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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.