For the past 32 years I have worked in a recruitment industry where the primary concern is for identifying, attracting, sourcing, matching and ultimately hiring the very best available candidates for each vacancy. Over these three decades the technology and processes have advanced immensely, almost beyond recognition, to the point where we now have Artificial Intelligence (or Machine Learning) to augment the skills and abilities of human recruiters.
We know that in recruitment the supply and demand of candidates can move in cycles, where there is either a shortage of skilled individuals, or indeed of the vacancies they are suitable for. The timing of these cycles differ from sector to sector, and locations around the country. If there was a perfect match of supply and demand, there would be far less work for recruitment agencies to do, and far fewer fees to be earned. Much of the latest technologies and processes have focused on the smoothing out of those cycles to ensure that the right candidates with the best skills are made available to employers precisely when they need them; a form of Just-In-Time or KANBAN system for recruitment, which anticipates hiring needs well in advance. This also means aligning recruitment with marketing, with the aim of gently beginning the attraction and recruitment process long before a vacancy even occurs.
The distinction should also be drawn between attracting candidates by means of marketing / advertising / social media (active), and directly approaching potentially suitable employees (probably passive). The former are usually ready to make a career change, whilst the latter need to be persuaded to consider a change.
In all of the very many discussions in our industry, very little detailed consideration is given to the candidate experience. That is to say, the entire recruitment process, from the perspective of the individual being attracted, marketed to or even headhunted. The very excellent Candes (founded by Gerry Crispin) conducts detailed annual surveys of candidates drawn into the hiring process of a select number of progressive employers who choose to get involved. However, because individual candidates are seen as relatively disposable, and that as a group they are unable to assert their views and wishes, we still know absurdly little about the real candidate experience.
Have you ever heard of a group of individuals all get together and agree, “Let’s all apply for that individual job, and compare notes on what we thought about it”? Sadly not, and you’re not likely to very soon. By necessity, applying for a job is a discreet process, normally carried out in relative secret. Other than in small numbers, and anonymously, candidates never really get to assert themselves as an equal part of the recruitment equation. Yes, you heard me correctly – an equal part.
You may typically imagine that an employer always gets to choose the best from multiple well qualified candidates for every job, and that they are therefore in the driving seat. In truth the employer is rarely spoiled for choice, and the very best candidates are in the position to choose the best job for themselves, from multiple available vacancies. Employers usually assume that each interviewee that turns up at the appointed hour already wants the job, and all they have to do is sit back and audition desperate jobseekers. The theatre of recruitment dictates that both sides pretend that the power lies with the employer, and that an aloof reluctant candidate be ruled out immediately. Employers, recruitment agencies and individual recruiters all too often forget that a successful hire is only concluded when both sides get what they want (or will settle for).
As a direct result of technology, people are now asserting themselves more. They have higher expectations of a professional recruitment process. In my past as a recruiter, I often had to inform prospective interviewees that my client was actually a fantastic employer, despite their recruitment process being more suited to Dickensian times, and that they simply need to accept this antiquated hurdle, and trust that the eventual job was worth the effort.
In 2019 increasingly more people, with the aid of technology are pushing back; digitally declaring “Up with this, we will not put!”
These are precisely the times we were looking forward to, when founding the National Online Recruitment Awards in 2000. From the very beginning we decided that we wanted to know what candidates thought, by asking them to nominate their favourite recruitment websites and services. We decided that all nominated sites would be judged from a candidate’s point of view, and that each trophy is effectively awarded by candidates. In practice, this means that we thoroughly assess all that a candidate experiences throughout the online process, and do not ask recruitment websites for statistics, and supporting evidence. If candidates can’t see it, neither do we.
Furthermore, the NORAs are not limited to only organisations that choose to submit themselves to the process. We assess all nominated recruitment websites, whether they feel like being judged or not. Above all, the NORAs are about identifying the very best examples of recruiting excellence, from employers, recruitment agencies, and from job boards. We aim to put the very best in the spotlight, so that candidates can know what the acceptable standard is, and not to settle for anything less.