Unplugged Conversations in a Plugged-In World

February 15

The life of an HR professional has drastically changed through the years. Some of us remember the days of 5" x 7" index cards, which finally moved to databases in the late 80's. We personally interviewed every applicant prior to hiring manager referral, did hospital tours and still managed to hire hundreds of hard-to-fills.

Today the life of a recruiter is surrounded with great technology. Almost every HR department has an applicant tracking system and they have been deluged with multiple sourcing options that include the aggregators (Indeed and Simply Hired), LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, "friends" and groups. The opportunities are endless and the digital support astounding but it often means that, for many recruiters, this is the only way they interact with an applicant. Many times I have heard recruiters say, "I never really speak with the applicant."

Thinking of this newer scenario through the applicant's eyes, what does that mean? They are told to go online to apply, often to very generic job postings. Although some websites do have phone numbers listed and appear to welcome calls, others do not. The applicant is unable to find a contact name, phone number, or any type of next steps. Once they hit "submit" they have to sit back and wait-and wait-and wait. If there are phone numbers available and calls are made, they may get through to a recruiter and get questions answered but often they get no return calls or can't even get through to the appropriate person in order to leave a message.

In thinking about communicating with our applicants, we need to have the sourcing infrastructure set up to bring those candidates to the website. Navigation needs to be clear and applying for the job succinct. Once this occurs, many organizations fall off the radar screen from an applicant's point of view. Remember the Golden Rule that our parents taught us? Treat others as you want to be treated.

What this means to you, as an HR professional, is to make sure that your organization has policies set up so that expectations, timelines and accountabilities are clear to all stakeholders. Decide what you want those to be, document the information and then educate the employees involved. And the final step, hold the employees accountable for those actions.

Making sure that the interviewing and hiring process is timely is crucial and the recruiter should be in control of that process. This means flexibility, honesty, knowing about the job you are recruiting for and returning all phone calls in a timely manner. Those that have the best success place the right applicant in the right position, they don't just fill jobs.

There was a study done by Dr. Bea Kalisch a few years ago but the results of that study still ring true today. The study took place in 122 hospitals in 10 geographic cities and 30 market areas. RNs went to organizations to apply for jobs although the concepts and outcomes are generic and relate to all job titles. The term recruiter was used as anyone that had a touch point with the applicant.

The results indicated that behaviors were very important to an applicant choosing a job and they called these behaviors valence factors. Those factors were:

  • Friendly
  • Personable
  • Approachable
  • Smiled
  • Direct eye contact
  • Attentive
  • Listened
  • Customized approach
  • Flexible
  • Helpful
  • Facilitative
  • Informed
  • Prepared
  • Honest

The organizations that were most successful in hiring the applicants were those that had at least 8 positive valence factors. These factors proved to be more important than the features of the job or the conditions of the work. Only if organizations had an equal number of valence factors did other issues come into the decision.

This study underscores the importance of traditional communication. Although all of our bells and whistles are great and still need to be at the forefront of the hiring process, the applicant's final decision will be based on other factors. People Recruit People!

Source: Dr. Bea Kalisch, JONA, 2002

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