What's wrong with recruitment?
Updated: Feb 22
Over the last few months, I've had the opportunity to speak with a variety of companies in different industries (think AI, Web3, EdTech, etc.). I've researched many recruitment platforms, tested a few out, and spoken to Operations professionals in different communities, and one thing is clear. Recruitment, in general, is broken. That's not to say that some companies are not going above and beyond to recreate their processes by focusing on a truly fantastic candidate experience. Some are, but the majority are not.
The world of work has changed, and these changes have largely come about because of the global pandemic we all, to some extent or another, faced. The pandemic accelerated technological innovation (some estimates claim up to 3-4 decades), and it also accelerated changes in another very important pillar of our lives, work. How we work, where and when we work, who we work with, and what kind of work we do, have all changed. All of these areas have been impacted.
The changes that have come about in the world of work have forced a lot of companies back to the drawing board. Why? Because nowadays, a lot of professionals are more likely to pick roles that allow them to prioritise their well-being, their family, their mental health, and their creativity. We've witnessed The Great Resignation and more recently the Quiet Quitting phenomenon, and whatever your opinion is on these events, the truth is, talented individuals are fed up. Power has shifted, as people have more options than ever. Not only can you opt for hybrid or fully remote work setups, a number of tech platforms and start-ups have made it easier to match exceptional talent with great opportunities. Opportunities are no longer based on location, and this has huge ramifications.
Some people would rather cut out their commute, even if it means earning a little bit less, others are happy to work remotely in order to be there for all the important moments in life, even if it means being in a more junior role. A lot of people are choosing to start their own business because they've either been part of toxic work environments before, haven't been supported in their career aspirations, have been limited by their line managers, and/or do not have a safe, inclusive work environment. The list goes on and on. Not to mention that it's now easier than ever to start your own entrepreneurial venture because you can be part of global communities, and meet co-Founders by networking more efficiently (it's easier to join three different online networking events in a day than it would be to physically show up at three different venues), and let's face it, creative ideas come to you faster when you have the option to dictate what works best for you (i.e. when to work, how to work, where to work from).
Companies have noticed a lot of these changes and made some adjustments. Clearer job descriptions, fancy perks, equity, and flexible working are a few of the improvements we've witnessed. The truth is that while these changes are a welcome sight, they only scratch at the surface and are nowhere near as important as the changes required across the whole People function. The first stage of that function is recruitment, and while there's much more emphasis on culture and employee experience since 2020, firms do not realise that how people perceive a company from the outside has a huge impact on brand identity. Anyone who's worked in start-ups should (I hope!), tell you that a firm's brand is the most important element of the business, especially when starting out. A company might take a hit on its revenue, struggle to be profitable, and may even have to pivot, but the one thing no start-up can afford is damage to its brand. The truth is, poor candidate experiences most certainly lead to brand damage.
Why then are candidate experiences still so poor? Why do the majority of applicants never hear back? Why is feedback rarely offered? Why are emails automated (and how can we justify typos)? Why are the generic replies so bland, demotivating, and a surefire way of ensuring that talented candidates never apply to those firms again? Why are time frames not clear and rarely respected? Why is communication not consistent? How on earth do we still allow ghosting to permeate the world of work?
What a lot of firms need to realise is that the way in which they recruit lays the foundation for their broader culture. This means that every candidate's interactions with a company matter, it means that interview processes have to be well thought out, it means that fair and transparent metrics are required, it means that applicants have to be seen as more than just a plug to a company's needs, it means that a human-centric approach is required. More respect, more gratitude, and more empathy.
The most important attractor in a new role is better organisational culture (ADP, People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce Review). According to a Mckinsey Study (cited in; Sanctus, The Great Workplace Shakeup, Volume 2), 54% of team members do not believe that they are valued by the company they work for, 52% do not feel valued by their line managers, 51% do not feel like they belong. Is any of this a surprise? You can most certainly tell from how a lot of firms recruit!
The bad news is that most candidate experiences are terrible. The good news is that firms will have to do way better if they want to attract and retain the very best talent.