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Solving Recruiting’s “99%” Problem: How to Turn Engaged Candidates into Advocates

What’s the purpose of your job?

Hang on — that wasn’t meant to be accusatory. Companies often lose sight of what recruiting is really about, so I wanted to offer a reminder. The purpose of your job is to hire people. Your job isn’t to grind through interviews, process candidates or collect applications — it’s to help your company find the talent it needs to grow and succeed.

Depending on the position and industry, the average job posting can garner anywhere from 50-200 applications. Seen another way, having to disappoint 49-199 people for every one person hired has, for some, become the cost of doing business.

But hiring is becoming more challenging. The power has swung from the employer to the job seeker as the labor market tightens and salary data becomes more transparent. Perhaps it’s time to admit that the process of collecting so many resumes per role has become a drag on hiring — and a risk you can’t afford.

Fortunately, these three solutions can help you gather more of the right candidates, instead of simply gathering more. This will make your job easier while building a positive employer brand.

Recruiting’s “99% Problem”

Imagine your company is hiring a nurse. You collect 100 applications and hire one person. This means 99 people didn’t get the job. For some, it may be tempting to write these 99% of applicants off as underqualified.

But recruiters bear some responsibility for all those rejected applications. Ask yourself: Are your job postings well written and descriptive, or are they stuffy and full of legalese? Are you sending them only to targeted candidates, or are you distributing them as widely as possible? Are you casting a wide net because you really aren’t 100% sure what your hiring manager is looking for?

And don’t forget about the candidates who gave up their time and energy to participate in phone screens and interviews. What are you providing in return? Do you educate them on how other companies do things or give useful feedback? Or does your recruiting software simply auto-generate a form letter to tell them they didn’t get the job?

Remember: These are real people, and you paid real money to attract and endear them to your employer brand. They’re also resources you can leverage to attract other qualified candidates.

Job seekers talk about their recruiting and interview experiences in online reviews, forums and social media. If you treat the 99 candidates who didn’t get the job as well as the one candidate who did, they’ll share their experience and you’ll build a positive employer brand. But this works both ways: leave a negative impression, and you’ll have to do a lot more work (and possibly pay a premium) to convince quality talent to consider your open role.

This is the 99% problem: when recruiters hurt their employer brand among 99% of applicants for the sake of one hire. Luckily, there are three ways to turn the tide.

Solution one: Keep track of candidates you didn’t hire

Recruiters spin plates all day long. Odds are, you won’t remember an interesting candidate from three weeks ago any better than one from three years ago.

This is why you need to invest in tools to help track interesting candidates: those who are sold on the brand and simply waiting for the right role to open up. It doesn’t have to be insanely expensive or complicated. Just keep a note of the person’s contact details, optimal role and skills/experience. This will help you remember them for new roles and personalize future interactions.

And let them know you’re still interested. Figure out what feedback you can give and reasonable solutions you can offer to turn a rejected candidate into a fan (though always adhering to privacy regulations, of course).

Solution two: Create fewer applications per requisition

Instead of trying to collect the maximum number of resumes, embrace the power of better writing and honesty to attract more of the right candidates — and fewer of those who aren’t a fit.

Start by looking at a job posting. Is it clear, or is it full of HR jargon? Does it actually explain the job? Does it talk about the future of the person who fills the role? Does it show how this role helps drive the success of the company? If not, make the necessary changes.

Next, add a section to every posting that lists the tougher aspects of the role. No job is 100% sugar plums and roses, so be honest about the downsides. That alone will help cut down on unqualified applicants without scaring off anyone who understands the reality of the position.

Solution three: Pipeline per company, not per role

No job opening is an island; they exist within larger ecosystems. However, recruiters are trained to see each one as independent.

People don’t just apply for a job — they also apply to a company, a brand or an idea. Adopting a more holistic mind-set lets you tell more compelling stories about why people work at your company. This will lead to a higher ratio of applicants who are passionate about the brand versus those simply hitting the “apply” button, which allows you to have better conversations with prospects.

Think of it this way: Would you rather have a perfectly qualified candidate who has no real attachment to your brand or mission or a slightly less qualified one who would love to find a way to help out? Who’s going to last longer in the role? Who’s going to put in the extra effort when it matters? Who’s going to find new ways to help your company grow?

It’s time to reject the idea that making 99 people unhappy is the price we have to pay just to hire one person. By shifting your tactics and mind-set to hiring for quality over quantity, you can build a positive employer brand while making more effective hires. The job market has changed. It’s time for recruiting to change, too.

James Ellis is host of the popular podcast the Talent Cast and Employer Brand Consultant.You can also find him on Twitter: @TheWarForTalent

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Indeed.

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About Mildred Blankson

I am a Human Resource Professional with a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management. I have several years of experience in Human Resources and i hope this blog will be a great resource in helping you find the perfect job or candidate that you seek.

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