#Recruiting Isn’t That Hard — We Make It Hard


by Liz Ryan


I have sympathy and compassion for every living creature but my patience is wearing thin with the plaint “It’s so hard to find good employees”!

It isn’t hard. There are tremendous people everywhere. We make recruiting ten times harder than it needs to be.

I ran a Fortune 500 HR team. How did we hire thousands of people? We had amazing managers and HR people, for one thing. We had tremendous employees in every department who brought their friends to work and got paid for it and got other benefits.

I remember maybe six incidents of really off-the-wall issues with employees over a decade. We were very lucky in that respect, but it was the kind of luck you make yourself when you make a workplace human. Any company can do it.

If there was a disturbance in the Force in any division or team, somebody who could fix it would hear about it fast. There’s no HR program that creates those connections and relationships. They come from trust. You build trust slowly, and you begin that project by taking down the barriers that tell your team members “Don’t trust us, because as you can see, we don’t trust you!”

The barriers are excess policies, insulting rules, hierarchy, fear and control. You probably have some of that in your organization. That’s where you can start — you can talk about those things and begin breaking them down.

If you ever broke down a stage set after the closing night of the show, you know what it’s like to dismantle a construction project piece by piece. That’s what you’ll do. You’ll get rid of half the policies in your policy manual and re-write the rest of them to take the voice of Godzilla out.

You’ll gradually soften and humanize your culture. It will be a lot of fun to do it! Your recruiting will get easier. You’ll get rid of half the Essential Requirements in your job ads. You’ll interview people with an eye toward who they are and where they’ve been, not how many certifications they have.

You’ll treat your job candidates like gold, and make a hiring decision quickly. You’ll stay in touch with the people you don’t hire. You’ll make new fans for your company in the process. Every new hire will be easier than the last because the cultural pixie dust will already be out in your recruiting ecosystem.

You’ll start by dropping a stone into the water and watching the ripples get bigger. You can start today!

We started to teach Recruiting with a Human Voice because everywhere we looked HR people were saying “It’s so hard to fill these job openings!” In most medium-sized and large employers, the recruiting processes are horrible – as bad as they could be.

In Marketing we say “Staple yourself to an order. See if you can replicate the experience your customer has when he or she places an order with your company.”

That’s a good exercise. We can do the same thing in recruiting. We can take the candidate’s point of view and see how our own recruiting practices are driving talented people away — people who could help us solve our thorniest business problems.

Ask your Applicant Tracking System vendor how you can check on the abandonment rate of your candidates. Ecommerce marketers lose sleep over their shopping cart abandonment rates, and we should be just as tuned in to the abandonment rate of visitors to our Careers sites.

If people begin your job-application process and drop out halfway through, they’ve cast their vote. They don’t feel that whatever is waiting for them behind the veil is worth the time and effort they’ll have to put into it. That’s not an irrational reaction. It’s appropriate for people to invest their time and energy wisely — I hope you do! If we don’t sell job candidates effectively enough to fill our open positions quickly, that’s on us.

No one else bears any responsibility for that — no college placement service, no recruiter, and no job-seeker. You know what they say: “When your customer doesn’t buy from you, s/he made the right decision.”

We have to learn to sell our companies to job-seekers, and sell our opportunities. We’re no good at selling, because for years we thought our jobs as HR folks and internal recruiters was to screen people out.

When someone bails on your application process, it’s because they don’t care enough about whatever job you might have open to finish the process. Why? It’s probably because your process is tedious and insulting.

Why not change your recruiting process to make it simple and fun? That’s the obvious solution. You can make your entire recruiting process faster and more polite at the same time. You’ll get better candidates, and the new hire process will cost you less than it does now.

We have fallen into a delusional state where corporate and institutional recruiting is concerned. We tell ourselves that smart and capable people will spend hours sitting at a keyboard completing clerical tasks for our convenience, filling out field after field in an unfriendly and rigid Applicant Tracking System.

Why would we subject our esteemed and beloved friends in the talent community to that? How could we tell ourselves that we have a chance of hiring anyone with spunk and passion when we set up our recruiting funnel to reward typing skills and the ability to tolerate mindless tedium above all other virtues?

We are sick. We have to heal ourselves and make work human. It is an obvious competitive advantage to do that. I don’t understand why every organization doesn’t race to humanize its recruiting process, because the benefits are monumental and immediate.

Your recruiting becomes faster and easier when you make it a lively and organic process. You’ll make new hires more quickly and everyone involved will feel better about the process, including the folks who don’t get the job.

We make recruiting hard with our off-putting, robotic job ads. We compound the damage with our forbidding Applicant Tracking Systems and then deliver another blow by sending a terse, arch auto-responder message like “Your materials have been received.”

Why the passive voice? Is a person talking to me now, or one of the those room-sized, cardboard computers from a 1960s sitcom?

Recruiting is broken. It is easy to hire good people. Everything your business needs — new ideas, passion, ambitious projects and “Ahas!’ from the outsideworld — comes from hiring terrific people. It is the most compelling, easy-to-acquire and sustainable competitive advantage there is, to hire and keep great employees.

What is competitive advantage made of? Competitive advantages comes from one thing: responsiveness to your market. Competitive advantage of any kind relies on your ability to listen to reality and align with it.

It is no different in the recruiting realm. Hidebound, slow recruiting processes that treat job-seekers like interchangeable machine parts won’t get good people in the door. The more marketable a job candidate is, the less he or she will twist into pretzel shapes to please your Godzilla system or anyone else’s.

Unfriendly job ads that list eighteen Essential Requirements without saying a word about why anyone would want the job are worse than pointless — they are cultural markers that tell mojofied people “Stay away from these losers!”

We can change every piece of the broken recruiting process by shifting our view to see that recruiting is a sales and marketing activity. We are selling job-seekers on working with us. How do we sell our customers? We do it by valuing them from the first contact, and asking them questions and listening to their answers.

Recruiting is not rocket science, whether you’re hiring ten people or ten thousand. Recruiting gets easier and easier as the cultural temperature in your shop goes up. When people love working for you, everybody knows it. Your job opening fill themselves. Try putting a human voice in your recruiting, and tell us how it goes!

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