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Not Ready for Recruiting

Most employers are not ready to take advantage of an anticipated surge in recruiting. Their career websites are not enticing or easy to use. And their employee value propositions are murky.

Friday, June 1, 2012
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As the economy trends up, so too will companies' hiring and recruiting practices, but will they be poised and properly equipped to meet the demand?

Two recent studies suggest they won't.

One, the 2012 Allied Workforce Mobility Survey from Allied Van Lines, finds two-thirds of 500 HR professionals polled saying they have "extensive" or "moderate" plans for hiring this year. Larger companies -- with more than 10,000 employees -- are even more bullish, with 80 percent planning for "extensive" or "moderate" recruiting.

Yet, 52 percent of those respondents consider their recruiting programs to be only "somewhat successful."

What's more, according to the survey, even "highly successful" recruiting programs lose one in four choice candidates, while companies in the bottom quartile lose about one in two.

One of the biggest culprits, the study shows, is the lack of sufficient recruiting incentives -- including benefits packages -- with only 27 percent rating their healthcare plans a "5" on a scale of 1 to 5 and rating all other incentives even lower.

A second study, The Financial Times Bowen Craggs Index of web effectiveness, shows more than half of the top 20 companies for web efficiency and high-quality digital strategies (out of 81 of the largest companies within the FT Global 500) lie within the energy, pharmaceutical, tobacco and mining industries.

A preponderance of large corporations outside those industries, the study finds, have failing digital strategies -- including approaches to communication that would enhance recruitment.

"Digital channels such as corporate websites and social-media channels have become the most important medium through which the world's biggest companies talk to the public ... ," says David Bowden, senior consultant at London-based Bowen Craggs, sponsor of the survey. "The index clearly shows some massive companies taking risks with their reputations by failing to understand this. There should be real worry about this right up to the board level."

Gal Almog, CEO of New York-based RealMatch, a recruitment-advertising-technology company, couldn't agree more.

Many corporations -- clients and otherwise -- "make their sites look very attractive," he says, "but when you click on their link, there are forms and forms and forms, and [these companies] seem to think if the candidate is really interested, they'll fill out all those forms, but that is ludicrous."

"The problem we're seeing is the imbalance between demand and supply," Almog says. "People are just not finding people to hire. [Companies] really need to sell [potential candidates] on the value of the position and the reason they should seriously consider working for that company."

Although Almog questions just how far-reaching an anticipated recruiting surge will be, he stresses that companies need to be doing a better job connecting job candidates with their perfectly matched jobs.

Far too many companies, he says, are not taking advantage of the technology -- "and it's out there!" -- that can take resumes and parse them out and fill in relevant segments on application or job-skills forms "and then only ask about what is missing."

Software is available, he says, "that can tell you immediately if you qualify, and if you don't, then tell you immediately what [open jobs in that same company] you can qualify for." That would be a much more positive experience for a job hunter, he adds.

"Think about it, what if you had a negative experience at a bank? Would you want to bank with that bank?" he asks. "No. So it's a reputation experience for the company," and far too many are coming out on the losing side.

Most large companies, Almog says, have their own applicant-tracking systems "and want control over that candidate once they attract the candidate in. They prefer it that way, but they don't know how easy it would be to incorporate the right technology into their applicant-tracking system to boost the engagement of the candidate and ease-of-use.

"It's not rocket science," he adds. The actual matching technologies might be a little more complicated, "but if you talk about engagement and brand and company reputation, and losing potentially the best candidates you could possibly have -- i.e., those people who have sought out your company website to explore their fit and qualifications -- that is not so difficult."

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What can get a bit murky, says Elise Freedman, Washington-based director in the talent-management practice of Towers Watson, is coming to a clear companywide understanding, from the top down, "on what the employee-value-proposition package is."

For instance, she says, if companies are looking for more diverse populations, "they really need to have the right messages out there," messages that will attract, not repel, the demographic they're trying to target.

"And if it takes 50 clicks to fill out a resume and a lot of pages to go through to really get a sense of the company and the value proposition of the job," Freedman says, "then [that candidate] is going to leave."

What's needed, and what is still lacking, she says, is for HR and recruiting professionals "to work with the executives and the employees to come to an understanding of what makes it special to work there; you need to make sure you know how to talk about that ... ."

Much of that information can come through engagement surveys, Freedman adds.

For example, many companies are finding, through such surveys, that the way they're putting older and younger workers together -- creating fertile training grounds for younger workers' future careers -- are far more important to their employees than they initially thought.

"Companies need to be more proactive," she says, "to put all over their career sites how they're working to put those demographics together and get the best packages for them and from them."

If they learn that training and development programs help their top talent feel more like staying, says Freedman, "they need to trumpet that on their website. If you're a company that has a structure for providing learning and advancement to younger people, make sure you make a lot out of that.

"People want to know how many years it would take to get somewhere and what they would need to get there," she says, "so now, with cutbacks, it might be time to re-examine the lateral career path and make that a positive message."

Whatever you do, she adds, make sure what you're saying represents what will actually happen when new hires join your organization. There is no reputational death knell that rings louder for an organization than "the misrepresentation of reality."

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