Even though organizations pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into employment branding improvements, including websites, radio, blogs, podcasting, targeted email campaigns, and even print, very little money is spent on developing a relationship with the candidate.

Employment branding has leaped forward over the past two years. I have watched, participated in, and been amazed at the effort, time, and money spent on building employment brands.

What has lagged far behind is dealing with the candidates who are attracted by the branding and who then submit resumes or complete online forms. Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler of CareerXroads have conducted research for several years tracking how the Fortune 500 companies in the United States respond to candidates.

What they have learned is how few candidates get any response at all, and how even fewer get a personal email or phone call, even when they are excellent candidates and worthy of consideration. My own research and client work supports their findings.

Some of you may remember a popular toy and game, still available, called Tamagotchi that was introduced into the United States in the mid-1990s. When the toy is first turned on, the player had the opportunity to “give birth” to an animated pet. Their job is to take care of their virtual pet by feeding it, giving it praise, keeping it clean, and so on.

Periodically, the pet cries and the child has to figure out why and take the appropriate steps to keep it happy. The programming is quite sophisticated and challenging and some children become addicted to their pet to the extent that schools have banned them as a distraction.

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I think the Tamagotchi provides an excellent and simple analogy to what candidate care is all about. While attracting talent is the first step in a complex process, it is of no value at all without the proper care and feeding of the candidates who apply.

Each candidate needs something a little different. Each candidate is at a different stage in their search and seeks a personal answer to their questions. What is important is that the recruiter establishes an appropriate relationship with the candidate, according to that candidate?s needs.

Relationship is a strange word and in English we use it to mean a wide range of things. What I mean when I say a candidate relationship is that there is ongoing communication between the candidate, the organization, and the recruiter. A relationship implies mutual exchange of information and a depth of understanding that goes beyond the public relations face of the organization.

There are at least three steps in the relationship-building process:

  1. Leverage the awareness your brand has created. The awareness and interest that was created by the branding activities must be followed by a one-to-one exchange of information. This can happen via email, blogs, websites, the telephone, or face-to-face. What is important is that a candidate feels that someone knows them and what they are interested in doing. Every resume must be acknowledged, ideally with more than just a computer-generated form email. Personalized emails are best and the few organizations that do this get a great deal of candidate respect. Candidates can be made to feel special by being invited to a password-protected section of the website that contains exclusive information, or they can be provided with data and insight that is not generally available. The first step needs to clearly establish in their minds that you care about them and that they are different.
  2. Create a reason for the candidate to return. One of the reasons for spending the money on branding is to attract the best candidates and at some point invite them for an interview. You may not have a job for them immediately, but it would be wise to keep them engaged and excited about potential opportunities. There must be a bond or rapport established that makes the candidate come back to the site for more interaction and communication. Examples abound. In the services arena, Amazon is very good at this. When you buy a book from them, their software is then able to identify other books you might be interested in reading. Each time you log in, you are greeted with suggestions of books that might interest you. This is both a powerful selling tool as well as a wonderful way to build a one-to-one relationship without any Amazon staff being directly involved. Online newspapers provide more up-to-date information than you can get from their printed versions, so people log in several times a day. Recruiting sites can offer those who have relationships an earlier awareness of open positions or preferential interviews. Other tools for building bonds include blogs and newsletters. Even inviting candidates to take online tests can cement relationships and provide you additional information to assess a candidate?s qualifications. Frequent communication that gets increasingly personal raises the depth of relationships and increases the likelihood of a potential candidate accepting an interview. Only the imagination limits what recruiters can do.
  3. Reward them for coming. All relationships are, by definition, at least two-way with each party getting something from the interaction. Many years ago, Cisco pioneered the “Make a Friend @ Cisco” program where interested potential candidates could set up an email correspondence with a Cisco employee who had a similar job to the one the candidate was seeking. This established communication, and yes, relationships, with hundreds of people. Cisco got some great candidates; candidates got in-depth information and “insider” insight into Cisco. Even individual employees got something: the recognition and ego satisfaction of being a Cisco employee who could communicate with others. Social networks offer technology that allows candidates to communicate with each other and create self-sustaining communities that can be monitored by a recruiter. The recruiter can also participate and direct potential candidates to news sources, product information, or other websites that offer interesting information about the company, position, or products. Rewards can also be tangible. Interested members of your online community might be enticed to refer friends or other professionals in return for access to special information or reports that are normally not for free. Again, what is important is to understand that no relationship can be one-sided and that both parties have to feel that they are getting value from it.

Candidates need tender loving care just as the Tamagotchi pets do. Learning to leverage relationship techniques and tools will make your branding efforts pay off and earn you the praise you seek from your peers and bosses.

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.


6 Comments on “Tamagotchi

  1. Kevin,

    Good Article. I rarely post on ERE, but wanted to share that in my 20 plus years of working with candidates and the whole ‘relationship’ side of this, one glaring omission I think that you may have touched on is a deeper view into the word ‘relationship’.

    For instance, when I started in recruiting/selling with Source Consulting (Division of SourceEDP) one of the main differences we brought (the Source model) to this relationship was that EACH division had people working in it who actually had real life working experience in the division they worked.

    Our sell to the consultant was that we were not selling beepers and car phones (yes that’s what I said) and decided to get into staffing.

    The relationship became one of knowing not just the requirements we received from the hiring managers, but also understanding the technical and functional aspects of what the candidate’s skill sets were and where they were a ‘fit’.

    Some readers on this forum (who are not from the functional/technical background) will probably disagree that ‘it’s not really important to have been either a road warrior on implementations or a ‘codehead to place people’ and that may be somewhat true- but I can tell you that the word ‘relationship’ to me as a previous consultant who worked 65-70 hours a week extended beyond the 6 month gig that a recruiter lined up for me.

    More important to the post- should be the question to each recruiter; ‘How many times have you placed the SAME consultant on more than 4 gigs over the past 3 years? This is how I measure my relationships with those who I work with on my projects.

  2. While this is an area of recruiting that I have long been championing with the companies I have worked for, there can also be a down side. While no one can down play the importance of generating and maintaining a relationship with good, strong, candidates, not every candidate is a good or strong candidate. Unfortunately, it is often these less-than-strong candidates that want, and dare I say, demand the most attention. The effort required to generate this relationship with every candidate can be daunting and overwhelming. Sometimes it seems that the less qualified the candidate, the more attention they want. The trick is to find a way to provide every candidate with some degree of relationship, that regardless of their skill level, background, or likelyhood of being hired, they are valued by your company. And at the same time, provide the best candidates with a more involved, indepth relationship. Not always an easy task.

  3. I’ve read a number of very riveting and well written articles on the importance of the candidate relationship. I think most people understand the importance of giving feedback and closure to the people who are interested in working for our companies.

    With that said… 100’s of candidates apply to positions on a daily basis. Hundreds more are solicited by companies to interview for their precious openings. A great deal of time goes into taking care of the candidate that will most likely be hired but the majority of candidates are thrown into a black hole.

    What has not been addressed is how recruitment departments are supposed to handle the daunting task of giving every candidate the experience and care they deserve. The internet, email, and social networking tools have helped increase the volume of qualified candidates for every position. So much so that the number of people involved in the process has become very difficult to manage. Most recruitment functions have thrown their arms up and have taken the attitude that there are just too many people to manage.

    Part of my job is discovering what efforts companies are making to create a better candidate experience. I’ve seen more than a few companies post, leave a voice mail greeting or send an email out that states, ‘Do to the number of people applying to our positions, we can not get back to everyone who applies. If we are interested in you we will get back to you.’ This is the equivalent of telling an investor that that too many people want to buy our stock, if we are interested we will get back to you. Or telling donors that too many people want to give money to our charity, if we are interested we will get back to you. I?d venture to say that these two examples happen less than 1% of the time.

    The majority of candidates involved in the process do not feel this is an acceptable way for companies to treat them. To Kevin’s point, companies have spent a considerable amount of time and money to brand their company as a great place to work. This branding has attracted an even greater volume of candidates to those firms. What is being done or what can be done to solve this problem so companies are able to treat every candidate with the respect they deserve? Staffing.org reported that 94% of candidates are not satisfied with the treatment they are given so as a people oriented business we are not accomplishing this task. Only six percent of recruiting organizations are doing it right. Let?s hear from them!

    The definition of respect I use consists of the following:

    Individuals are entitled to the security and confidentiality of their personal and professional background and data. Any decision to make that data available to others must be at the specific request of the individual.
    All advertised positions must be verifiably open and available to job-seekers, with the intent of the hiring organization to make any and all efforts to fill the open position.
    The description of an open position should accurately and specifically identify the unique attributes of that position as they relate to the Hiring Manager, organization, geography, work group, work to be completed, and performance measurement criteria.
    All interested candidates, from all available sources, should be considered for an open position based upon their ability and aptitude, and that consideration should be free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and intolerance.
    Hiring decisions will be made based upon on a set of specific and defined criteria that is relevant to the position, consistent across all candidates and applied objectively.
    *Follow Up*
    All applicants are entitled to consistent communications regarding the status of their candidacy, regardless of the outcome of their application.
    Each individual should expect that they will be provided with all relevant information about the organization and hiring manager in order to best prepare them for success during the interview process.
    Scheduling of interviews will occur in a manner that connotes respect for the candidate, their time and their efforts.
    Every inquiry regarding the status of candidacy or application is worthy of a response.
    All applicants will be provided with the necessary information about the company, hiring manager, compensation, performance expectations, etc. in order to make an informed career decision.



  4. Kevin had some great suggestions to get on the road to paying respect. I’m looking for other ways companies are using to handle the volume specific to my definition of respect.

    Have a great day!


  5. Your article was great! All too often we get caught up in the position we are filling, and forget that people are applying, and those people deserve to be treated with respect.

  6. Marc,
    I am too pleased to see someone else with an understanding of the word ‘relationship’.
    I have been a managing recruiter for some years now and have pushed the relationship issue intensely to recruiting groups I have managed. The relationship should exist on both sides of our hiring equation, candidate and client as well. If recruiting professionals take the time to understand the candidates intangible desires in a job and also understand the clients ideas on how he/she intends to apply the skills required in the candidate to be found, we recruiters can make a better job fit for both factions, thus creating a better relationship through the actual solution itself. The company and candidate both fair better in these circumstances.

    Foster Williams
    Managing Partner
    Search 4 U

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