Making Recruiting a Competitive Advantage Part 2

Second, how you interact with candidates is an area of branding.  Some companies use recruiters, check them out, see if their methods are candidate friendly.  I’ve had recruiters tell me a salary on the phone, only to find out it’s $25k less when we got serious.  Or the ever fun, they call you all excited and then a week later they disappear and you never hear from them again.  If you are the recruiter, this hurts you, people remember that and we do talk amongst ourselves about you and stay away from those with bad manners.  No company would do that to a paying customer, they know it would cost them too much in the long run.  It costs you nothing to be polite.


Same with HR people, many of them call me up with little knowledge of the position and start to interrogate me on the phone, this may be the first person I talk to and already I will feel like maybe I should keep looking.    Or my favorite, I actually do get a little kick out of this; they send their junior representative to interview me, fresh out of college and full of energy and acts more like it is the Inquisition rather than an interview.  I don’t get offended; it’s kind of amusing, but also kind of telling about the company as well.  In their effort to “learn” about me, they reveal so much about the company.  As a candidate, we are sizing you up and this kid you sent to interview us, is your face.  Imagine I’m a paying customer that’s got a big project, are you still going to send this kid to interrogate me?  Your competitor will be happy if you did.  You won’t take this from your sales rep treating your clients this way, don’t take this from your HR rep treating candidates that way, it seriously damages your brand and ability to be competitive.  When you allow this to happen, you shrink your candidate pool not by one but by dozens or hundreds, thus you create a situation where you are already less competitive because serious and good candidates who find out about your bad hiring procedures, will not even talk to you, but they will talk to your competitor.  See the bottom line impact?


Even when a candidate is not the one you want, it pays to be polite.  I know of one guy who was not the right candidate and the hiring manager said he knows someone at another company who might be able to use his skills.  That candidate left feeling really good!  You may have clients that need people and candidates that come your way may be a good fit for your client.  Imagine if you send your client or vendors, someone that helps their business, you have a win-win situation now.  Your client is happy, you just saved them the effort of having to place ads and interview and the candidate is happy and you have someone new on the inside you will probably be a lot more receptive to doing business with you in the future versus someone they hired who doesn’t care either way.  That’s branding, that’s good HR that’s putting the pieces together and making it work for all involved.  If you can’t find them a place, a polite letter informing them that they are no longer being considered, will often do.  A lot of companies don’t do this, it’s dumb not to.  You are giving up a great opportunity to brand your company.  Ritz
Carlton does a good job of this (from what I’ve heard). 


Don’t leave people hanging or snub them.  I dealt with a local company, I was actually very excited about and when I got a chance to speak to someone it was “what is your salary expectation.”  No hello, no thank you for considering us.  Then a curt, “that’s too high, we won’t consider you.”  I don’t buy from that company anymore.  Two sentences is all it took and millions spend on promos and branding just went down the drain in two emails.  If you read the job boards of job seekers, you’ll find my reaction is the norm.  People remember bad service.  HR and your recruiting process IS a service element.  Candidates are often paying customers, you damage your brand when you forget that HR is as much a client contact point as your call center or sales reps. In marketing we are taught it takes 6 to 10 good efforts to erase one bad experience, but one bad experience can replace 100 good efforts on your part.  So for every candidate you snub of those 10,000 a week application, how many potential customers did you just lose?  How much did that cost you in potential sales?  How much is that going to cost you in redoubling your branding effort to try and win them back?  We know it costs a lot more to win back a disgruntled customer than to service them in a way that makes them happy, how much is your bad recruiting costing you?  I can tell you, it’s more than zero.


Here’s another example, the author of Career Warfare, David D’Alessandro CEO of John Hancock, wrote in his book about a similar experience.  He had interviewed with a company that snubbed him, they just wouldn’t return his calls after acting excited and saying they were highly interested.  Years later, that company that snubbed him was a vendor seeking his rather large contract.  The guy who interviewed him was giving the pitch, David reminded him of their previous encounter.  They guy’s gut must have dropped.  David did not give him the contract but did make him go through the process only to be denied the contract.  Bad HR can cost you!  It hurt that vendor by costing them a big sale.  They went from being a potential, to having no chance at all.  Bad recruiting procedure can and do come back to haunt you.  The thing is, that vendor did what most companies do, now if they were doing what most companies do, alarms should be going of in your head right now about what you are losing now and in the future. 

If your company changes its recruiting and implement branding and sales like procedures, you are almost assured a competitive advantage since so few actually do anything even close!  We did an experiment once at one place I was at.  Two divisions, in one division we did it like everyone else hires, make and ad, ask for resumes, interview, etc…  Then we did it the way I’m advocating, find out how people in that profession communicate and then ask for proposals asking how they will make things happen for us and on our end we highlighted what we can do for them.  There was a 6 fold increase in quality candidates with the branding approach.  Quality candidates as in people who demonstrated they had the skills to do the job.  There were more resumes in the standard way, but the number of qualified applicants was far lower.  The hiring process cost was lower with the branding way by about 23%.  The turnover rate was 1% versus 12% with the standard way.  Translate that into bottom line results and we have a cost saving and a better ROI per hire because we kept the people longer and had to devote less to hiring new people.  Since we branded in the hiring process, we got a better fit and productivity was up as well.  From a competitive point of view, the candidates we received were more serious and more energized about working with us, thus we had our choice of candidates.  Those that did not become our final choice, we gave them a small discount thanking them for their time and in some cases, directed them to clients who could use their skills and gave them an introduction.  Some of them were hired by the clients and those companies were happy because they saw us as really looking out for them and their interests.  So it was a win all around.  We had great candidates, better bottom line performance, higher moral, happy clients and a stronger brand!  That’s the kind of results HR has been striving for!


I hope you are as excited as I am about this, a huge window of opportunity to really create a competitive advantage in an area where conformity has so often been the norm.  A break out strategy would put any company on the map!  The opportunity to really make recruit work in ways that get better results, I’d jump on that.  Come recruiters and HR, break out, be different, be proactive!  You all know the current recruiting method has flaws, why not be the answer!  Quantify your results and demonstrate real performance improvements and as a recruiter, people will be banging your door down with business.  As an HR person, you will finally get that seat at the table you always felt HR deserved.  Business is about taking calculated risks, not playing it safe.  The current process is playing it safe, that’s why it fails.  Be different, be better and get better results!

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