What Your Candidates Say About Your Hiring Process (and How to Fix It)
By Jennifer Ravalli
In any city, on any street in the United States, you are bound to find endless rows of “Now Hiring!” signs. “No experience necessary! Signing bonus! Multiple positions open!”
As employers set out to recover from the pandemic-related shutdown, it’s abundantly clear that candidates have become far more selective. While job openings have increased by 35% since the start of the pandemic, job applications are down, and about 3.5 million workers have left the labor market, according to The New York Times—a phenomenon some are calling “The Great Resignation.”
“Overall, we’re seeing a 36% decline in applicants across all jobs,” said Amy English, data scientist at PandoLogic, an artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled job advertising platform. “Across industries, we’re seeing applicant volumes rise and dip. It’s clear that in most industries, job seekers are just not confident in the labor market as it stands today. Something needs to change.”
As a result of this demoralized job market, the United States is experiencing very severe pockets of labor shortages. So how can employers combat this crisis?
The simple solution is to start listening, says Tracey Parsons, architect of the recruitment marketing and employer brand movement and owner of Parsons Strategic Consulting.
“When you listen to respond, you hear what you want to hear and respond in a way that will make the person you were listening to listen to you,” said Parsons. “But when you listen to understand, you can let go of your priorities and begin to empathize with the person you’re talking with.”
It’s clear now that the ability to attract high-quality talent is contingent on the engagement level of the job seekers. If they’re not engaged, they’re not applying. That’s why PandoLogic partnered with Parsons to listen and understand how candidates view the hiring process. After parsing 68 million public conversations online, here are the three key takeaways:
- Job Seekers Are Not Speaking the Same Language as Employers
When employers begin the hiring process, many see a funnel: the eight stages a candidate must pass through before they can receive an offer. However, candidates only see four stages: job descriptions, applications, interview after interview, and finally, offers or rejections. Employers and job seekers are not on the same page. From the job seeker’s perspective, the hiring experience is less complex than what employers have cultivated internally.
“’Why do you want this job?’ You know why I want this job … because I need to feed my family and have health insurance … ”—Reddit user featured in the job seeker sentiment study
Overall job seeker sentiment toward the application process is overwhelmingly negative, the study found. Candidates participate in the hiring experience because they must, not because they want to.
Talent and recruitment leaders need to shift focus away from the complex concepts that focus on self-actualization and get back to what really matters most to candidates—pay, and when and where they work.
- Employers Need to Get Back to Basics
The way forward is simple: focus on what matters.
After the whirlwind of a year that was 2020, job seekers are understandably looking for stability. They have spent the better part of a year under lockdown with a lot of time to reevaluate what matters most to them. They have done some major reflecting on their livelihoods and have studied employer behavior during a very unstable time. And for many, stimulus checks and unemployment benefits have allowed them to hold out for better working conditions, better income, and more flexible opportunities.
“Sure, unemployment and stimulus checks are disincentives, but so is having an entire year to reflect on your career/life. Leveling up pay, benefits, and adopting sound business practices would go a long way.”—Twitter user featured in the job seeker sentiment study
“The opportunity lies in telling them about the money because the candidate BS-meter is on high alert,” said Parsons. “We need to start thinking about how we dial it back elegantly.”
If stability, pay, and predictability are top of mind for job seekers, then what happens when you give them that information early on?
When Parsons overlaid proprietary system data from PandoLogic’s platform, she found the sentiment she was seeing across social media platforms matched actual user behavior. PandoLogic’s data showed that when employers added wages to job titles and descriptions, candidates apply to a job as much as 12% more frequently than they apply for openings that do not display that information. When “bonus” language is included, employers saw a 40% increase in application rate.
“Including ‘wage’ and ‘bonus’ language in job titles resonates with today’s job seekers who are looking for work that will help them better support themselves and their family long term,” said English. “Job titles containing this language are crystal clear on what seekers will earn, thereby addressing job seeker concerns up front.”
When employers advertise wages, remote or hybrid roles, guaranteed shift hours, or any other details up front, they are telling job seekers they’re not going to give them the runaround. It’s transparent and reassuring in a time when job seekers need it most.
- Meet Job Seekers Halfway
While discussing salary up front may be a bold idea—talent leaders traditionally avoid the money question early in the hiring process—this is a new era of recruitment in which transparency is valued and the job seeker is empowered with data to choose employers that better suit them.
“Here’s the hard cold truth: We are trying to market our way out of a problem. We are trying to obscure their drivers to meet our goals. This is an unsustainable model,” said Parsons.
She’s right, and society is watching the current standard of hiring implode. It’s time to switch things up. Employers can make an impact if they consider the following strategies:
- Break down barriers to entry. Give job seekers all the information they need up front to make the most informed decision possible—wages, benefits, shift hours, what it’s really like to work at an organization. They will be eager to work for an employer that shows it values them and their efforts by being transparent.
- Stay up to date on rapidly shifting market trends. Staying current means gaining a competitive advantage with job seekers. “Employers need to be knowledgeable of the ever-changing market and stay ahead of the competition when it comes to wages,” said English. “If you advertise a wage on a job title, it won’t resonate with candidates unless it’s a competitive rate for the type of role and in the location they’re targeting.”
- Speak plainly. Leave the foosball tables, ninjas and gurus, and self-actualization jargon behind. At the end of the day, we’re all just people trying to make a living. It’s best to lead with what candidates care about most.
- Set clear expectations. Be transparent about your process and keep candidates informed. Conversational AI tools make it easier than ever to nurture candidates through the hiring process. Being unresponsive isn’t the best move, and ghosting is just not an option.
- Throw away the resume. A frightening thought, but resumes aren’t always accurate predictors of successful candidates. If ignoring resumes is not in the cards, try to simplify the application process by reducing the steps it takes to complete.
At this moment, we are cultivating the future of the hiring experience, and we cannot edge out the feelings of the people who matter most: job seekers. We need to commit to listening more and without judgment, because that’s where talent professionals can make real improvements.
Tracey Parsons said it best: “When we deliver what they need, we all win.”
Check out this recent webinar with Tracey Parsons to learn more about groundbreaking research on the candidate experience.
Jennifer Ravalli is VP of Marketing at PandoLogic.