tl;dr: A presentation from a world-renowned TA thought leader suggests a potentially massive opportunity to engage candidates more effectively through a few simple changes in the structuring of your content.

This week I was at UNLEASH 18 in Las Vegas and had the opportunity to attend a few sessions. Every presentation was great, but the one that resonated most with me was presented by Bill Boorman of TRU fame. In his session “Algorithmic Anarchy” Bill proposes that AI isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and that there’s limited value in using technology to scale talent acquisition processes that might be fundamentally biased or altogether broken.

I agree with some (though not all) of his argument, but there were a number of great insights along the way. In particular, his two candidate personas got me thinking about what we could be doing differently …

Candidate Personas: Search Candidate vs. Social Candidates

Boorman defines two distinct candidate personas; the search candidate and the social candidate.

 Search Candidates find employers on a job board or (increasingly, now) Google. These job seekers only care about certain things in the job details:

  • Salary (per Bill, if you’re not posting at least a salary range to Google For Jobs, you’re missing the mark)
  • Location
  • Disqualifiers (i.e., reasons why a candidate shouldn’t bother applying)
    • Candidates are actually looking at salary as another type of disqualifier. It’s a mental proxy for suitability (e.g., if I make $40k right now, I’m not qualified for a position that pays $200k, regardless of the description, etc.)

Social Candidates generally seek out the organizations they want to work for (based on social media/network connections), then wait for an appropriate role to come up. These job seekers:

  • Spend, on average, seven months between identifying a potential employer and applying.
  • Are 6x more likely to get hired than Search Candidates
    • Bill asserts the reason for this is because they had done their homework on the hiring organization, and thus performed better in the interviews. IMO, there’s more to it; recruiters and hiring managers aren’t simply razzle-dazzled by a candidate’s knowledge of the organization. What I think what is really going here is that this persona represents a more analytical, methodical mindset. A person whose brain operates this way is naturally more likely to be impressive across the board.

Persona Implications for Talent Acquisition

These different candidate personas have some important implications for Talent Acquisition.

Make it easier for Social Candidates to do their homework. They’re inherently desirable and this is their process; pave that road. I’d suggest a dedicated series of landing pages to introduce the company’s core values, some “day-in-the-life” testimonials, etc. You probably have this content already, but it should be organized with the knowledge that only people of a specific mindset care about it, and it should cater to their distinct needs and Include Talent Network registration opportunities along the way, of course.

Make it easier for Social Candidates to find that homework. In addition to Facebook and LinkedIn job postings, one potential idea is to encourage current employees to include a prominent hook in their social media profiles (e.g. I work at YourCo and I love it. Maybe you should, too! Ask me anything, or see what they’re all about [here] {link to homework}). This could also take the form of a post/tweet to followers, or whatever. A/B test a few different methods.

I suggest incenting employees to do this via a random draw from everyone that participates, with the condition that they should only participate if they actually do love working at YourCo. Anyone who doesn’t feel that way, but lets you know why (via email or social for greater transparency) should also be entered in the draw.

Remarket to Search Candidates who immediately dismiss certain jobs … but how you go about it really matters.

  • Withholding salary data from job postings with the intent of eliciting candidate data in exchange likely won’t work. That’s opinion – not fact – and could be tested, of course, but given a list of Google For Jobs search results, my own tendency would just be to skip over the ones that keep salary a mystery.
  • Technically speaking, the Google For Jobs posting spec expects a currency value (or two of them, if you’re giving a range) for the salary attribute. It accepts a number; nothing else. That means you can’t toss a “click here to view salary” link in there to withhold key details until you get contact info from the candidate. IMO, gated content is a weak and outdated practice anyway. Even at 4% unemployment in the USA, I don’t really want to hire anyone who I have to trick into giving me a way to contact them.

Structure your job federation more strategically.

Remember that a person who’s searching for jobs only cares about a few data points upfront. Present those, but suppress the actual job description. My suggestion is to instead feed the board/Google For Jobs with the same basic info you do today, but use the job description field differently. In most cases, the job description is a free-form HTML field and should be populated with something like the following:

“ Interested? Learn more by clicking the Apply button below.”

 “Not a fit? We’re a great company to work for, so check out our [other postings] {link to perform a search that filters by employer=YourCo wherever this posting appears}”

“None of our current openings line up? Bad timing, but we’re always on the lookout for exceptional people. [What’s your ideal job?] {link to Talent Network registration}.  We’ll let you know when a potential fit opens up.”

There are several benefits to being strategic about your structuring your job federation:

  • Provides upfront “bounce” alternatives if the candidate decides that s/he isn’t right for that particular job. Your competitors aren’t doing that (yet).
  • Communicates that you’re an efficient, straight-up organization.
  • Doesn’t duplicate data; clicking “Apply Now” from most postings out there today doesn’t take the candidate into the apply flow; it takes him/her into the same job description again, but presented now by the RMP/ATS with the *real* Apply Now button inline. That’s just sloppy.
  • Provides richer insight into candidate behavior. If a candidate looks at your job description on a board and rejects it, you’ll never know. If, instead, a candidate only rejects the job after having validated salary + location + disqualifiers and clicking through to view the description on your site, you learn some things:
    • The salary range and disqualifiers posted were appropriate to pique interest. Huzzah! We can safely eliminate them as drop-off culprits (or adjust them if nobody’s clicking through).
    • Either the job description wasn’t compelling enough for that candidate to apply, the job description contained additional disqualifiers (that we should move upfront), or some other aspect of the experience turned the candidate off.

Eliminate noise from your analytics.

The findings you get from the structure proposed above are actionable and bounce rates in this context actually *mean something*. Using this structure allows candidates to self-disqualify, but only for reasons that you have no control over. You shouldn’t care that a candidate bounced because he’s in Houston and the job is in Toledo. That’s just natural, so his bounce shouldn’t really count. By providing only the “hard” disqualification criteria upfront, you eliminate that noise from your analytics and can focus your efforts on optimizing for those who got through the first gate but for some reason didn’t reach the second.

Conclusion

For a long time, I’ve held the opinion that high-volume and hard-to-find candidates should be treated as fundamentally different personas, but Bill Boorman introduced me to another hugely important segmentation.

He’s an influential guy for a reason; this entire post was inspired by a 2-minute fragment of his session, which contained a wealth of other ideas in addition to candidate personas.

I’d never met Bill before today (and our exchange was limited to a handshake afterward), but I’m of the belief that everyone in the HR/TA space should follow Bill and at least consider his perspective. He earnestly wants HR to work better and his method isn’t dictatorial – instead, he presents challenging ideas and leaves the discussion and implementation to us.

Although I didn’t agree with 100% of his conclusions about AI, he opened up new ideas. This session alone was worth the price of admission to UNLEASH 2018. Thanks, Bill!