise. If you’re not talking with these new-found top candidates by 10 a.m. of the morning after they’ve applied, you’ve lost the advantage of this semi-sourcing sweet spot. Don’t wait too long to begin implementing this process. 10 a.m. today is as good a time as any. Once the economy recovers, many of your own semi-active candidates will start looking. This will ratchet up your company’s hiring needs, and quickly stretch your systems and resources to the breaking point. Step 6 (rank sorting resumes) is the only real challenge, and this is where job boards could dramatically help. Until then, you’ll have to rely on your applicant tracking system and some clever fine-tuning (email firstname.lastname@example.org for some practical advice, and to sign-up for our next online conference on this topic) to get the best candidates to the top of the list. Then it all depends on what your recruiters say when they call. This is the recruiting sweet spot, and in my opinion the real key to making hiring top people a systematic business process. No matter how good your systems are in identifying top candidates, it takes great recruiters to convert them into outstanding hires. [Note: If you’d like to help make Hiring 2.0 a reality, join the hiring revolution. Our Band of 176 will become the focus group to set the standards for these next generation hiring tools. Our first “Satisfaction with Current Hiring Tools” survey will be sent out shortly to all revolutionaries. We’ll present the results in an online conference in November. This will be your first chance to join the growing number of people who want to dramatically change the way top people are hired. Separately, with ERE support, my national hiring revolution Zero-based Hiring tour has begun. Over the next few months I’ll be in Los Angeles on November 5, New York on November 19, San Francisco on December 11, and Dallas on January 21st. If you or your organization would like to be a city host for one of these events send me an email at email@example.com. We’ll be visiting the rest of the country in 2004 with 12-15 tour stops. I look forward to meeting you in person at one of them. Be heard. Join the revolution. Become a great recruiter.]