The good, the bad, and the ugly of recruiting — and five components of success.

I have been involved with recruiting for more than 30 years and have never before seen a disruption in recruiting (and HR and leadership practices) as serious as the one in the past tumultuous year. I led recruiting and human resources departments at numerous Fortune 200 business divisions, from coast-to-coast in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Many organizations, I have learned, struggle with the same mistakes that are amplified by the pandemic and now their digital technology.

In 2020 due to the pandemic, many employers shifted their emphasis from improving the candidate experience to finding better-qualified job candidates. That was a mistake. While you always want to find the best job candidate, you need to enhance their experience by getting rid of time-consuming procedures, improved applicant tracking systems, “one-click” applications, and helpful recruiting chatbots that keep candidates informed during each step of the process.

Worse yet, job candidates are ghosting companies at an alarming rate. An alarming 61 percent of recruiters from companies with 500 or more employees reported being ghosted by a job candidate, according to Jobvite. (This means the candidate accepted the offer but did not show up to work.) The ghosting number was only 51 percent for companies with fewer than 500 employees, but still a high number. And just as bad, online recruiting is under attack by job aggregators.

Every successful recruiting effort needs these five essential components to be successful at recruiting in 2021.

A Strong Employer Brand. If you want to cut down on ghosting and hire better quality employees, begin with better employer branding. An authentic, well-known, and alluring employer brand integrated with comprehensive talent strategy that fits the company’s values and business purpose is required to recruit in a competitive talent economy. Due to the pandemic, your brand must address the changes you have made to keep employees safe, aligned to your mission and culture, productive, and fulfilled in their work, including opportunities for remote work.

The people you most want to hire already have jobs. (Unless you are recruiting in industries hard hit by the pandemic such as hospitality and travel.) You must attract them to your company’s higher purpose for humanity, build relationships with them, and offer them something better than they currently have. You now must do this virtually using the best digital tools.

There is now overwhelming research showing that companies with diverse workforces have higher financial performance, especially if your company has sophisticated clients and is high tech, fast-changing, and global. Your brand ought to reach out to the best without regard to demographics. The most powerful tool you have to differentiate yourself is your employer brand.

Recruiting Process Reinvented with Digital Technology. I am always mystified how many companies treat recruiting as a one-off process with outdated technology and left to the whims of hiring managers who often are not trained for their roles and unaware of their unconscious bias that causes them to make the same hiring mistakes over and over again. To be sure, hiring is one of the most critical actions for any company. In fast-growing and large companies, recruiting is a repeatable, high-volume process that directly impacts brand reputation, customer relationships, and bottom line. Like manufacturing and customer service, your recruiting process must be a smooth, efficient, and measured process.

After companies lean out their recruiting processes, digital technologies can reinvent them driving unprecedented performance and providing a stellar return on investment. New applicant tracking systems, AI-powered search technologies, and chatbots can find quality job candidates, without bias and capture critical measures (without spreadsheets) to improve recruiting and the candidate experience. With digital technology, recruiting cycle times can fall by half and candidate experiences can improve by half. Consider a world where candidates learn the status of their application in the recruiting cycle from the moment when they apply to when the hiring decision is made. As you search for recruiting technology, follow my guidelines to buy an “80/20” technology that fits your strategy and provides an excellent return.

A Superior Candidate Search Strategy. Today’s job candidates (especially those who are employed) are in charge of their job searches, and they have the digital tools to conduct a thorough search. Most of them will seek out leads from job boards and review your employer brand on your career website. More than two-thirds of today’s job candidates will look at ratings of company management, culture, and recruiting practices on sites such as Glassdoor. Only a third of job candidates like to be contacted by a recruiter. Many job candidates, especially those for entry-level jobs and at colleges, are being inundated with recruiting texts.  How will you differentiate yourself to experienced and passive job candidates or those graduating from tech schools and colleges to get their attention and keen interest?

Your job postings need to highlight your brand, be brief, and to the point. The role of your job posting is to allow the job candidate to determine if they want to work for your brand and if they are qualified for your job. Do not stultify them with long job descriptions that drive away great candidates. Be aware of the words you choose for your job description, as insensitive words can drive away as much as 50 percent  of the available workforce–largely women and people of color–who carefully look at job descriptions to determine if your culture will welcome them.

As you post jobs, make sure that job aggregators are not hijacking your job postings and spreading them across the internet to make their job boards look more impressive. Often the consequences of this digital activity are to have your posting on a spurious job board with a dead link to your career site.

An Effective Process for Screening Candidates. Once great candidates have been found, it is time to screen their résumés either by recruiters or by an artificial intelligence platform. It is also time for the first videoconference or phone screen. The thoroughness of an initial screen will vary by industry and the job level. The questions you ask will vary by interviewing a college graduate, business major or engineering major, an experienced candidate, a manager, or an executive.

What recruiters and hiring managers also need to learn to do in the screening process is to avoid unconscious bias (or first impression bias) and discriminatory decisions. Neuroscience has taught us that it is not only the bigot or sexist (who come in all races and both genders) who discriminates; it can be all of us based on experiences in childhood or college that made a lasting impression deep in our amygdalae — the almond-shaped mass in our cerebral hemisphere that stores the emotions of our experiences and generates a fight-or-flight response.

During interviewing, past experiences or lessons taught can unconsciously shape biases about the job candidate whose résumé we may read or who may be speaking in front of us. These biases need to be identified, faced, and controlled. No one should interview job candidates unless they have been trained in structured interviewing and the specific questions to be asked for the job family being recruited for and the interviewer’s role (such as a background screener or a technical screener). Companies can use AI-powered technology that finds qualified job candidates on the internet and present them to the recruiter and hiring manager without bias.

Companies should use validated assessments to improve their hiring decisions to assess technical skills and other job aptitudes. Strong assessments can dramatically improve the quality of your hiring decisions.

Better Recruiting Metrics. Every business process needs metrics and measures to track its progress and to warn the process owners about obstacles and concerns. Recruiting is no different and recruiting measures prove how recruiting affects the company’s top and bottom line. The top-level metrics need to be on a dashboard: recruiting cycle time, brand attraction to candidate hire ratio, costs per hire, new hire turnover rate, and a new and powerful metric: job candidate net promoter score. This last score measures the overall satisfaction job seekers have with the hiring and onboarding process.

Each top-level measure should have sub-measures that will alert leaders when a problem is occurring and needs immediate attention to assure success. The measures should also provide the data to calculate a return-on-investment for recruiting and onboarding.

2021 will be just as challenging as 2020 and is sadly off to a rough start. Your company needs to hire and retain the best talent to succeed. Make sure your recruiting efforts are up to the challenge.

Click here to learn about our recruiting audits.

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting, managing partner of InnovationOne, and Sales Advisor to MeBeBot. He works with companies to transform HR and recruiting, implement remote work, and develop extraordinary innovation cultures, leaders, and teams.

He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. Subscribe to his weekly blogs at 

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