Technology and Your Brand

Recruiting and talent management is more technology-enabled than ever. Technology tools support everything from candidate attraction and assessment to workforce planning and performance management. This means that vendors will interface with a large portion of your candidate and employee populations and will directly impact your brand. Before you make another technology purchase, you’ll want to consider some of the potential impacts they can have on your brand. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Your brand is defined as the target audience’s collective thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of you as a company and a workplace. These perceptions are defined by consumers’ and candidates’ interactions with your brand, including but not limited to your advertising, your on- and offline interactions with the target audience, and past purchases or hiring processes. With each major technology addition, you add another touch point to your brand. Correspondingly, there can be good, bad, and ugly effects on your brand. Despite the fact that the vendor you use may be ultimately responsible for the bad or ugly parts, it remains a direct reflection on you, not the vendor. The net impact can be customers who are more or less willing to purchase your products, candidates who are more or less willing to apply to your openings, and employees who are more or less willing to stay in their jobs. A look at some of the major technology investments demonstrates the effect it can have on your brand. Employment Website Content and Design Good employment website content and design can form the foundation of an employer brand advantage. Consider your employment website as your opportunity to:

  • Create differentiation between your employment offering and the competition’s
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  • Help candidates understand your work environment
  • Capture the elusive passive candidates that normally would not apply or create a profile

Bad employment website content and design does not provide relevant paths to information, and often leaves candidates without any sense of what’s in it for them. Reading the content on one of these sites is much like sitting next to a self-absorbed person at the cocktail party: “I do this; here’s my history; here’s what my vision is for myself for the future.” Excruciating, isn’t it? Two candidates from the same usability study we conducted summed up how important employment website content and design are to candidates and how it affects your employer brand: “If the company doesn’t take the time to attract employees with a good website, it shows that they don’t care about their employees,” said one. Another pointed to the importance of “relevant, easy-to-find content that’s more about me than the employer” in getting his attention. Employment Website and ATS Functionality Another interesting finding through usability testing has been that job seekers’ behavior is not linear, i.e. they do not necessarily get sold on wanting to work for your company through the content and then search for jobs and drop off their resumes. Many job seekers jump straight into your job openings, and often apply while only passively interested in an opportunity. Once you express interest in them (for instance, by deciding to schedule an interview), they’ll come back to get a better understanding of who you are as an employer by viewing your content. How easy you make it to get to ATS functionality like the job search, online application, job search agent, or job-specific pre-screening questions therefore makes a big difference in the user experience. One large technology company had the foresight to test their website with users before launching it, and found that, despite its relative prominence, users routinely missed the job search link. Imagine if they had launched a site with a job search link that was missing in action! What you often don’t have as much control over is how your applicant tracking system’s candidate interface works. A large retailer recently tested their site with their user population after receiving some negative feedback and found that candidates were incredibly dissatisfied with their experience. Users had the most difficulties with functions within the applicant tracking system, such as unclear instructions on the online application, confusing drop-down menus, and an inability to complete an online application in less than 30 minutes due to the number of steps in the process. All of the candidates in the test thought this reflected poorly on the company ó they made no mention of the vendor. Some modifications were possible within and outside of the ATS to make the user experience better, but I’m sure the company wishes that this type of testing had been done before they decided which vendor to use. Online Assessment and Behavioral Interviewing Tools Online assessment tools provide second-level, validated screening for key positions within your organization. When implemented well, these tools can increase the odds of making a successful hire who performs well on the job. When implemented poorly, these tools can create a barrier to applying that is so great that candidates would rather eat lint than apply for your openings. In my opinion, detailed online assessment tests should not be used for every candidate. First of all, it’s costly to put everyone through the test because you usually pay a fee per applicant. What’s the use of paying to put someone through an assessment if they don’t meet the minimum qualifications of the job? From a candidate’s perspective, this approach represents a huge waste of time. Let’s say you receive 400 applications for one position (as we know, this is not uncommon). One candidate may get the job, meaning 399 candidates will have wasted a half hour or more. Do that enough times and applicants will be afraid to apply to another opening you might have in the future for which they’re a perfect fit, and your brand will be significantly weakened. Behavioral interviewing tools hold promise, but not until these new vendors figure out that recruiters should use the tool selectively, with only the best applicants. Applicants’ “acceptable pain threshold” is fairly high right now, but it won’t be once the economy turns around ó and they’ll remember if you kicked them while they were down. If more employers embrace this type of tool, compound the candidate pain factor by 10, and we’re probably past even today’s acceptable pain threshold. Technology Through the Brand Lens Technology has been called the great enabler. Ideally, it will enable you to do your job more effectively than you ever have before by automating the repetitive and allowing you to focus on strategic tasks that truly add value. As you evaluate any technology purchase, be sure that the experience your vendors deliver is consistent with the brand perceptions you wish to create. Appointing or employing a “candidate advocate” to understand what candidates need from your technology in parallel to what your recruiters need is a great first step. Screen your vendors carefully to ensure that downtime will not be an issue, for your recruiters or your candidates. Empirical research such as usability testing is another step that is more often than not worth taking ó it’s really the best way to understand how candidates will ultimately interact with your chosen technology platforms. Yet even with the best, most candidate-friendly technology in the world, an ineffective recruiting process behind that technology can destroy any goodwill you’ve created. So stay tuned for next month’s article: “Your Recruiting Process and Your Brand.”

Dave Lefkow is currently the CEO of talentspark (www.talentsparkconsulting.com), a consulting firm that helps companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage for talent, and a regular contributor to ERE on human capital, technology, and branding related subjects. He is also an international speaker on human capital trends and best practices, having spoken in countries as close as Canada and as far away as Malaysia and Australia. His consulting work has spanned a wide variety of industries and recruiting challenges with companies like Starbucks, Boeing, HP, Microsoft, Expedia, Washington Mutual, Nike and Swedish Medical Center.

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