Photo by Niklas Hamann on Unsplash

Why the Recruiting Process is Killing Me

And how human centered design can help.

After more than a decade as an executive at a consulting firm, I recently made the decision to venture out into the world of opportunity for a career change. I knew it would not be easy but I wasn’t worried. I’d been categorized as “top talent” throughout my entire career and since I’d overseen employee experience and talent, I knew what to expect. Or so I thought.

Being on the receiving end of this process was EYE OPENING.

If you’ve applied to one, or fifty+ jobs in the past few years you can relate to what I’m going to say here. The process of applying for jobs is sufferable at best, demeaning at worst, and begging for disruption. Employers are complaining they have a talent crisis, but what they really have is a recruiting crisis. It’s so bad that the few companies out there that actually meet the low bar of decency stand out as exceptional. A nicely worded rejection letter or setting clear expectations around the process feels like a breath of fresh air compared to the norm, which is a complete void of communication.

Why should organizations care about this? Because it’s impacting not only their talent selection (more and more people are deciding to enter the gig economy) but also their brand (for some companies your talent pool is also your advocate, influencer, and consumer). But there is some good news. The current state is so terrible, it’s a massive opportunity for a company to stand out from the pack and gain competitive advantage.

Here are some of the top observations and insights I came away with:

Observation #1: Communication break down.
The experience is filled with long gaps in communication and a continuous lack of clarity on where you are in the process. Linked In is filled with great articles on why this happens but that doesn’t make it a better user experience. It’s not unusual to receive a canned rejection note for a job that you had completely forgotten you’d ever applied to.

Insight: Great experiences provide a continuous connection. The stops and starts are momentum killers and can drain excitement out of applicants. They also beg that internal voice that says, “Is this how slow things move at this company? What does that mean for their chance of survival?”

Idea: What if you could see where you are in the process via the applicant tracking system? Imagine if you logged in and it said “We’re currently reviewing internal applicants and will evaluate external ones next week. If you are a good fit for the position you will be contacted by next Friday. Thank you for your patience.”

Lesson #2: Expect little to no feedback.
If you’re deemed “not a fit” at any stage you won’t know why. And worst case scenario is, you invest a lot of time and energy going through the entire process, don’t receive the job in the end and still have no idea why. This experience will be burned in your memory forever. I am aware that this is due to fear of being sued or being caught in a “debate” with the applicant but we can do better.

Insight: When organizations can master the art of giving honest and compassionate feedback to candidates they will create an experience that has a positive effect, even if they don’t get the position. Imagine advocating for a company not because they hired you but because they didn’t, yet managed to create an experience from which you grew. It’s possible.

Idea: What if an opportunity for two way feedback was offered at the end of the process for any candidate that went through more than one round of interviews? What if a summary of why the selected candidate was chosen was made available via the applicant tracking system to anyone that applied?

Observation #3: Despite the above, they expect you to keep applying.
Even though you are not clear on why you didn’t get a call back for various roles (over qualified, under qualified, went with an internal candidate, canceled the job, etc.) you are expected to continue to apply for other roles at the company.

Insight: Employers are missing out on top talent because they didn’t get a call back on the first job. Talented people have egos and they don’t stick around for more rejection.

Idea: What if people were screened based not just on one specific role but their fit for the organization? What if an internal recruiter reached out and said, I don’t think you’re a fit for this position but your experience is really interesting and I’d love to work with you to find the right opening for your interests. Or what if you could enter job challenges you are interested in and the applicant system gave you recommendations and even some words of encouragement?

There are so many opportunities to not only redesign the current process but to also transform it into something entirely different. We can create a recruiting experience that is more authentic, human, and compassionate if we start with the obvious — let’s treat people how we would like to be treated.

You can start to applying human centered design into your recruiting process immediately by applying for a position at your own company and going through the process end to end. Then apply at two to three of your competitors. Pay attention to your emotional responses at each stage of the experience and the underlying reasons why you feel what you do. These insights will help you see the experience in a whole new way.

If you are part of an organization serious about re-envisioning your talent strategy and recruiting process I would love to partner with you on it! The opportunity to revolutionize this is huge.