Contributed Column

Personnel Points

by Dave Mount, Westaff

Recruiting from the other side

I have written before about the changes in recruiting practices by companies. Technology has made the process much different from when companies placed an ad in the daily newspaper and waited for a reply.

Over the years, the Internet has changed that process dramatically and, with the laws of supply and demand in place, the preferred Internet supplier of recruiting services has changed several times in the last several years.

I am conditioned by my experiences to look at every recruiting method I see and there is one that has changed while it has stayed the same. I’m referring to signs outside the workplace. We’ve all seen them. Companies use yard signs like politicians all around their properties or they resort to big banners plastered on the sides of their buildings. That is the “same” part. But the signs used to say, “Inquire within.” Now they give a Web address to apply to. That is what has changed.

When one goes online to look at the openings, there is an application to complete. That makes life easy for the hiring authority. Every single application looks the same. No more messy resumes that are usually all over the place in format and content. That’s good for the hiring managers.

In some ways, it is good for the applicant, too. There is no more going into several places in a day to ask if they are hiring only to be given an unfriendly look by a receptionist and then be given an application to fill out. An applicant can use his or her time much more effectively and, presumably, apply for a lot more jobs or at least cover much more territory in a shorter time.

But here is where the process comes unglued.

It’s easy to say that it is a generational thing, but I think any semi-sophisticated Internet user has become conditioned to a different kind of response than in the past. When I order from Amazon, I get my order in two days. I can speed the process if I want by paying a little extra. No lines, no waiting.

At the end of most company job application Web pages, the company will thank the applicant and then have a note saying that the company will be in contact. It’s the “be in contact” part that falls off the rails. Most companies don’t follow through on that part of the process and, if you think about it, it is a broken promise. And for applicants, it is a source of aggravation and frustration. The applicant is waiting for the Amazon experience.

Among other things, this is bad for business.

I don’t know how many times over the years I have heard from an applicant or even an acquaintance that, “I don’t shop at Joe’s Market. I applied for a job there once and I never heard back from them.”

We know that a very large percentage of applicants do not have the qualifications we are looking for when we are recruiting, but they are still potential customers and long-term potential employees.

Companies should follow the Golden Rule of Internet recruiting:

1. Treat every candidate the way we would want to be treated or the way we would want one of our children to be treated.

2. Acknowledge every application immediately on receipt.

3. When an applicant does not fit into any of your open slots, notify the candidate immediately. If you are going to keep the candidate in an open file for a time, say so but then do what you say — keep the candidate in an open file.

The acknowledgement and the notification should be fairly simple matters of a small amount of programming and a little personal discipline. •

Dave Mount is the founder of Westaff in Burlington. DMount@Westaff.com.

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