In my job as a talent coach, I often peruse local job openings online. I came across one intriguing role recently and clicked through to find out more. The company did a great job of encouraging seekers to apply and said they were looking forward to receiving “my” information.
But as I read a bit further, I came to the fine print. The company listed their directions to apply. After filling out an application and submitting a cover letter, resume and salary requirements, the employer went on to say, “We will only contact you if we have questions; otherwise, you will not hear from us.”
Huh. My first reaction was to think, Hey, thank you for being honest about the fact that you’re not going to contact me or send me a canned e-mail.
But that thought quickly turned to disappointment. Somewhere in this process of attracting job seekers and encouraging them to apply, we talent professionals took a wrong turn.
We have removed the human element from human resources.
When a job posting encourages an applicant to submit their information on paper—with no plans to follow up if the paper doesn’t make the cut—we send a message saying all we care about is whether or not an applicant has the skills we need, and nothing else. What about character, drive, teachability and integrity? Skills tell us an applicant can do the job. But it’s the intangible factors that tell us if a person can succeed at the job. And we won’t glean those from an electronic application alone.
As I reviewed that job posting, I wondered if the company would treat its customers the same way it treats its potential talent—or worse, its actual employees.
When a customer submits a request to do business, would this company present the same disclaimer—We will not be reaching out to you for any reason unless we have questions? I don’t think so. And yet we do this to job applicants all the time. We neglect to realize they are our customers, too.
Candidates are human beings with unique stories to tell. One of the grievances I hear constantly from job seekers is, “I just wish I could have a conversation and tell my story.” Unfortunately, as an industry, talent management has reached a point of judging a person’s story based on an outline of work history or worse yet, a bunch of words on an application run through a machine, without ever hearing the human side. Therefore, we miss the complete person—i.e., the actual employee.
Now I know many organizations receive hundreds of applications and you’re arguing, “Chad, we don’t have time to connect with every one of those individuals.” First of all, kudos that you’re attracting hundreds of applicants to your opportunities. I hope you are finding the top talent among them. If so, you must be doing something great.
My second response, however, addresses the “we don’t have time” aspect. If those applicants were potential customers, what would you do? Chances are you’d figure out a solution to give all customers the attention they deserve.
It’s time to treat our employees—and applicants—like customers. Many companies claim talent is actually their most important asset—but then they treat potential talent like second-class citizens. No communication, no personalization, no acknowledgement. Then these employers wonder why the top talent goes other places.
In today’s competitive environment, in order attract top talent, employers must invest in not just employee morale but also job seeker perception. When an applicant is treated poorly—including some truly stellar candidates that your electronic filters are missing—he or she will not think highly of your organization. And a community of job seekers can influence public perception of your organization more than you may realize.
You can argue you don’t have time to treat applicants like customers. But the way I see it, you can’t afford not to.